NYC Workers’ Bid to Block Vaccine Mandate Denied

Bid to Block Mandate Denied
New York City municipal workers rally against the city's vaccination mandate on October 25, 2021. | Image by Getty Images

Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor has rejected a request for a stay made by New York City employees who are currently challenging the City’s COVID-19 vaccine mandate for municipal workers.

The City of New York had previously rejected a request for a religious exemption from the COVID-19 vaccine mandate filed by a group of city employees called New Yorkers for Religious Liberty.

The organization then filed an emergency application to Sotomayor requesting that the court temporarily stop the City from enforcing the mandate while the group challenges the City in a lower court.

The court received the group’s request for a stay pending the appellate review on November 4, but it has now been denied without comment by Justice Sotomayor.

The lower court decisions have previously sided with the City.

According to their application, New Yorkers for Religious Liberty is composed of firefighters, building inspectors, police officers, emergency medical technicians, teachers, sanitation workers, and other city employees of various religious backgrounds, including Judaism, Christianity, Islam, and Buddhism, who have been suspended or fired by the City for refusing to take the COVID-19 vaccine.

The group is represented by the Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) — a non-profit legal advocacy and training group concerned with religious liberty.

John Bursch, senior counsel and vice president of appellate advocacy with the ADF, said, “We’re disappointed that Justice Sotomayor is willing to allow NYC’s rampant religious discrimination to continue.”

In their filing to the Supreme Court, the New Yorkers for Religious Liberty argued that the City is violating their right to “freely exercise their faith by forcing them to choose” between keeping their jobs or taking the vaccine against their “sincere religious beliefs.”

ADF lawyers said in the filing that their clients “are suffering the loss of First Amendment rights, are facing deadlines to move out of homes in foreclosure or with past-due rents, are suffering health problems due to loss of their city health insurance and the stress of having no regular income, and resorting to food stamps and Medicaid just to keep their families afloat.”

“As we write in our emergency application for stay, these city heroes have dedicated their lives to serving their neighbors and keeping their city running safely and efficiently, yet New York City officials suspended and fired them because they cannot take the COVID-19 vaccine without violating their sincere religious beliefs,” Bursch added. “But for athletes, entertainers and strippers, the city found a way to loosen its mandate.”

According to the emergency application, “The city never justified why an unvaccinated stripper can spend hours in close proximity to customers in an indoor venue, while a city sanitation worker cannot pick up refuse, outside, with virtually no person-to-person contact absent a vaccination that violates his religious convictions.”

Sotomayor has consistently rejected all challenges to New York City’s vaccine mandate since it came into effect.

The city’s mandate for all city employees to be vaccinated was first issued on October 21, 2021, by then-health commissioner Dave A. Chokshi.

The New Yorkers for Religious Liberty’s case will be reviewed by the U.S. Second Circuit Court of Appeals, and it could be months before a decision is made.

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