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Amid the larger legal battle over the Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s (OSHA) vaccine mandate for private employers, several religious ministries, seminaries, schools, and other organizations have filed suit against the Biden administration, citing that it undermines religious freedom and causes them to act as a government agent infringing on their employees’ right to conscience.
After the Biden administration handed down the new rule, lawsuits came from states, private employers, and religious organizations. Among the plaintiffs is the Christian Employers Alliance (CEA), which filed a petition in the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals. “The federal government is attempting to interfere with employees’ private health decisions and their religious convictions,” said CEA president Shannon Royce. She added, “Members of the Christian Employers Alliance go to great lengths to care for the health and wellness of their employees.” CEA is represented by Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF).
First Liberty Institute filed a petition with the Fifth and Sixth Circuit on behalf of ministries the American Family Association, Daystar Television Network, and Answers in Genesis. “As religious ministries, our clients cannot in good conscience force their own employees to violate their deeply held beliefs regarding vaccines,” remarked David Hacker, director of Litigation at First Liberty Institute.
ADF also filed a lawsuit on behalf of Bishop O’Gorman Catholic Schools in South Dakota, the Christian Employers Alliance and Home School Legal Defense Foundation. ADF Senior Counsel Ryan Tucker said, “The government has no authority to tell 80 million people that they must be vaccinated or tested, and it cannot compel employers to become vaccine agents to achieve that same illegal result.”
Bishop O’Gorman seeks the same protections for religious freedom that are provided for in our federal constitution and the Religious Freedom Restoration Act,” Kyle Groos, president of Bishop O’Gorman, wrote.
School officials did not want to comment on the issue of the vaccines themselves but in a communication wrote that the government chose to “exercise its authority in an effort to compel behaviors of employers, including religious nonprofit employers.”
They aren’t the only school filing suit against the mandate. Asbury and Southern Baptist Theological Seminaries have filed a petition in the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals regarding the mandate. Albert Mohler, president of Southern Seminary, said, “My encouragement to people based on my personal advisement is to be vaccinated but placing a religious institution in the position of intruding into the lives its employees on matters that are religiously debated, even within the institution and on which the Church body takes no official stand, that is an enormous step too far.”
It is wrong for the federal government to force religious organizations to enforce a vaccine mandate. Some people have religious convictions against taking this vaccine due to the use of aborted fetal tissue used in the development of vaccines. People also have personal convictions and should not be forced to put something into their body in order to maintain a job, earn a living, or feed their family.
Government has long allowed for religious exemptions. For example, conscientious objectors are opposed to military service and serving as a combatant. The government makes exceptions for these men and women based on their moral convictions. Even in times of war and national security when a draft is in effect, a person’s convictions are respected, yet in the face of COVID, employers are being turned into agents for the government to force people to have a medication put into their body — even when they stringently oppose it for religious or moral reasons.
Hopefully, the courts will once again recognize that, as the Supreme Court ruled earlier this year, “Even in a pandemic, the Constitution cannot be put away and forgotten….“