A divided U.S. Supreme Court left in force New York’s requirement that health-care workers be vaccinated against Covid-19, refusing to order exemptions for 20 providers who say they object to the shot on religious grounds.
The rebuff, which came with no explanation, follows a similar
The orders come amid a cultural and political firestorm over Covid vaccine requirements. Republican-led states including Florida are moving to fine companies unless they let workers opt out, pushing back against President
A federal appeals court
New York is among a handful of states that require vaccinations for health-care workers without allowing a faith-based exemption. New York’s mandate, issued Aug. 26 by the Department of Health, requires health-care workers to be vaccinated if they are in close contact with patients, residents or other workers. The rule exempts people who have a medical reason for not getting vaccinated.
Two groups of doctors, nurses and other providers contend the mandate violates their constitutional rights. They say they are Christians opposed to the three available vaccines because they have links to cell lines derived from aborted fetuses. They told the court they either have already lost their jobs or will soon lose them.
‘Fear and Anger’
In an opinion for himself and Alito, Gorsuch faulted Hochul for comments she made defending the lack of an exemption. Among other remarks, Hochul said in September that people with religious objections to vaccine mandates “aren’t listening to God and what God wants.”
“Sometimes dissenting religious beliefs can seem strange and bewildering,” Gorsuch wrote. “In times of crisis, this puzzlement can evolve into fear and anger. It seems Governor Hochul’s thinking has followed this trajectory, and I suspect she is far from alone.”
Gorsuch said the case “practically exudes suspicion of those who hold unpopular religious beliefs.”
A spokesperson for the governor’s office referred reporters to Hochul’s comments on Twitter.
“Our greatest responsibility is to protect our most vulnerable,” Hochul tweeted. “Ensuring that the health care workers who care for our loved ones are vaccinated is critical to keeping New Yorkers safe.”
New York told the justices its rule was warranted in light of the continuing threat posed by Delta variant of Covid-19. The state pointed to the risk that health-care workers could transmit the virus to vulnerable patients and residents or exacerbate staffing shortages by infecting colleagues.
The court acted in the case after weeks of deliberation. Justice
(Updates with Hochul comments in 12th paragraph.)
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