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As a result of combined legal efforts by Liberty Counsel and Pacific Justice Institute (PJI), University of Michigan Health System (UMHS) has now changed its policy and the COVID-19 shot will no longer be required for people who need organ transplants.

Last year, Liberty Counsel sent demand letters to UMHS on behalf of Katie Shier and Ross Barranco because of their sincerely held religious beliefs that prevent them from receiving the COVID shots, due to the fact that all of them are associated with aborted fetal cells.

In 2021, Katie Shier was notified by the UMHS transplant team that she was accepted as a heart transplant candidate and her name “was placed on the United Network for Organ Sharing (UNOS) national transplant waitlist.” Yet, the following year, she was notified that because she declined the COVID-19 injection she was going to be listed as “inactive” on the organ waiting list unless she agreed to complete the COVID “vaccine” sequence. After having no success in advancing her right to religious freedom on her own, Katie contacted Liberty Counsel for help. Liberty Counsel then communicated with UMHS on her behalf. Katie is otherwise a young patient who currently has seven percent function in her failing heart. Katie will never know how “de-activating” her from the organ transplant list has affected her chances at getting a heart transplant.

Ross Barranco also was on the active transplant waiting list when he was notified by UMHS on February 1, 2022, that he “ha[d] 3 months to complete the COVID vaccination series or you will be removed from the transplant list.” Ross made numerous efforts to obtain an exemption from the COVID shot mandate, to no avail; he then reached out to Liberty Counsel in a last-ditch effort to save his own life. On March 1, 2022, Liberty Counsel sent a demand letter on his behalf to UMHS seeking a religious exemption for Ross to enable him to get a kidney.

UMHS never responded to either exemption request, other than to acknowledge receipt of the communications. After Liberty Counsel started having success on the transplant front in 2022, another religious liberty nonprofit, Pacific Justice Institute, reached out in an effort to get into the battle.

On June 23, 2022, PJI filed a lawsuit in the Michigan Court of Claims on behalf of Ross and Katie seeking a court order upholding their right to their religious freedom.

As a result of Liberty Counsel and PJI’s combined legal efforts, on April 27, 2023, UMHS has eliminated its COVID shot requirement for transplant patients. Specifically, in a court filing, UMHS advised that, “[r]elevant to this litigation, COVID-19 vaccination will no longer be required prior to wait-listing of potential adult solid-organ transplant recipients.”

Liberty Counsel Founder and Chairman Mat Staver said, “University of Michigan Health System has reversed it unreasonable COVID-19 shot policy for organ transplants as a result of the combined legal efforts of Liberty Counsel and Pacific Justice Institute. Now people who desperately need an organ transplant can be put on the waiting list without compromising their religious beliefs. We commend UMHS for doing the right thing to save peoples’ lives.”

Author: Liberty Counsel


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