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Supreme Court Lets Vaccine Mandate Without Religious Exemption

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Over the objection of three judges, the Supreme Court on Thursday dropped the New York coronavirus vaccine demand for health workers who withdrew a challenge because of the lack of a religious exemption.

Court order came on the last day of his term as the judges also announced their final decisions and what additional cases they will review when the court reconvenes in October. In particular, they declined to hear arguments regarding: major rulings this month abolishing the nationwide right to abortion and extending the right to carry firearms in public.

Instead, the judges returned to lower courts, more than half a dozen kin Affairs. they threw previous decisions upholding states’ limits on firearms and blocking certain abortion restrictions, and instructing judges to reconsider those rulings based on the new Supreme Court guidelines. The court’s orders mean judges must review Second Amendment rulings authorizing Maryland’s ban on military-style semi-automatic firearms passed after the 2012 mass shooting at an elementary school in Newtown, Conn., and banned firearms magazines that may contain more than 10. ammunition in California and New Jersey.

Separately, lower courts will have to reconsider measures in Arizona and Arkansas banning abortions performed because of fetal abnormalities, such as Down syndrome, and an Indiana law that expands parental notification requirements before a minor terminates a pregnancy. All three laws were prevented from taking effect before the Supreme Court fell Roe v. Wade last week.

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In the New York vaccination case, the court rejected an emergency petition in December from doctors, nurses and other medical workers who said they were being forced to choose between their livelihood and their faith. They said they should get a religious exemption because the state rule allows one for those who refuse the vaccine for medical reasons.

While the majority at the time gave no reason to reject the emergency applications, three judges said they were eager to rule on the merits of such a case. The court had also rejected a similar request from health professionals in Maine.

The same three judges – Clarence Thomas, Neil M. Gorsuch and Samuel A. Alito Jr. — objected Thursday to the court’s refusal to review the New York requirement that includes a medical exemption, but no exception for religious objectors.

Supreme Court Won’t Stop Vaccine Mandate For New York Health Workers

Thomas noted in a dissenting opinion that federal and state governments have taken emergency measures in response to the coronavirus pandemic, and many, he wrote, “were not neutral on religious practice.”

“Great confusion remains as to whether a mandate, such as New York’s, that does not exempt religious conduct can ever be neutral and generally applicable if it exempts secular conduct that similarly serves the specific interest served by the mandate. frustrated,” he wrote.

Thomas said his colleagues should guide lower courts “before the next crisis forces us once again to decide complex legal issues in an emergency.”

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In the December decision refusing to block New York regulations, Gorsuch criticized New York Governor Kathy Hochul (D) for revoking a previous religious exemption.

“The state executive decree clearly interferes with the free exercise of religion — and does so ostensibly based on nothing more than fear and anger against those who harbor unpopular religious beliefs,” Gorsuch wrote. “We are allowing the state to push for the firing of thousands of medical workers — the same individuals New York depended on and hailed for their services on the front lines of the pandemic.”

Last August, New York announced the vaccination requirement for health professionals, with exceptions for religious and medical reasons. But eight days later, after the Food and Drug Administration gave full approval to the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, the state health department reduced the medical exemption and eliminated it for religious objections.

“Like the long-standing, similar vaccination requirements for measles and rubella, the rule of DOH at issue here includes a single, limited medical exemption,” New York Attorney General Letitia James said in a letter. to the Supreme Court.

“That medical exemption is limited in scope and duration, exempting only those workers for whom the COVID-19 vaccine would be harmful to their health based on a pre-existing health condition, and lasts only until immunization is no longer harmful to the health of that employee.

Court documents indicated that about 96 percent of the state’s health workers have been vaccinated. Of those who remained, many more claimed to have religious objections than to seek medical exemptions.

In his dissenting opinion Thursday, Thomas wrote that the 16 health professionals who filed a lawsuit were serving communities in New York during the pandemic and “objected on religious grounds to all available COVID-19 vaccines because they were developed using cell lines derived from of aborted children.”

The state objected that the coronavirus vaccines do not contain aborted fetal cells.

The case is dr. A. v. Hochul