Some Really Good News on the Religious Exemption Front

Some Really Good News on the Religious Exemption Front

After yesterday’s tough news about the denial of Ken Stoller’s writ, I thought I’d share some promising news that just came across my computer. A Michigan federal just has just issued a TRO barring a University from stopping four female athletes from participating in collegiate sports after the University denied their religious exemption requests. The school had denied the requests essentially because of the dangers of the Delta variant and that it couldn’t take the chance to let the unvaccinated students participate in the sports program and endanger other athletes.

The welcome news to lawyers in the field is that the court applied strict scrutiny to what it characterized as the students’ right to practice a religion.

But the really, really big news is that the court acknowledged the connection between a vaccine mandate and constitutionally protected religious rights. I may be wrong, but I don’t think that has ever happened before. Meaning, I don’t think any federal court has held that there is a constitutionally protected religious freedom right not to be vaccinated under a vaccine mandate. You will recall that post SB 277, three or four courts held that there was no constitutional right to a personal belief exemption to the California mandatory vaccination laws.

Furthermore, you will recall, that a year or two ago, New York removed the religious exemption to mandatory vaccination. The New York Courts upheld the law, basically saying there is no constitutional right to a religious exemption from mandatory vaccination laws.

As stated, this appears to me to be the first time that any court has recognized such a constitutional right. And that makes it big news and an important case, or maybe a super important case.

Here is the decision. Most everyone reading it will love it.

Amended-Order-Granting-TRO- Dahl v. WMU

Per the decision, there will be a preliminary injunction hearing soon, where the judge can revisit the issue.

Also, for sure this case will get quickly to the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals, either via a stay of the TRO, and if not, absolutely for sure, for a stay after the preliminary injunction hearing is granted (or denied). There should be a quick briefing schedule on it at the Sixth Circuit.

If the preliminary injunction is granted, that will change the entire landscape of the mandate and open up challenges to the denial of religious exemptions/accommodations, which will please many (and alarm national public health officials). Expect more litigation on this issue around the country.

Now it’s getting interesting!

Rick Jaffe, Esq.

17 thoughts on “Some Really Good News on the Religious Exemption Front

  1. I’d be curious to see this religious exemption who/how it was written. I know there is a local church, Destiny that has/is still giving out Religious exemptions, whether they are/will be taking as ‘legal’ or seriously is another question.

    Any thoughts on that Mr. Jaffe?
    How can folks re-review this/a religious exemption?
    I understood the UC campuses had some form also written up as a template to leverage. Thanks!

  2. Curious also, So can we leverage our religious beliefs via our community connection to Destiny church for the exemption?

    1. one positive post in a sea of bad news makes this your fav? Shows you where we are and what the world has come to! It’s a tough time to be against vaccinations, methinks and I fear it will get much, much worse if there is a big spike in deaths in the under 12, for which the unvaccinated will be held responsible and their rights will be further restricted. Appreciate the comment. thx

      1. Mr. Jaffe,
        I understand what you are saying, but I’ll speak from our current situation. Our child is in a private Montessori that we pay a pretty penny too. They have had several Covid related closures (of which we still pay during a closure) and the Director informed us that all cases have been from the VACCINATED. So here the vaccinated are spreading covid, causing shut downs and I am still on the hook to pay with no childcare.

  3. It quickly became apparent to me that the religious exemption is the best strategy to employ for now–it’s easy to assert and, if carefully crafted, difficult to disprove, and as Richard has pointed out, it’s the one area in which many courts have held steadfast against state encroachment. I’m still waiting for a higher court to directly address the issue of natural immunity, which seems like a very strong argument for exemption to me, as one could assert that in those instances the vaxx confers little or no community benefit but exposes the individual to potentially severe harm. It was encouraging that GMU caved and exempted Professor Zywicki–while it is not a legal precedent, it is an acknowledgement by a mandate policymaker/enforcer of the strength of the argument. I’m also waiting for a court to address the lack of any limiting temporal or geographical principle to vaxx mandates. Justice Kavanaugh specifically alluded to the lack of a limiting principle in his rejection of the eviction moratorium extension. Even though the Supreme Court has thus far refused to take up appeals to vax mandates (twice, I think, by Thomas and Barrett), is it possible those cases were too narrow in scope and they are waiting for a case to reach them with broader application? One can only hope.

    1. Thomas- but they were also banned in CA?
      So I don’t see how anyone can leverage unless your outside this state.
      Am I missing something?

      1. I am not an attorney but I have been following vaccine news for about 16 years. My daughter had a seizure after her 2 month shots and Kaiser refused to acknowledge it and kept pressing me to still do it. After that incident I found nvic.org, Dr. Sherri Tenpenny, Randall Neustaedter’s book Child Health Guide, Dr. Mercola, then I found Dr. Kelly Sutton (God love her, Mr. Jaffe is defending her and please contribute to her defense fund for her medical license: Venmo @MaryKelly-Sutton).

        It is my understanding that if a business takes even one federal dollar, it has to go by federal laws which I believe allow for both medical and religious exemptions. I think some places that don’t take federal dollars that have been allowing religious exemptions are doing so because a) they don’t want to fight and do want to support choice or b) they don’t know the state law only allowed medical exemptions and fear being sued. Not many are up on vaccine laws unless they “have” to know about it like I did.

        People are going to have a rude awakening when k-12 schools will demand the shots because CA only has medical exemptions and many who haven’t been following things on vaccine law are clueless on how the vaccine laws have been gutted for our state. No Doctor will write one and many have even told people I know, to not even ask.

        I want to humbly thank Richard Jaffe for doing all this good work and being so generous to make a blog to get his experience out there so we don’t have to guess at what is going on. I can’t tell you how grateful I am for his information and providing the defense of these wonderful doctors who are targeted wrongly.

  4. The natural immunity argument was raised in the UC lawsuit by Front LIne Doctors, as the only plaintiffs were people who had the disease and argued there was no evidence they needed the shot. The district court rejected the argument or said that the state had the right to make reasonable rules and the courts won’t second guess them or weigh into scientific issues, just like the Supremes said in Jacobson. The Ninth Circuit affirmed the denial of the injunction and the writ petition is before the supreme court. Justice Kagan is or will be reviewing the emergency application. I have predicted that the case won’t be accepted on an emergency basis. We’ll see. Another similiar suit was filed which will be heard late september, but that will be rejected as well because of the 9th circuit’s decision which is binding on the district court.

    1. I don’t know. exactly. Christina Hildabrand runs a weekly something about it. I”ve seen some EEOC (federal equal employment opportunity commission) discussion of the contours of what it thinks is a valid religious exemption. It’s pretty broad and pretty random and not tied to people who would ordinarily be considered or consider themselves to be religious. How it’s implemented or judged seems random and arbitrary, just a bunch of words on a form. But that’s the only practical way not to take the shot in today’s world.

  5. Just saw this, which echoes Zywicki’s success:

    Loyola University Chicago has agreed to grant religious exemptions to its vaccine mandate instead of potentially going to court.

    The Catholic university requires all students, faculty and staff to get vaccinated, but denied exemptions to a number of Christian students who had objections to the vaccine. Its policy would have banned students from enrolling in classes and entering university buildings.

    But at least 40 students have now obtained exemptions from the mandate after legal threats from Liberty Counsel, a conservative nonprofit.

    1. AMEN !!!
      Chip, chip away………now we need one here in CA !!
      any non-profits here like this liberty or great lakes council?

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