U.S. District Court Judge Damon Leichty has ruled that Indiana University’s vaccine mandate does not amount to coercion after eight students asked for an injunction against the mandate.
The university requires students to receive the COVID vaccine, and if they fail to comply will face disciplinary action up to expulsion.
The judge wrote, “The university is presenting the students with a difficult choice — get the vaccine or else apply for an exemption or deferral, transfer to a different school, or forego school for the semester altogether. But, this hard choice doesn’t amount to coercion.”
James Bopp Jr., director of litigation for America’s Frontline Doctors and lead counsel for the students, responded, “Today’s ruling does not end the students’ fight — we plan to immediately appeal the judge’s decision…. In addition, we plan on asking the judge to put a hold on IU’s Mandate pending that appeal. We are confident the court of appeals will agree that the Mandate should be put on hold.”
“Continuing our fight against this unconstitutional mandate is necessary to guarantee that IU students receive the fair due process they’re owed by a public university. An admitted IU student’s right to attend IU cannot be conditioned on the student waiving their rights to bodily integrity, bodily autonomy, and consent to medical treatment like IU has done here. IU’s Mandate did not properly balance the risks (both known and unknown) of the COVID vaccine to college-age students against the risks of COVID itself to that population and that college-aged students have a very low risk of adverse effects from a COVID infection. Furthermore, IU did not adequately consider the waning stage of the COVID pandemic before issuing its Mandate.”
The suit claims that the mandate violates the Fourteenth Amendment, “which includes rights of personal autonomy and bodily integrity, and the right to reject medical treatment.”
The suit also states, “IU’s Mandate does not include an exemption for those with natural immunity to COVID, including those who have previously been infected and fully recovered, or those students with a medical condition where the COVID vaccination is contra-indicated, even under their attending physician’s advice.”
According to the plaintiffs, the mandate violates the statute that requires informed consent to administer a COVID vaccination.
“The statute requires and, if followed, produces medical informed consent—consent based on medical information from medical providers. The ‘consequences’ of refusing the product that are considered and for which consent is secured are medical consequences, not other types of consequences, like loss of employment or virtual expulsion from school.”
Judge Leichty has a point that the university has the right to enforce policies that students must comply with in order to attend the school. Students are not forced to attend the school and in that respect are not being technically coerced into receiving the vaccine.
However, the university is not allowing students to take online classes to avoid receiving the vaccine; students must be in a completely online program to be exempted from the mandate.
Barring students from taking classes or being on campus imposes a burden on students who have a moral opposition to the vaccine or a medical condition that prevents them from being vaccinated. As the lawsuit states, the university also doesn’t seem to consider the demographic involved or the data as young adults face a much lower risk for COVID than the elderly.
It will be interesting to see if an appellate court maintains Judge Leichty’s definition of “coercion.” However, as schools, businesses, cities, and even countries like France and Cyprus begin pushing for vaccine mandates designed to punish and isolate those who don’t agree to take the vaccine, it is clear that the pendulum is definitely swinging away from long-held standards of medical autonomy, religious liberty, and individual rights.