New York Healthcare Mandates Make No Room For Religious Beliefs

Attorneys representing New York state healthcare workers up against imminent termination for refusing to get the state-mandated COVID-19 vaccine based on religious beliefs to say the state’s new governor has been "deceptive" in presenting the issue and allege Kathy Hochul’s administration is putting "a bullseye on religious beliefs."

Hochul, sworn in this summer after ex-Gov. Andrew Cuomo was forced to resign, mandated that all healthcare workers were to have had at least their first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine by midnight on Sept. 28. Hochul’s requirement allowed zero exemptions — not even religious beliefs.

There are numerous court cases prepared to challenge the absence of a religious exemption. U.S. District Judge David N. Hurd issued a temporary and partial injunction this month against the mandate for individuals with a religious objection. Hurd is expected to issue a final ruling by Oct. 12. The Second Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals granted a motion for an injunction pending appeal to a group of healthcare workers defying the mandate based on religious beliefs.

For some healthcare workers, the injunction came too late.

"Unfortunately, Ms. Diane Bono lost her job about half an hour before the Second Circuit issued its ruling, with her employer telling her that New York’s mandate compelled her termination," said Cameron L. Atkinson, an attorney with Pattis & Smith LLC, who represents three New York nurses challenging the vaccine mandate in federal court.

Atkinson added, "The Second Circuit’s ruling shows that there is no place in a republic of liberty for Governor Hochul and New York’s paternalistic hostility toward religion."

In the case being ruled on by Hurd, Thomas More Society Senior Counsel Steve Crampton is representing a group of 17 Catholic and Baptist healthcare workers which includes nine doctors, five nurses, a nuclear medicine technologist, a physician liaison, and a rehabilitation therapist.

While the nurses haven’t spoken publicly about the lawsuit, the court filing highlights the primary objections that many of the workers have.

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