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On Wednesday, Liberty Counsel submitted a supplemental authority to the Second Circuit Court of Appeals in New York involving five state health care workers who were fired for refusing to take the COVID shot due to their deeply held religious convictions. Liberty Counsel is asking the Second Circuit to reverse a lower court’s dismissal of the case so it can proceed to a discovery phase and trial.

The submission of the supplemental authority calls the Second Circuit’s attention to a new Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals ruling in California which states a rescinded COVID-19 mandate does not moot claims from plaintiffs harmed by the mandate and that their lawsuit can move forward. The decision allows Los Angeles School District employees, who lost their jobs for refusing the COVID shot, to sue the district for compensatory damages alleging First Amendment violations. The Ninth Circuit declared a case is not moot when the effects from alleged First Amendment violations have not been “permanently reversed.” The Ninth Circuit also stated that “refusing unwanted medical treatment” is a “constitutionally protected liberty interest.”

The ruling directly relates to Liberty Counsel’s John Does 1-2, Jane Does 1-3 v. Hochul case in the Second Circuit which similarly argues that “the case is not moot” simply because the mandate is gone. In December 2023, Liberty Counsel argued that rescinding a mandate does not erase the state’s First Amendment violations or the “constitutional injury” already suffered by the health care workers who were forced to choose between their faith and their job.

According to their religious beliefs, the health care workers could not accept any shot associated with aborted fetal cell lines. The state’s mandate required employers to force health care workers to get the shot and denied religious exemptions while approving nonreligious medical exemptions.

The State of New York seeks to dismiss the lawsuit which would allow the state to avoid accountability for violating the First Amendment and Equal Protection Clauses. The defendants in this case include Governor Kathy Hochul, Department of Health Commissioner Dr. Howard A. Zucker, Trinity Health, Inc., New York Presbyterian Healthcare System, Inc., and Westchester Medical Center Advanced Physician Services, P.C.

The Second Circuit is expected to rule in the case later this summer.

Incidentally, the New York Supreme Court (a trial court) has struck down several COVID shot mandates for state health care workers and New York City (NYC) employees declaring the mandates “arbitrary and capricious.” As a result, both the State of New York and NYC officially repealed their mandates earlier this year. One judge went a step further and declared the “blanket” denial of religious exemptions was also “arbitrary, capricious, and unreasonable” and has ordered nearly 9,000 NYC workers reinstated who were unlawfully terminated for refusing to abide by the illegal mandate.

Liberty Counsel Founder and Chairman Mat Staver said, “This case is not moot. The State of New York forced health care workers to choose between their livelihoods and their religious convictions without any consideration for accommodation. The decision out of the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals clearly and correctly ruled that forcing the COVID shot on employees violated the law. New York should be held accountable for unlawfully violating the religious rights of these health care workers.”

Author: Liberty Counsel


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