The U.S. Supreme Court rejected two emergency requests to block New York’s vaccine mandate for health care workers on Monday.
Three nurses and a group called We the Patriots USA challenged the mandate, arguing that it violates the First Amendment because it does not include a religious exemption.
The mandate applies to workers in hospitals and nursing homes, home health agencies, adult centers and hospices.
Justices Clarence Thomas, Neil Gorsuch, and Samuel Alito dissented, saying in the order that they would have granted the request.
Gorsuch noted that two of the doctors are not “anti-vaxxers who object to all vaccines” and that their religious beliefs should be respected, particularly given that the state had only recently said religious exemptions would not be accepted and that the state has chosen to accept medical exemptions.
“Even if one were to read the State’s actions as something other than signs of animus, they leave little doubt that the revised mandate was specifically directed at the applicants’ unorthodox religious beliefs and practices,” Gorsuch said.
Many other states have found that they can satisfy “COVID-19 public health goals without coercing religious objectors to accept a vaccine,” he wrote.
While the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith said last year that it is “morally acceptable to receive Covid-19 vaccines that have used cell lines from aborted fetuses in their research and production process,” some of the health care workers argued they are “devout Christians” who “object to deriving any benefit — no matter how remote — from a process involving abortion.”
“We should know the costs that come when this Court stands silent as majorities invade the constitutional rights of the unpopular and unorthodox,” Gorsuch wrote.
New York Attorney General Letitia James asked the Court to deny the request, warning that the virus will continue to spread among unvaccinated populations, leading to a “vicious cycle of staff shortages and deterioration of patient care.”
James argued that while some cell lines which are “currently grown in a laboratory and are thousands of generations removed from cells collected from a fetus in 1973” were used in the “testing during the research and development phase of the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines,” that the use of fetal cell lines for testing is “common,” including for the rubella vaccination.
The decision comes after the high court has similarly allowed state mandates in Indiana and Maine to stand.