SCOTUS declines to hear vaccine mandate appeal from Mass. hospital employees

In a move sure to dishearten conservatives fighting to preserve the right to bodily autonomy, the U.S. Supreme Court on Monday declined to take up an emergency appeal filed on behalf of employees at Massachusetts’ largest hospital system who oppose its COVID-19 vaccine mandate.

As Boston NPR affiliate WBUR reports, no comment was offered by Justice Stephen Breyer in denying the request from workers at Mass General Brigham, who have claimed that mandatory vaccination violates their right to religious freedom.

Not only did Breyer withhold comment on the decision, he also did not solicit a response from the hospital system imposing the requirement or refer the matter to the full panel of justices for consideration, according to NBC News, in what could be seen as a sign that he thought the workers’ argument had no merit.

It was back in June that the hospital network informed employees that they would be required to receive COVID-19 vaccination, but would also establish committees charged with reviewing individual requests for religious or medical exemptions.

With 80,000 employees, Mass General Brigham is the Bay State’s largest private employer, and its workers were instructed to receive an initial coronavirus jab by Nov. 5 or face termination, as WBUR added.

Court documents indicate that roughly half of the system’s workers who sought exemptions were granted them, but the employees at issue in this emergency appeal request were denied that accommodation and were either fired or put on unpaid leave, according to NBC News.

In seeking review at the high court, the employees claimed that because the hospital system “is already accommodating hundreds of other employees conclusively refutes [its] mere assertions that it would cause an undue hardship to accommodate ‘further exemptions’ or ‘additional unvaccinated employees.’”

It is worth noting that the Supreme Court has also already declined separate challenges to mandatory vaccination filed by teachers in New York, students from Indiana University, and healthcare staffers in Maine.

In what is – hopefully – an ominous sign for the fate of sweeping vaccine mandates in all forms, a federal judge on Tuesday issued a preliminary injunction – with nationwide effect – against President Joe Biden’s mandate for healthcare workers employed by facilities receiving federal funds, aptly observing that “during a pandemic…it is even more important to safeguard the separation of powers set forth in our Constitution to avoid erosion of our liberties.”