Federal judge sides with New York health care workers in case challenging vaccine mandate

Despite promising against it on the campaign trail, Joe Biden has made clear as president that he’s in support of mandates requiring Americans to get vaccinated for COVID-19. But try as he might to rally support among Americans, it seems the courts aren’t buying what Democrats are trying to sell.

New York had moved to mandate vaccination among health care workers in the state without allowing for any religious exemptions. But according to The Daily Wire, a federal judge just issued a preliminary injunction partially blocking enforcement of that mandate, and barring the state from retaliating against those seeking or approving exemptions on religious grounds.

The vaccine mandate, which applies to all health care workers in the state, was first imposed by disgraced ex-Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) and has since been embraced and strictly enforced by his successor, Gov. Kathy Hochul (D).

Barred from action

Spectrum News reports that in a 27-page ruling, Utica-based U.S. District Judge David Hurd specifically prohibited New York from retaliating against health care workers who requested a religious exemption, as well as against employers who grant them.

“The Department of Health is barred from taking any action, disciplinary or otherwise, against the licensure, certification, residency, admitting privileges or other professional status or qualification of any of the plaintiffs on account of their seeking or having obtained a religious exemption from mandatory COVID-19 vaccination,” Hurd wrote.

Hurd had already issued a temporary restraining order (TRO) against the state on this issue. His latest ruling essentially transforms the TRO into a preliminary injunction against enforcement while the merits of the case are considered by the courts.

“There is no adequate explanation from defendants about why the ‘reasonable accommodation’ that must be extended to a medically exempt health care worker under 2.61 could not similarly be extended to a healthcare worker with a sincere religious objection,” Hurd wrote, according to local outlet WABC.

What happened to the Constitution?

WABC notes that Hurd diverges other judges in his choice to prioritize constitutional rights over public health concerns. In his ruling, the judge determined that “the public interest lies with enforcing the guarantees enshrined in the Constitution and federal anti-discrimination law.”

Hurd went on to state the question wasn’t whether the workers were entitled to religious exemptions — they are — but rather, whether the state’s regulation conflicted with the federal rights of the workers. “The answer to this question is clearly yes,” the judge asserted. “Plaintiffs have established that 2.61 conflicts with longstanding federal protections for religious beliefs and that they and others will suffer irreparable harm in the absence of injunctive relief.”

In response to the ruling, Gov. Hochul said in a statement that it’s her “responsibility as Governor” to “protect the people of this state.”

“And requiring health care workers to get vaccinated accomplishes that,” she added, according to Spectrum News. “I stand behind this mandate, and I will fight this decision in court to keep New Yorkers safe.”

The plaintiffs in the case were represented by the Thomas More Society. Speaking with The Daily Wire, the group’s senior counsel, Stephen Crampton said:

New York seems to be dead set on ignoring the United States Constitution, its Amendments, and the Civil Rights Act. We are pleased that Judge Hurd has seen fit to put an immediate halt to that gubernatorial overreach.

Latest News