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Supreme Court won’t hear challenge to Latest York vaccine mandate for health care employees

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Health care employees protest against being forced to get the Covid-19 vaccine on August 27, 2021, outside the Latest York State Office Constructing in Hauppauge, Latest York.

Alejandra Villa Loarca | Newsday | Getty Images

The Supreme Court declined Thursday to take up a legal challenge brought by health care employees in Latest York who oppose the state’s vaccine mandate on religious grounds.

Justices Clarence Thomas, Samuel Alito, and Neil Gorsuch said the court must have taken the case. 

When the requirement was first imposed last August as a option to help prevent the spread of the newest Covid variant, it allowed exceptions based on medical reasons or religious objections. However the religious exemption was later removed.  

Gov. Kathy Hochul, who’s Roman Catholic, said she was not aware of any “sanctioned religious objection from any organized religion” and that religious leaders including the Pope were encouraging people to get vaccinated.

Sixteen health care employees sued, saying they’d religious objections because fetal cell lines were involved within the testing, development, or production of Covid vaccines. They said the mandate violated their religious freedom since it allowed others who were unvaccinated to proceed working. 

But lawyers for the state said the Covid mandate was much like longstanding rules requiring health care employees to be vaccinated against measles and rubella. Those requirements, too, allow exemptions just for medical reasons. Laboratory-grown stem cells, which derive from cells collected from a fetus nearly 50 years ago, were also used for testing the rubella vaccine, the state said.

“The presence of a single, limited medical exemption to a vaccine requirement doesn’t require the State to supply a blanket religious exemption from vaccination,” they said of their written submissions. 

Writing for the three dissenters, Thomas said confusion stays a couple of mandate like Latest York’s that gives no religious exemption. He said the court must have taken the case now to go off similar confusion in the longer term. 

Last December, the Supreme Court declined to temporarily block the vaccine requirement within the case. Justices Clarence Thomas, Samuel Alito and Neil Gorsuch said then that the court must have granted the request to place the mandate on hold.   

Since last fall, the court has declined to dam other vaccine mandates that do not provide for religious exemptions, applying to Latest York teachers, Navy sailors, health care employees in Maine and Massachusetts, and college students in Indiana.

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