The United States Supreme Court opted not to block a controversial New York state vaccine mandate for healthcare workers that has no religious exemption for those who object to the use of aborted fetal cells in the development of the drug.
Many conservatives and religious liberty advocates were wildly disappointed in Justices Brett Kavanaugh and Amy Coney Barrett, both nominated by former President Donald Trump, who sided with the high court’s liberal contingent in voting against the request to block the mandate.
Unwaveringly conservative Justices Samuel Alito and Clarence Thomas dissented, as did Trump-nominated Justice Neil Gorsuch.
A group of New York state healthcare workers had asked the court to block Governor Kathy Hochul’s order, which applies to patient-facing staff in hospitals, nursing homes, and other medical facilities, Politico reported, from being applied to those previously granted religious exemptions.
Justice Gorsuch noted that these healthcare workers were not “’anti-vaxxers’ who object to all vaccines,” but rather refuse to take the COVID-19 vaccine “because their religion teaches them to oppose abortion in any form, and because each of the currently available vaccines has depended upon abortion-derived fetal cell lines in its production or testing.”
“The applicants acknowledge that many other religious believers feel differently about these matters than they do. But no one questions the sincerity of their religious beliefs,” he wrote in his 14-page dissent.
The justice also noted that the mandate has been changed; in August, now-former Governor Andrew Cuomo had promised there would be religious exemptions, but his successor Hochul, who took over after he resigned in disgrace amid mounting allegations of criminal sexual harassment, did not include them in her final version of the order in September.
“Six weeks ago, this Court refused relief in a case involving Maine’s healthcare workers. Today, the Court repeats the mistake by turning away New York’s doctors and nurses,” Gorsuch noted. “We do all this even though the state’s executive decree clearly interferes with the free exercise of religion — and does so seemingly based on nothing more than fear and anger at those who harbor unpopular religious beliefs.”
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