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Louisiana judge puts nationwide hold on healthcare worker vaccine mandate, citing ‘grave risks’ to civil liberties


The Biden administration has faced yet another defeat in court regarding its vaccine mandates, as a Louisiana judge has ordered a nationwide injunction against a mandate that effectively required all healthcare employees and contractors to take the COVID vaccine.

Quick Facts

On Tuesday, Federal District Court Judge Terry Doughty of the Western District Court of Louisiana ruled in favor of a coalition of 14 states led by Louisiana Attorney General Jeff Landry, which sued the Biden administration over a vaccine mandate put in place by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS). The mandate requires that 10.3 million healthcare workers get the COVID shot no later than January 4, 2022, or lose their jobs.

In a 34-page opinion, the judge explained,  

“During a pandemic such as this one, it is even more important to safeguard the separation of powers set forth in our Constitution to avoid erosion of our liberties. Because the plaintiff States have satisfied all four elements required for a preliminary injunction to issue, this Court has determined that a preliminary injunction should issue against the Government Defendants.”

The defeat is not surprising, given that multiple judges have blocked vaccine mandates put in place by the administration. Judge Matthew T. Schelp in Missouri blocked the mandate for healthcare workers in 10 states a day earlier, while a judge in Kentucky issued an injunction against the mandate requiring federal contractors to receive the vaccine.

In noting that the Plaintiff States had satisfied all four elements necessary for a preliminary injunction, Doughty also explained why he decided to extend the injunction across all 50 states. “Due to the nationwide scope of the CMS mandate, a nationwide injunction is necessary due to the need for uniformity,” he wrote. “Although this Court considered limiting the injunction to the 14 plaintiff states, there are unvaccinated healthcare workers in other states who also need protection.”

Doughty also remarked regarding the administration’s ability to pass such a mandate, saying, “There is no question that mandating a vaccine to 10.3 million healthcare workers is something that should be done by Congress, not a government agency.”

“This matter will ultimately be decided by a higher court than this one,” he wrote. “However, it is important to preserve the status quo in this case. The liberty interests of the unvaccinated requires nothing less.”

In January 2008, less than two years before the swine flu hit the U.S. and more than a decade before COVID-19, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) put out what turned out be a prophetic warning about the dangers of a pandemic response that relied on punitive, police-state tactics. Especially concerning was the fact that the Department of Health and Human Services was already planning a “containment strategy” to counter any new pandemic, a strategy that called for “massive uses of government force, for example to ban public gatherings, isolate symptomatic individuals, restrict the movement of individuals, or compel vaccination or treatment.”

The three authors, who included George Annas, the chair of Boston University’s Department of Health Law, Bioethics, and Human Rights, appealed to the practical nature of decision-makers by pointing out the serious, real-world consequences of sticking with this type of approach, which, among other things, would ensure that, “People, rather than the disease, become the enemy.”

They wrote:

“American history contains vivid reminders that grafting the values of law enforcement and national security onto public health is both ineffective and dangerous. Too often, fears aroused by disease and epidemics have justified abuses of state power. Highly discriminatory and forcible vaccination and quarantine measures adopted in response to outbreaks of the plague and smallpox over the past century have consistently accelerated rather than slowed the spread of disease, while fomenting public distrust and, in some cases, riots.”

Unfortunately, our leaders — then or now — refused to consider this clear admonition nor have they taken any opportunity to look back on the many lessons of history and attempt to adjust course. Instead, they have doubled down on coercive, tyrannical tactics that instead of promoting public health are rapidly destroying it.

Thanks to vaccine mandates that have transformed healthcare workers from frontline “heroes” into selfish “scum,” as one nursing assistant recently described, some rural hospitals no longer have enough staff to keep the doors open on maternity wards or emergency rooms. In Milwaukee, Wisconsin, the state’s largest children’s hospital is so understaffed due to vaccine mandates that it struggled to adequately care for all of the children injured in last week’s deadly attack on the Waukesha Christmas parade. And many fire and rescue stations don’t have enough EMS workers to effectively respond to medical emergencies.

These scenarios would have only gotten worse without intervention. Fortunately, the courts are coming to the rescue. And judges are clearly alarmed at not just the practical implications of these coercive tactics but also the danger that these lawless and coercive efforts to “protect” us are posing to both civil liberties and the very foundations of our government.

As Judge Doughty noted in his opinion, “If the separation of powers meant anything to the Constitutional framers, it meant that the three necessary ingredients to deprive a person of liberty or property — the power to make rules, to enforce them, and to judge their violations — could never fall into the same hands. If the Executive branch is allowed to usurp the power of the Legislative branch to make laws, two of the three powers conferred by the Constitution would be in the same hands.”

More than a decade ago, Annas and his co-authors forewarned, “The threat of a new pandemic will never subside. But the notion that we need to ‘trade liberty for security’ is misguided and dangerous.“

Yesterday, Judge Doughty echoed their prescient warning when he wrote: “If human nature and history teach anything, it is that civil liberties face grave risks when governments proclaim indefinite states of emergency.”

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