The New York COVID-19 vaccination requirement for healthcare workers that does not allow for religious exemptions was challenged, but the Supreme Court declined to hear the case.
“The New York mandate includes a medical exemption but no religious exemption, even though ‘allowing a healthcare worker to remain unvaccinated undermines the state’s asserted public health goals equally whether that worker happens to remain unvaccinated for religious reasons or medical ones,'” Justice Clarence Thomas wrote in a dissent joined by Justices Samuel Alito and Neil Gorsuch.
“The court could give much-needed guidance by simply deciding whether that single secular exemption renders the state law not neutral and generally applicable.”
The vaccine requirement for healthcare workers in New York was enacted in 2021; it permitted medical exemptions but prohibited religious exemptions. By citing the use of fetal cells from abortions in the development of the COVID-19 vaccine, anonymous healthcare workers—all of whom were identified as Christians—argued in a lawsuit that the lack of a COVID-19 vaccine religious exemption violated their First Amendment right to exercise their religion without interference from the government.
According to Reuters, by rejecting to take up the case, the high court upheld a lower court decision that rejected the petitioners’ arguments that the mandates violated their First Amendment rights. In November of last year, the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals rejected requests for a preliminary injunction in the case.
An emergency relief request seeking the Supreme Court to temporarily halt the requirement was denied by the high court in December of last year. The group of doctors and other medical personnel had made that request. Thomas, Alito, and Gorsuch dissented from the ruling at the time, and the justices declined to hear it like they did Thursday.
The Maine state law requiring healthcare professionals to receive the COVID-19 vaccine was rejected by the Supreme Court in October 2021. According to NBC New York, Maine, New York, and Rhode Island do not accommodate medical professionals who disagree to COVID-19 immunizations due to religious convictions.
On January 13, the Supreme Court struck down President Joe Biden’s order requiring workplace vaccinations or tests, ruling that the secretary of labor “lacked power to impose the requirement.” The Department of Health and Human Services mandate for the COVID-19 vaccination requiring healthcare workers at facilities that accept Medicare or Medicaid payments to be fully vaccinated was upheld by the Supreme Court on the same day.