(PatrioticPost.com)- Last week a federal judge in upstate New York granted a preliminary injunction against Governor Kathy Hochul’s COVID vaccine mandate, barring the state’s health department from enforcing the mandate on healthcare workers who claim religious exemption while the case is being decided.
Utica federal Judge David Hurd last Tuesday granted the request in response to a religious freedom lawsuit filed in September against Hochul, the NYS Department of Health and Attorney General Letitia James by 17 anonymous healthcare workers – most of them Catholic – who argued that the state’s vaccine mandate violated their constitutional rights.
In his decision, Judge Hurd said that the plaintiffs are “likely to succeed on the merits of this constitutional claim.”
Hurd’s decision extends the temporary restraining order that was granted shortly after the suit was filed, and prohibits employers from citing the state’s mandate to deny exemption requests. It also pauses the Health Department’s ability to enforce the vaccine mandate or revoke any religious exemptions granted since the mandate went into effect on September 27.
On September 27, a confident Governor Hochul argued in a press conference that there was no legitimate religious exemption to her mandate, claiming that “leaders of all the organized religions” said so. She also boasted that she would win that case in court.
New York @GovKathyHochul denies the legitimacy of religious exemptions: "There are not legitimate religious exemptions because the leaders of all the organized religions have said there's no legitimate reason." pic.twitter.com/Mzw8CsBIpR
— Mary Margaret Olohan (@MaryMargOlohan) September 27, 2021
In his ruling, Judge Hurd said that the Plaintiffs had established that New York’s vaccine mandate “conflicts with longstanding federal protections for religious beliefs,” and they and others would “suffer irreparable harm in the absence of injunctive relief.”
Judge Hurd pointed out that his conclusions have nothing to do with how an individual employer may handle the religious objection of an individual employee. Instead, his conclusions “have everything to do with the proper division of federal and state power.”
Hochul responded to the ruling vowing to continue fighting to defend her mandate in court, arguing that her job is to “protect the people of this state.”
Actually, her job is to uphold the constitution.
Initially, the state’s vaccine order allowed for religious exemptions. But the exemptions were removed before the rule was adopted on August 26.
In his ruling, Judge Hurd called this change in language a “religious gerrymander” which he believes “triggers heightened scrutiny.”