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Judge allows unvaccinated healthcare workers in New York to apply for religious COVID shot exemption

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A federal judge has granted a preliminary injunction that will allow New York health care workers to apply for religious exemptions to the state COVID-19 vaccine mandate.

US District Judge David Hurd made the ruling on Tuesday after 17 Catholic and Baptist health care workers sued the state last month, saying they objected to being forced to take a vaccine that used ‘fetal cell lines’ from ‘procured abortions’.

The order prohibits the New York State Department of Health from interfering with religious exemptions or taking disciplinary action against workers who have sought or obtained them. 

Gov. Kathy Hochul, responding to the order, said she backs the vaccine mandate, whose original deadline was September 27, with the state’s 450,000 medical and care staff expected to have received at least one vaccine dose by that date. 

‘My responsibility as Governor is to protect the people of this state, and requiring health care workers to get vaccinated accomplishes that. I stand behind this mandate, and I will fight this decision in court to keep New Yorkers safe,’ she wrote in a statement.

US District Judge David Hurd (pictured) has granted a preliminary injunction that will allow New York health care workers to apply for religious exemptions to the state's COVID-19 vaccine mandate

US District Judge David Hurd (pictured) has granted a preliminary injunction that will allow New York health care workers to apply for religious exemptions to the state’s COVID-19 vaccine mandate

According to the injunction, which was obtained by CNN, the state health department is ‘barred from interfering in any way with the granting of religious exemptions from COVID-19 vaccination going forward, or with the operation of exemptions already granted.’ 

The organization is also prohibited from taking any action on licenses, certifications, residency or other professional status for workers who seek or have obtained religious exemptions to the vaccine mandate. 

Christopher Ferrara, the lead counsel for plaintiffs in the case applauded the judge’s ruling.

‘With this decision the court rightly recognized that yesterday’s ‘front line heroes’ in dealing with COVID cannot suddenly be treated as disease-carrying villains and kicked to the curb by the command of a state health bureaucracy,’ he said in a statement obtained by the news outlet. 

The state health department on Aug. 26 ordered healthcare professionals to be vaccinated against coronavirus by Sept. 27. The order did not allow for the customary religious exemptions. 

New York Gov. Kathy Hochul issued a statement Tuesday arguing in saying she backs the vaccine mandate

New York Gov. Kathy Hochul issued a statement Tuesday arguing in saying she backs the vaccine mandate

Gov. Kathy Hochul said: 'My responsibility as Governor is to protect the people of this state, and requiring health care workers to get vaccinated accomplishes that. I stand behind this mandate, and I will fight this decision in court to keep New Yorkers safe'

Gov. Kathy Hochul said: ‘My responsibility as Governor is to protect the people of this state, and requiring health care workers to get vaccinated accomplishes that. I stand behind this mandate, and I will fight this decision in court to keep New Yorkers safe’

The plan was challenged by a group of 17 healthcare workers — all Christians and many of whom were unnamed doctors, residents and nurses — who said they opposed COVID-19 vaccines because some were developed from cell lines which were originally taken from aborted fetuses. 

Figures released earlier this week showed that 92 per cent of NY hospital staff had received at least one COVID vaccine dose.  

Dr. Elizabeth Rausch-Phung, medical director of the Bureau of Immunization at the New York State Department of Health, confirmed the claim in an affidavit.  

‘In sum, while none of the FDA approved Covid-19 vaccines contain any fetal cells, fetal cell lines were only ‘used in testing during research and development of the mRNA vaccines [Moderna or Pzifer], and during production of the Johnson and Johnson [Janssen] Vaccine,” Rausch-Phung stated. 

The employees also argued that by not granting medical exemptions, the state and healthcare companies were treating those with religious objections to vaccines less favorably, violating the U.S. Constitution’s equal protection clause.  

Hurd previously ordered, on Sept. 20, that healthcare companies could not deny requests for religious exemptions until he had ruled on the request for an injunction. 

The injunction comes after a group of 17 healthcare workers ¿ all Christians ¿ filed a lawsuit stating they opposed COVID-19 vaccines because some were developed from cell lines of aborted fetuses (Pictured: Health care worker receiving a COVID shot)

The injunction comes after a group of 17 healthcare workers — all Christians — filed a lawsuit stating they opposed COVID-19 vaccines because some were developed from cell lines of aborted fetuses (Pictured: Health care worker receiving a COVID shot)

Now, he has granted the preliminary inunction, noting that it is a temporary measure allowing the plaintiffs to continue to argue their case.

He claims the question is not whether the workers are entitled to religious exemptions but but whether or not the state vaccination mandated conflicts with their ‘federally protected right to seek a religious accommodation’ from their employers.

However, the state entities mandating the vaccine argue that health care workers must be vaccinated in order to control the continued spread of COVID-19, especially as the Delta variant is on the rise. 

As of Oct. 11, New York has had 2,460,907 positive cases of coronavirus.

In a tweet updating residents on the state’s pandemic response, Hochul shared a 2.48 percent positivity rate.

She noted that there were 2,098 hospitalizations and 30 new deaths reported by healthcare facilities.

The governor also shared that 85.1 percent of adult New Yorkers had received at least one dose of the COVID vaccine and that 72.2 percent of New Yorkers were fully vaccinated. 

State entities mandating the vaccine argue that health care workers must be vaccinated in order to control the continued spread of COVID-19, especially with Delta variant on the rise

State entities mandating the vaccine argue that health care workers must be vaccinated in order to control the continued spread of COVID-19, especially with Delta variant on the rise 

As of Oct. 11, New York has had 2,460,907 positive cases of coronavirus. In an Oct. 11 tweet updating residents on the state's pandemic response, Gov. Hochul shared that there were 2,098 hospitalizations and 30 new deaths reported by healthcare facilities

As of Oct. 11, New York has had 2,460,907 positive cases of coronavirus. In an Oct. 11 tweet updating residents on the state’s pandemic response, Gov. Hochul shared that there were 2,098 hospitalizations and 30 new deaths reported by healthcare facilities

The governor also shared that 85.1 percent of adult New Yorkers had received at least one dose of the COVID vaccine and that 72.2 percent of New Yorkers were fully vaccinated

The governor also shared that 85.1 percent of adult New Yorkers had received at least one dose of the COVID vaccine and that 72.2 percent of New Yorkers were fully vaccinated

Meanwhile, vaccine mandates have become a contentious issue around the world, with some debating whether they can be refused on the grounds of religious exemptions.  

Pope Francis was vaccinated in January and has advocated for Roman Catholics to get the jab. 

The Vatican has also said that it considers it morally acceptable for Catholics to use vaccines, even those that use stem cell lines from aborted fetuses in their research.  

Last month, leaders of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America announced that while some parishioners may have medical reasons for abstaining from the vaccine, ‘there is no exemption in the Orthodox Church for Her faithful from any vaccination for religious reasons’.

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints urged constituents in August to get vaccinated in a statement saying: ‘To provide personal protection from such severe infections, we urge individuals to be vaccinated. Available vaccines have proven to be both safe and effective.’

According to Vanderbilt University Medical Center, there are only a few sects of Christianity that have an objection to vaccination. They include: Dutch Reformed Congregations and faith healing denominations such as Faith Tabernacle, Church of the First Born, Faith Assembly, End Time Ministries, and Church of Christ, Scientist.

Additionally, Hinduism, Islam, Jainism, Judaism and Scientology leaders have all issued support of the COVID vaccines.



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