SCOTUS Brief: Stop NY's 'Dictating' on Vaccine Exemptions New York Gov. Kathy Hochul. (Kena Betancur/AFP via Getty)
By Eric Mack | Wednesday, 30 March 2022 12:58 PM
TMLC's Chief of Supreme Court and Appellate Practice Erin Mersino wrote the brief and called out Hochul for her claim that the unvaccinated "aren't listening to God and what God wants."
"Since the governor claims to be the authority on what God wants, she removed all religious accommodations from the vaccine mandate," Mersino wrote in a statement to Newsmax.
"However, many individuals sincerely hold religious beliefs that prohibit them from using the three COVID-19 vaccines on the market today and call for alternatives that have no connection to aborted fetal cell lines."
The brief honed in on the unconstitutional violations of the Free Exercise Clause of the First Amendment, she added.
"The governor failed to consider the spectrum of diverse religious views allowed under the Free Exercise Clause of the First Amendment," the statement continued. "The brief explains that such an exercise of authority from the State endangers the principle of pluralism upon which our nation is built and ignores our constitutionally protected autonomy to make such religious determinations for ourselves.
"TMLC explains in the brief that 'The mandate is premised on the false presupposition that the Governor can use the powers of the State to answer theological questions pertaining to religious conscience.'"
TMLC is a national nonprofit law firm representing over 400 physicians, surgeons, nurses, and medical professionals in writing the brief for the Supreme Court taking up the constitutionality of New York's vaccine mandates for healthcare facilities that receive government funding — which is ostensibly almost all hospitals, clinics, and providers in the state.
New York should not be punishing the front-line healthcare workers, TMLC argued.
"An ungrateful state government, which permits secular exemptions from the vaccine mandate, disallows any consideration for religious accommodations," the statement read. "These healthcare workers share sincerely held religious beliefs that prevent them from obtaining the presently available COVID-19 vaccines.
"Many have recovered from COVID-19 and have antibodies to the illness. All have faced persecution and scorn for their religious beliefs on this issue."
Permitting unvaccinated professional athletes to participate in professional sports, while limiting healthcare workers from performing essential functions in the state is a constitutional violation with an "unequal and punitive nature," the TMLC added.
"New York decided to exempt individuals from its vaccine mandate for secular purposes, but intentionally left off an exemption for a religious purpose," the statement continued. "TMLC contends this double standard violates the Constitution.
"Lastly, the brief addresses New York's decision to withhold unemployment benefits to healthcare workers who lose their jobs due to their religious opposition with New York’s mandate. This additional punishment adds insult to injury."
Rejecting religious exemptions "is so extreme that it almost seems implausible," the brief reads.
"The undisputed record, however, presents statement after statement from [Hochul] establishing that no cause for such denial exists — it really is as bad as it seems," the brief concluded.