Indiana Students Granted Religious Exemptions Against Shots

Aug 13, 2021

BLOOMINGTON, IN – The media has misreported the recent denial of an emergency injunction pending appeal involving students at Indiana University (IU). Supreme Court Justice Amy Coney Barrett denied a request by eight Indiana University students to block the school’s COVID-19 vaccine mandate for the fall semester, but the case was unnecessary because the students already received religious exemptions. This case was brought by attorney Jim Bopp, not Liberty Counsel. 

Not only did the IU students in the case brought by Bopp receive religious exemptions, but students separately represented by Liberty Counsel also received religious exemptions. Since Liberty Counsel’s students received religious exemptions, Liberty Counsel did not file a lawsuit as there was no need to do so. 

IU initially announced in May that students, faculty, and staff would have to be vaccinated unless they had medical or religious reasons not to get the shot, or they attended classes online. However, the students in the Bopp case nevertheless asked the High Court for an emergency injunction pending appeal. While the lower court denied their challenge to the school's general authority to enact a policy rather than focus on religious exemptions to the policy, the federal judge stated that the students have many options for exemptions, including religious exemptions.

Governor Eric Holcomb has not mandated that every Indiana resident take COVID shots, nor can he. Moreover, Indiana has a strong state law regarding religious exemptions. Indiana law requires that schools accommodate religious exemptions to any mandated “vaccine” set forth in Indiana Code Section 21-40-5. 

Indiana law states, “A state institution must grant an exemption to “testing, examination, immunization, or treatment” otherwise required, as follows: Sec. 6. (a) Except as otherwise provided, a student may not be required to undergo testing, examination, immunization, or treatment required under this chapter when the student objects on religious grounds. (b) A religious objection does not exempt a student from testing, examination, immunization, or treatment required under this chapter unless the request for an exemption is: (1) made in writing; (2) signed by the student; and (3) delivered to the individual who might order a test, an examination, an immunization, or a treatment absent the religious objection.” 

None of the COVID shots are approved or licensed by the FDA. They come under the Emergency Use Authorization (EUA), which means they cannot be forced or required. On page 1 of the DOJ memo, and many times thereafter, the DOJ correctly states that Section 564 of the federal law directs the FDA “to the extent practicable” and as the FDA “finds necessary or appropriate … to impose ‘[a]appropriate’ conditions on each EUA” Section 564 of Food, Drug, and Cosmetics Act (FDCA), 21 U.S.C. §360bbb-3. The memo continues: “Some of these conditions are designed to ensure that recipients of the product are ‘informed’ of certain things, including ‘the option to accept or refuse administration of the product’” (emphasis added). 

Liberty Counsel continues to be very successful representing clients who request religious exemptions. 

Liberty Counsel Founder and Chairman Mat Staver said, “Indiana University students who requested religious accommodations received them. Forcing any person to receive one of these COVID injections is a violation of both state and federal law. In addition to federal law protections, Indiana has strong conscience protections. No school, employer, or government may force or coerce anyone to take these injections. Federal law requires full informed consent.” 

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