NY Health Care Workers Appeal Against Unlawful Shot Mandate

Mar 24, 2023

Liberty Counsel filed the opening brief in John Does 1-2, Jane Does 1-3 v. Hochul to the Second Circuit Court of Appeals on behalf of five New York health care workers against Governor Kathy Hochul, Department of Health Commissioner Dr. Howard A. Zucker, Trinity Health, Inc., New York Presbyterian Healthcare System, Inc. (NYP), and Westchester Medical Center Advanced Physician Services, P.C., since the state ignored federal law by removing religious exemptions and accommodations, while permitting nonreligious medical exemptions, regarding unlawful COVID shot mandates for health care workers. Liberty Counsel is asking the Second Circuit to reverse the district court’s decision to dismiss the case. 

Liberty Counsel represents these plaintiffs who have sincerely held religious beliefs that prevent them from accepting any of the available COVID-19 shots that are all associated with aborted fetal cell lines. However, the state did not accommodate their religious convictions according to Title VII of the Civil Rights Act. State workers are also protected under the First Amendment. Instead, the state terminated them from their positions at health care institutions in New York.

Though Governor Hochul’s announcement initially indicated that there would be “limited exceptions for workers with religious or medical reasons,” the State’s Public Health and Health Planning Council eliminated an exemption and accommodation for religious reasons on August 26.  In fact, under the state’s rule change, the only exemptions permitted in New York will be for medical reasons documented by a physician or certified nurse practitioner. 

On August 16, 2021, Governor Hochul announced that the state would require health care workers to accept or receive one of the three currently available COVID-19 injections to remain employed in the healthcare profession. The deadline for them to become fully vaccinated was Monday, September 27, 2021, for hospital employees and October 7, 2021 for other facilities. 

On September 10, 2021, Liberty Counsel filed a lawsuit against Governor Hochul and the New York health care facilities in the U.S. Eastern District Court of New York. On September 30, 2022, U.S. District Judge Ann Donnelly then dismissed the case. Judge Donnelly wrote that the mandate “is neutral on its face” because “it does not refer to religion at all and applies to all persons employed or affiliated with a covered entity who could potentially expose other covered personnel, patients or residents to COVID-19; the only exception is for employees with medical conditions that qualify for a medical exemption.” 

This, of course, is not the legal standard since New York provides for medical exemptions and refusing to provide for religious exemptions is discriminatory. 

Liberty Counsel Founder and Chairman Mat Staver said, “Governor Hochul and New York health care facilities cannot override federal law and force health care workers to violate their sincerely held religious beliefs by forcing them to inject an experimental substance into their bodies. All New York health care workers have the legal right to request reasonable accommodation for their sincerely held religious beliefs and forcing COVID shots without exemptions is unlawful.” 

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