Vaccine mandate ruling: religious exemptions should be allowed

U.S. District Judge David Hurd in Utica granted a preliminary injunction, ruling that religious exemptions should be allowed.

For most healthcare workers, the mandate still stands. It’s a case being watched by states around the country.

"What’s significant is it shows there are limitations to how far the state can go in mandating vaccinations and must consider such things as religion and medical complications in whether or not to enforce a mandate," explained attorney Paul DerOhannesian.

The lawsuit was filed by 17 doctors, nurses and other medical staff who say they object to getting the COVID vaccine on religious grounds, and that the healthcare worker vaccine mandate violates their constitutional rights.

The mandate includes a medical exemption, but no religious one.

"When you take out a religious exemption and don’t allow any accommodation for religious beliefs, that’s the problem here," said DerOhannesian. "It went too far."

The state argued it has the right to protect the public.

Attorney Paul DerOhannesian says he is not surprised by the federal judge’s ruling, because there was no accommodation for religious beliefs.

"They have to be defined, they have to be legitimate, there still has to be a framework within which to apply it," he said. "But to say that no one can have a religious basis for challenging a vaccination is a very strong step that really is inconsistent with past vaccine mandates."

New York Gov. Kathy Hochul is standing firm on the mandate. She issued a statement saying, "My responsibility as Governor is to protect the people of this state, and requiring health care workers to get vaccinated accomplishes that. I stand behind this mandate, and I will fight this decision in court to keep New Yorkers safe."