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.
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.