More Good News on the Religious Exemption Front! NY Federal Judge Issues a TRO Against the Denial of Religious Exemptions; Now it’s getting interesting and Maybe it’s an end-around Jacobson in this and other such actions

More Good News on the Religious Exemption Front! NY Federal Judge Issues a TRO Against the Denial of Religious Exemptions; Now it’s getting interesting and Maybe it’s an end-around Jacobson in this and other such actions

At 10:00 AM this morning, a Northern District of NY federal judge signed a TRO stopping the new Governor and the Department of Health from a bunch of things relating to religious exemptions being denied to state health care workers.

Here is the order.


Here is the complaint. It is interesting because it’s not only about the religious exemption but also about natural immunity. Thomas More Society NY FED Hospital Pleading!!!

This might be a good template for other such actions for many reasons, not the least of which is that it seems to circumvent Jacobson, which is limited to upholding the constitutionality of state vaccine mandates under the state’s police power.

This is a different issue. There is a federal statute that accords certain religious accommodations/exemptions to employer mandates, the contours and processes are murky and undefined. Cases like this one invoke the constitutional buzzword “religion” and there is the aforementioned federal statutory basis that gets the attention and serious consideration of the Courts. Not enough attention on a straight state mandate because of Jacobson . But based on a right to practice religion under federal law, well that is apparently a whole different issue. Now, two federal courts have temporarily stopped states from interfering with the religious rights of workers.

This case is going to proceed quickly. Per the order, the judge wants to convert the TRO into a preliminary injunction unless the state objects (and it will I think) and proceed to a permanent injunction hearing. The other thing of note is that the state’s new order and the denials do not go into effect until later this month, so the judge pointed out that despite the TRO it has no practical effect for the next few weeks, which gives the state plenty of time to react. But Leticia and her crew will be mightly busy until then.

Between, this and the whole Biden OSHA thing, for which Jacobson is also not direct precedent, well, like I said, it’s going to get interesting and those opposing the mandates may continue to get some good news.

Rick Jaffe, Esq.

19 thoughts on “More Good News on the Religious Exemption Front! NY Federal Judge Issues a TRO Against the Denial of Religious Exemptions; Now it’s getting interesting and Maybe it’s an end-around Jacobson in this and other such actions

    1. Each state has a different law, and the law only applies to state workers. It’s a different issue for private employers or universities, but the last good new case I talked about involved university students. On the big picture level it’s confusing because the straight university mandate cases are being upheld but these two cases involve a religious accommodation which is either required under a federal statute or was granted to everyone (in the university case) and when there is an established right to a religious accommodation, the hard work is done and courts are more protective of religious rights granted then creating them, would be the way I would explain the results.

  1. Mr J so given this story, couldn’t we “potentially” see a reverse or option now soon in CA for Religious accommodation for students in lieu of the Stoller decision for example?
    I know the religious exemption was pulled and all exemptions but what about a religious exemption coming back as an option here maybe?

    1. Most likely not. The cases deal with whether under a federal statute or a university policy which accords a religious accommodation and basically state that the state and university have to actually respect that right. That’s a different issue than whether there is a federal constitutional right to a religious exemption to a mandatory vaccination law or policy. New York courts have ruled on that issue.
      But you do raise an interesting point. There is no case law on this precise issue in California, I think because when the religious exemption was removed there was still a personal belief exemption so anyone objecting just moved to that one.
      But good question, I’m going to take a harder look at the prior university decision and think about it. Thx

      1. I agree! The personal belief was in question for our kids back a few years ago and I would really question that decision now as religious exemption is not only for workers but obviously we have kids who have their own beliefs as well

      2. So can you elaborate, “personal belief” that was pulled vs “religious exemption/accommodation”?
        All were pulled in CA but can they or one not be revisited/reviewed now?

        1. From what I was told, there used to be both a PBE and a religious exemption. The legislature first got rid of the religious exemption, but I assume there were no challenges because there was a PBE which was broader than a religious exemption. Then the law required a physician to sign a form for parents to exercise the PBE, then SB 277 which got rid of it.
          The current religious accommodations come from not a constitutional right but from a federal civil rights statute, I believe. Jacobson was only about there not being a constitutional personal freedom right not to be subject to a vaccine mandate under a state’s police powers, so Jacobson shouldn’t be precedent opposing the right to practice a religion under the federal civil rights statute.
          I’m not sure how that statute applies, should apply or could apply to students. Federal law requires a reasonable accommodation to a vaccine requirement if one can be done safely. I know for sure that applies to employees.
          Remember these decisions are only on TRO’s and only in the district courts. But between the cases and comments like Ben’s it does raise the question about its application back in California. NY eliminated the religious exemption and the courts affirmed it despite the challenges.
          Strategically, we know that the right wing supreme court gives great deference to religious and religious beliefs, which is why these two cases and a few which have lost try to wrap themselves in the mantel of religion and religious freedom.
          it all needs to be sorted out by the courts.
          then there’s the whole OSHA thing, another area where Jacobson doesn’t apply. Any time or way to get around Jacobson would be a good time and way if you don’t like mandates, and now there are two different lines of attack which do so.

          1. Attack Mr J Attack!!
            Sounds like you may have some options for us your looking into!
            Let me ask a few items…. given your response.
            – Religious Belief
            – Religious exemption
            – Religious Accommodation
            I assume the courts see each through there own lens?
            I think there is merit as back in the day here in California obviously it was different definitions/decisions but should not the courts Now reconsider/re-evaluate the new norm?

            One other question. Religious accommodation vs exemption since California crushed all exemptions/beliefs, could a student “any age” let’s say elementary for example 10,11,12+ who is free thinking and has their own “beliefs or sincere religious beliefs” receive the same treatment and make an ask for this/a religious accommodation??

            Finally, EEOC and title 7 for religious accommodation is only for employees/work related, correct?

          2. as this starts to shake out, it seems alittle unfair that some universities allow religious accommodations but no K-12 schools in california do. Sure there are different rules of law involved constitutional principles, 10th amendment, police powers Jacobson in the case of K-12 mandates, and federal civil rights laws in the case of employees and presumably university students. But obviously doesn’t sound right in terms of the result. that’s what I’m thinking about right now.

  2. Just curious: The Supreme Court is going to have to rule on vaxx mandates at some point, especially after Biden’s action. The emotions aroused by these mandates, coupled with the enormous number of Americans impacted, is simply too disruptive to ignore. Things are getting pretty chaotic. I assume they have to wait for a case to work its way through the system to them, but I’m curious as to what might prompt them to get involved. Would the promised lawsuits by the states, as well as by one of the country’s two major political parties, finally force their hand? I would think those would trigger immediate action. This is no longer just about university students or healthcare workers. There are a lot of vectors to this issue: religious exemptions, medical exemptions, natural immunity, bodily autonomy, community health, privacy, novel technology, unions, etc. Would they seek to address all of these at once in one big case, or piecemeal in multiple cases?

    1. Agree w/ Thomas. How soon/when would this possible occur give the mandates now w/ 100+ employees for almost all companies?

      Also, curious when he says “Public” companies of 100+ is that not include the Private ones that are not “publicly” traded on the Market ?

      Finally to Ben’s question, that is very interesting…
      – Religious Belief
      – Religious Exemption
      – Religious Accommodation
      IS there a difference AND why could not a 12yr+ or Student under 18(not college bound yet)
      request such a request as any of the above Religious options?
      Do they not have a “Sincere Religious Belief”?

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