A federal judge in Utica gave seventeen New York health care workers a huge victory after they objected to the state’s vaccine mandate for health workers on religious grounds.
ABC7 reported that Judge David Hurd granted their request for an injunction that stops the state from enforcing the policy for those who claim a religion-based objection.
“There is no adequate explanation from defendants about why the ‘reasonable accommodation’ that must be extended to a medically exempt health care worker under 2.61 could not similarly be extended to a healthcare worker with a sincere religious objection,” Hurd wrote in his decision.
Judge Hurd disagreed with other judges who have had similar cases on these mandates when he ruled that “the public interest lies with enforcing the guarantees enshrined in the Constitution and federal anti-discrimination law” and not the wider public health.
He wrote that the health care workers challenging the mandate by suing the state will likely come out victorious based on the merits of their constitutional claim.
“The question presented by this case is not whether plaintiffs and other individuals are entitled to a religious exemption from the state’s workplace vaccination requirement,” the judge wrote.
“Instead, the question is whether the state’s summary imposition of 2.61 conflicts with plaintiffs’ and other individuals’ federally protected right to seek a religious accommodation from their individual employers,” he added. “The answer to this question is clearly yes. Plaintiffs have established that 2.61 conflicts with longstanding federal protections for religious beliefs and that they and others will suffer irreparable harm in the absence of injunctive relief.”
The health care workers had claimed that they hold the sincere religious belief that they “cannot consent to be inoculated…with vaccines that were tested, developed or produced with fetal cell lines derived from procured abortions.” They added that the COVID-19 vaccines that are currently available violate their religious beliefs “because they all employ fetal cell lines derived from procured abortion in testing, development or production.”
Gov. Kathy Hochul (D) mandated that workers at hospitals and nursing homes be vaccinated on September 27, and she has since expanded the requirement to include workers at assisted living homes, hospice care, treatment centers, and home health aides. She’s already pledged to fight back against the judge’s ruling.
“My responsibility as Governor is to protect the people of this state, and requiring health care workers to get vaccinated accomplishes that,” Hochul said. “I stand behind this mandate, and I will fight this decision in court to keep New Yorkers safe.”