Liberty Counsel has sent a demand letter to Graceland University School of Nursing on behalf of a nursing student who has been unlawfully denied a religious exemption from the school’s “Mandatory COVID-19 Vaccination Policy.” This student is doing clinicals and the school has denied her exemption and threatened to fail her. Liberty Counsel is prepared to file a lawsuit if the school does not respond and grant her religious exemption and accommodation by tomorrow, Friday, August 20, 2021 at 5:00 p.m.
This nursing student holds sincere religious beliefs that prohibits her from receiving the COVID shot. She opposes the injections because they all used aborted fetal cell lines in the testing phase, and Johnson & Johnson also uses aborted fetal cell lines in the deployment or distribution phase. This student believes life begins at conception and the intentional destruction of a human life is sinful. Her sincerely held religious beliefs prevents her from participating directly or indirectly in abortion or the destruction of human life.
On August 6, 2021, the university sent an email communication to all students outlining its “Mandatory COVID-19 Vaccination Policy” stating that “all face-to-face nursing students and faculty must have at least had their first COVID vaccination completed by August 30, 2021. Our main clinical partners requiring workers to be vaccinated, so in order to complete your clinical work, you’ll need to be vaccinated. School officials also stated that it would not be accepting any request for a religious exemption and accommodation, and that – even if the university decided to accept them – it would not accommodate student’s request for a religious exemption if the clinical partners required COVID-19 vaccines. On August 16, school officials communicated to students they would accept requests for a religious exemption and accommodation, but that it would not likely be granted. They also stated that exemptions were not optional for clinicals.
This nursing student submitted a request for a religious exemption and accommodation from the policy. In response, school officials required her to sign a number of waivers – essentially designed to eliminate a reasonable and legally required religious exemption and accommodation – as a condition of even reviewing her request. She was also informed that if she would not sign away the unconscionable waiver, she would fail nursing school. This student also went the extra mile and arranged to exchange clinical placements with a different student where the clinical site does accommodate religious exemptions. This allows the school to accommodate her sincerely held religious beliefs and for her continue her educational pursuits. Yet the school will still not budge.
Graceland’s discrimination is a violation of state and federal law. Hospitals and health care facilities cannot more violate these contractual or other state and federal legal rights than can the University itself. Indeed, just as the Iowa Civil Rights Act prohibits religious discrimination in the provision of internship, externship, and career training programs, Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, prohibits hospitals and other entities from discriminating based on religion in terms of their apprenticeships and training programs. To deny this student a religious exemption from the “Mandatory COVID-19 Vaccination Policy” and to refuse to permit her to participate in the apprenticeship and clinical training programs is unlawful religious discrimination.
In addition, the failure to accommodate her request for a religious exemption – an exemption which can be easily accommodated by permitting her to switch placements with the student who has already agreed to do so. Graceland, which has campuses in Iowa and Missouri, is clearly violating the Iowa Civil Rights Act and the Missouri Human Rights Act.
Liberty Counsel Founder and Chairman Mat Staver said, “It is shocking that a nursing school would violate federal and state law and medical evidence to threaten students to succumb to an experimental drug which is associated with aborted fetal cells. We will not allow the rights and free choice of students to be violated. No school may force or coerce anyone to take these injections, and certainly not when doing so violates sincerely held religious beliefs.”