In recent weeks, there’s been a concerted pushback on COVID-19 vaccine mandates, with new court rulings and new legislation being introduced to thwart the power of the state to implement such sweeping intrusions into personal and conscience-based health decisions.
All of this is coming at a time when the MRNA vaccines and subsequent boosters put out by Pfizer and Moderna have proven to largely ineffective against Omicron and other COVID variants, but also potentially dangerous. The CDC, the FDA, and foreign public health agencies are currently investigating various reports of the MRNA vaccine’s adverse effects, including myocarditis in young people, strokes in the elderly, menstrual disruptions, and other health issues.
Here’s a roundup of just some of the recent happenings on vaccine mandates:
The San Diego City Council yesterday voted to lift the state of emergency put in place during the COVID lockdowns and “sunset” the COVID vaccine mandate for city workers. This move, proposed by San Diego Mayor Todd Gloria, City Attorney Mara Elliott, and City Councilmember Marni Von Wilpert, comes due to “a decrease in COVID-19 positive cases and hospitalizations, and 91 percent of city employees having been vaccinated.”
The city is currently a defendant in a federal lawsuit brought by ReOpen San Diego. In response, Amy Reichert, co-founder of the organization, told a local Fox affiliate that “this state of emergency is long past due,” adding, “Yes, we filed the federal lawsuit, yes we are about to be victorious, and yes the vaccine mandate is going to end. But here’s the thing, we want to make sure that this never, ever happens again.”
After various court challenges, New York’s vaccine mandate for healthcare workers was blocked earlier this month by State Supreme Court Judge Gerard Neri, who ruled that the mandate exceeded the scope of the New York State Department of Health’s powers. Former Gov. Andrew Cuomo, D, implemented the mandate in June 2021 via the emergency powers granted him. When the emergency was ended, the Commissioner of Health made the mandate permanent.
Petitioners argued that the Department of Health’s mandate exceeded the power given it under public health law, which specifically prohibits it from enacting mandatory immunization for anyone except for those cited in Public Health Law. Coronavirus vaccinations are not listed as one of those immunizations. Neri agreed, declaring the mandate “null, void, and of no effect.”
The Department of Health released a statement, saying,
“The requirement that health care workers be vaccinated against COVID-19 protects vulnerable New Yorkers and the people who care for them, and it is a critical public health tool. The State Health Department strongly disagrees with the judge’s decision and is exploring all options.”
The ruling comes months after a New York Supreme Court judge ordered all New York City employees who were fired for not getting the vaccine to be reinstated. However, New York Kathy Hochul, D, yesterday announced that she will not rehire any fired healthcare workers who are still unvaccinated.
In a critical change, the Department of Defense is rescinding its vaccine order for members of the U.S. Armed Services, thanks to the passage of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA). The new law requires that the DoD remove the mandate.
DoD Secretary Lloyd Austin has said that no current member of the Armed Services will be removed for refusing the COVID vaccine if they sought an exemption. He also said that the records of servicemembers who were denied an exemption will be updated to remove letters of reprimand.
Nonetheless, servicemembers who were fired for refusing the shot are reporting that they are being forced to repay signing bonuses because they didn’t meet their contract terms.
Despite being rescinded, the DoD’s vaccine mandate is not finished in the courts. On February 6, the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals will hear oral arguments in a case brought by First Liberty Institute on behalf of Navy Seals and other servicemembers who were punished for applying for a religious exemption to the vaccine mandate.
In fact, First Liberty notes that the “punitive and vindictive” approach taken “towards service members who requested a legal, religious accommodation to the vaccine mandate” is still impacting “thousands of military personnel.”
In a press release, the law firm explained that
“the repeal does not reinstate those who were discharged for refusing the vaccine. It also offers no resolution for those whose medical insurance for their children was removed and whose careers were set back after asking for an accommodation. That’s why First Liberty’s upcoming oral argument in federal appeals court is so important. A favorable ruling for our Navy clients could be a major victory for countless religious service members.”
Meanwhile, in early January, the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals dealt another defeat to President Biden’s vaccine mandate for federal contractors. The court ruled that Biden exceeded his authority in issuing the mandate.
