Governor Hochul vows to fight lawsuits over vaccination mandate
ALBANY, NY (AP) – New York Governor Kathy Hochul this week vowed to fight a lawsuit launched by a group of Christian health practitioners who argue that New York’s COVID-19 vaccine mandate for de many healthcare workers is unconstitutional because it lacks a religious exemption.
A federal judge on Tuesday temporarily barred the state from enforcing any part of its mandate prohibiting religious exemptions for healthcare workers. The court will hold oral arguments in the coming weeks.
The judge’s order means healthcare workers still need to get vaccinated by September 27 – but for now, they can apply for religious exemptions.
Hochul said on Wednesday that she was not aware of any major religious groups that have banned its adherents from receiving the COVID-19 vaccine.
“Everyone, from the pope to the bottom, encourages people to get vaccinated,” she said, referring to Pope Francis, head of the Roman Catholic Church.
New York City nurses, doctors and other healthcare workers involved in the lawsuit say they don’t want to be forced to take a vaccine that uses aborted fetal cell lines in their testing, development or production.
Fetal cell lines have been used during research and development of Pfizer and Moderna mRNA vaccines, and during production of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine.
Thomas More Society lead attorney Stephen Crampton, who represents the anonymous group of nurses, doctors and other healthcare workers, said he was confident the courts would find people have the right to refuse the vaccine on religious grounds, even if they are part of a religious group that approves the shots.
“My sincere religious beliefs may not be 100% the same as the leader of my church or denomination,” Crampton said. “And the law respects that and it should. “
New York State has long demanded that healthcare workers be immunized against diseases that pose a major threat to public health, including measles, mumps and rubella. Schoolchildren also need to be vaccinated against many diseases.
The state does not offer religious exemptions for vaccination requirements for schoolchildren or healthcare workers, and has argued that it is also not required to do so for the COVID-19 vaccine. Courts have agreed that states are not required to offer a religious exemption for childhood immunizations.
College and university students, however, may be exempt from New York City vaccination warrants if they have “genuine and sincere religious beliefs that are contrary to the practices required here.” New York also has a religious exemption for the requirement to vaccinate infants born to mothers with hepatitis B.
The use of human cell lines is common in the manufacture of vaccines, including against rubella, chickenpox, shingles and hepatitis A. For decades, researchers have multiplied cells from a handful of legally aborted fetuses in the 1960s to produce human cell lines that provide used cell cultures. grow vaccines. These cell lines are also used to make drugs for rheumatoid arthritis and cystic fibrosis.
Religious leaders disagree on the issue: The Vatican has issued guidelines saying it is morally acceptable to receive COVID-19 vaccines developed or tested using cell lines from aborted fetuses when alternative vaccines are not available not available.
When asked if healthcare professionals received any other vaccines, Crampton said the group was not “anti-vax” in general.
Hochul, a Democrat, said getting the vaccine is the “finest way” for people in healing professions to demonstrate their passion and concern for others.
Seven other states besides New York do not offer religious exemptions for vaccination requirements in schools and daycares, according to the Immunization Action Coalition. Some have removed the exemptions in recent years over concerns over epidemics of once-contained disease: Radical Maine law removed exemptions for religious and personal beliefs.
The Thomas More Society is a national, not-for-profit law firm that describes its mission as “restoring respect to the law of life, family and religious freedom.” Last year, the law firm represented two Catholic priests and three Orthodox Jews who succeeded in overthrowing the government of the day. Andrew Cuomo’s attendance limits for places of worship during the pandemic.
New York is now averaging about 5,200 new COVID-19 cases per day, down from a low of about 300 per day at the end of June.
A New York City federal judge on Sunday dismissed a similar lawsuit brought by Long Island nurses who said the lack of religious exemption violated their constitutional rights.