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New York Health Care Workers Get Reprieve from COVID Vaccine Mandate as Judge Blocks It

Newsweek logo Newsweek 9/14/2021 Rebecca Klapper
a person holding a sign: A judge issued an order temporarily blocking New York's COVID-19 vaccine mandate for medical workers after a group sued, saying it was a violation of their rights. A small group of anti-vaccination protesters gather outside of New York-Presbyterian Hospital on Sept. 1, 2021 in New York City. © Spencer Platt/Getty Images A judge issued an order temporarily blocking New York's COVID-19 vaccine mandate for medical workers after a group sued, saying it was a violation of their rights. A small group of anti-vaccination protesters gather outside of New York-Presbyterian Hospital on Sept. 1, 2021 in New York City.

New York health care workers were granted some reprieve from the state's COVID-19 vaccine mandate as the judge temporarily paused its enforcement after a group of workers sued, calling the mandate unconstitutional.

A group of 17 health care professionals, including doctors and nurses, sued the state of New York for violating their Constitutional rights by not allowing religious exemptions for the state's vaccine mandate, arguing against it in a lawsuit Monday.

"The same front line health care workers hailed as heroes by the media for treating COVID patients before vaccines were available, including the Plaintiffs herein, are now vilified by the same media as pariahs who must be excluded from society until they are vaccinated against their will," the lawsuit said.

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Judge David Hurd in Utica ruled in the group's favor, issuing an order temporarily blocking New York from enforcing its COVID-19 vaccine mandate.

For more reporting from the Associated Press, see below.

The judge gave New York state until Sept. 22 to respond to the lawsuit in federal court in Utica. If the state opposes the plaintiffs' request for a preliminary court order blocking the vaccine mandate, a Sept. 28 oral hearing will occur.

The state issued the order Aug. 28, requiring at least a first shot for health care workers at hospitals and nursing homes by Sept. 27.

In their lawsuit, health care professionals disguised their identities with pseudonyms such as "Dr. A.," "Nurse A.," and "Physician Liaison X."

They cited violations of the U.S. Constitution, along with the New York State Human Rights Law and New York City Human Rights Law, because the state Department of Health regulation requiring workers to get the vaccine provided no exemption for "sincere religious beliefs that compel the refusal of such vaccination."

The court papers said all of the available vaccines employ aborted fetus cell lines in their testing, development or production.

The lawsuit said the plaintiffs wanted to proceed anonymously because they "run the risk of ostracization, threats of harm, immediate firing and other retaliatory consequences if their names become known."

The plaintiffs, all Christians, included practicing doctors, nurses, a nuclear medicine technologist, a cognitive rehabilitation therapist and a physician's liaison who all oppose as a matter of religious conviction any medical cooperation in abortion, the lawsuit said.

It added that they are not "anti-vaxxers" who oppose all vaccines.

Messages seeking comment were sent to lawyers for the Thomas More Society who filed the lawsuit, the New York state health department and the New York's governor's office. The state attorney general's office referred questions to the health department.

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