The ruling only covers the three states of Ohio, Kentucky, and Tennessee, but the 5th Circuit in December also blocked the mandate for Indiana, Mississippi, and Louisiana. The Biden administration has stopped trying to enforce the rule nationwide as legal challenges play out in the courts.
Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost praised the 6th Circuit ruling, saying,
“The court reaffirmed a basic civics lesson: the executive branch cannot demand compliance with a rule it never had the authority to write in the first place.”
The Biden administration’s effort to impose a similar vaccine mandate on private sector businesses with more than 100 employees was blocked in early 2021 by the Supreme Court.
And finally, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, R, last week published a legislative proposal that would ban COVID-19 vaccine mandates, permanently prohibit mask requirements, and also protect healthcare employees from losing their license for stating a view that goes against the stated consensus.
State Surgeon General Dr. Joseph Ladapo said in a press release,
“As a health sciences researcher and physician, I have personally witnessed accomplished scientists receive threats due to their unorthodox positions. However, many of these positions have proven to be correct, as we’ve all seen over the past few years. All medical professionals should be encouraged to engage in scientific discourse without fearing for their livelihoods or their careers.”
In 2008, the ACLU presciently warned the government against using law enforcement and national security measures to manage any future pandemic. These measures, they stated, would “not only suppress individual rights, but have proven to be ineffective in stopping the spread of disease and saving lives.”
How right they were. Sadly, though, under the pressure of global propaganda and public health tyranny, even the ACLU would cave on this common sense guidance a little more than a decade later, as it fully supported the Biden administration and state and city governments in forcing Americans to take an unproven, rushed, experimental vaccine.
Not only did the vaccines not work as promised in terms of their long-term effectiveness and ability to stop transmission and restore normality, but thousands of people have died or have been injured as a result of the vaccines, according to the CDC’s vaccine reporting system VAERS. And those forced to choose between taking a vaccine against their will or losing their job or participating in society have also suffered.
The growing recognition that vaccines didn’t work as promised and that mandating Americans and Christians to take them against their will should especially be a major wakeup call to those Christian leaders who fully embraced — even acted as agents for — government propaganda on vaccines and other COVID measures without practicing the requisite discernment and humility that their position demands.
In his important white paper “Christian Love vs. COVID Conformity,” Standing for Freedom Center contributor Dr. Tim Yonts wrote:
“The distinction between vaccines and vaccine coercion seems to be lost or ignored by many prominent evangelical publications. Instead of noting this distinction and recognizing the possibility of favoring vaccines while opposing mandates, they have framed the issue almost exclusively as a question of Christian love. The basic proposition put forward in these arguments is a simple one: Love thy neighbor, get the vaccine.”
This can never happen again. Christians are to obey government leaders (Romans 13:1-7) — but not blindly and certainly not when it requires them to disobey God or their conscience.
Christians are called to seek truth through biblical reading and prayer. In 1 Thessalonians 5:21, the Apostle Paul tells us to “test everything; hold fast to what is good”; while Colossians 2:8 cautions us to, “See to it that no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition and the elemental spiritual forces of this world rather than on Christ.”
And in 1 Corinthians 13:6, Paul reminds us that “Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth.”
Even though vaccine mandates are now being rescinded voluntarily or through court action, the damage has largely been done. The short-term harm to individual lives has been devastating, but the long-term effects on society as a whole are as yet unknown. Already, though, we can see glimpses. The DoD vaccine mandate and the military’s hostile treatment of religious servicemembers has helped to put a stranglehold on recruiting, for example, and Americans’ trust in doctors and public health agencies has taken a major hit.
The key moving forward is not just to continue to dismantle these vaccine mandates everywhere, but to ensure that absolute power is never again granted to bureaucrats and politicians — especially when it means that Americans will be shamed, stigmatized, and shunned for exercising their biblical and constitutional right to decide according to their conscience.
Ready to dive deeper into the intersection of faith and policy? Head over to our Theology of Politics series page where we’ve published several long-form pieces that will help Christians navigate where their faith should direct them on political issues.