Liberty Counsel sent a demand letter to Governor Kathy Hochul, Attorney General Letitia James, and Department of Health Commissioner Dr. Howard A. Zucker, regarding the unlawful attempt to remove religious exemptions and accommodations from New York’s COVID shot mandate. Liberty Counsel is prepared to file a lawsuit if the state does not respond and honor these federal protections and entitlements for health care employees by Tuesday, September 7, 2021.
According to a 2018 State University of New York (SUNY) study, there are approximately 450,000 workers employed by hospitals in the state of New York. Many of these employees are requesting religious exemptions and accommodations because they have sincerely held religious beliefs regarding the use of aborted fetal cell lines in the injections. All three of the currently available COVID injections are produced by, derived from, manufactured with, tested on, developed with, or otherwise connected to or “associated” with aborted fetal cell lines.
On August 16, 2021, Governor Hochul announced that the state will now 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 is Monday, September 27, 2021. The “Mandatory COVID-19 Vaccination Policy” applies to healthcare workers in all “hospitals, nursing homes, diagnostic and treatment centers, adult care facilities, certified home health agencies, hospices, long-term home health care programs, AIDS home care programs, licensed home care service agencies and limited licensed home care service agencies.”
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.
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However, state officials cannot override federal law or the federal Constitution. New York’s purported guidance and attempts to remove federal protections and even religious exemptions available under federal law are causing direct and irreparable harm. In addition, all health care workers are protected by Title VII of the Civil Rights Act which does provide for religious exemptions and accommodations and mandates that employers provide them.
Furthermore, COVID shots cannot be mandatory under Title VII. In general, employee vaccine religious exemption requests must be accommodated where a reasonable accommodation exists without undue hardship to the employer, under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Many people hold sincere religious beliefs against taking any vaccines, or taking those derived from aborted fetal cell lines, or taking those sold by companies that profit from the sale of vaccines and other products derived from abortion. Title VII, as amended, prohibits two categories of employment practices. It is unlawful for an employer: “(1) to fail or refuse to hire or to discharge any individual, or otherwise to discriminate against any individual with respect to his compensation, terms, conditions, or privileges of employment, because of such individual’s race, color, religion, sex, or national origin; or (2) to limit, segregate, or classify his employees or applicants for employment in any way which would deprive or tend to deprive any individual of employment opportunities or otherwise adversely affect his status as an employee, because of such individual’s race, color, religion, sex, or national origin.”
Liberty Counsel Founder and Chairman Mat Staver said, “There can be no dispute that New York is required to abide by federal law and provide protections to employees who have sincerely held religious objections to the COVID shots. New York cannot override federal law and force health care workers to violate their sincerely held religious beliefs by forcing them to inject an experimental substance. 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. These superheroes should not be treated as villains.”