Matt Bush, FISM News
Three Christian organizations represented by First Liberty Institute have asked the Supreme Court to issue an emergency stay on the Biden administration’s vaccine mandate on U.S. companies following a reversal by an appeals court on Friday. The mandate, which is again set to go into effect in January, would require organizations with more than 100 employees to either force their employees to be vaccinated or take regular COVID tests.
In early November, the Fifth Court of Appeals blocked the mandate, but that stay was lifted on Friday by the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals which subsequently reinstated the mandate. In their ruling, the three-judge panel stated that “the mandate is an important step in curtailing the transmission of a deadly virus that has killed over 800,000 people in the United States.”
First Liberty Institute is representing the American Family Association, Answers in Genesis, and Daystar Television Network in the newly filed suit. The petition to the Supreme Court states, “Any mandate that forces the organizations to compel their employees to be vaccinated against their will is one that would require it to violate their employees’ sacred rights of belief and conscience.”
Kelly Shackelford, President and CEO of First Liberty Institute, summed up the issue in a statement:
Few are aware that, in addition to the President’s OSHA mandate being clearly lawless, its takeover of American companies also includes all religious organizations of over 100 employees. Our clients simply cannot comply with a government mandate that forces them to violate the conscience rights of their employees. The Supreme Court must act, or there will be a Constitutional crisis.
These three religious organizations become the latest to sound the alarm that the governmental response to the COVID pandemic is pushing the envelope for how far it can reach into the lives of individuals and curtail personal freedoms.
Previously, in New York, a group of healthcare workers asked the Supreme Court for a religious exemption against the healthcare worker vaccine mandate. In a divided opinion, the Court refused to block the mandate on religious grounds and upheld the entirety of the mandate. Conservative Justices Clarence Thomas, Samuel Alito and Neil Gorsuch said they would have granted the injunction, while the other justices wanted to wait and see the outcome of litigation in the lower courts.
This case is different however, as it focuses on the religious rights of organizations rather than the individual religious rights of employees of secular organizations. The court filing reads: “Any mandate that forces the organizations to compel their employees to be vaccinated against their will is one that would require it to violate their employees’ sacred rights of belief and conscience.” The document goes on to say that the mandate, “fails to provide any religious exemptions or accommodations.”
The Supreme Court is expected to weigh in on the issue since the lower courts, to date, have been deeply divided over the issue. In previous rulings, the Supreme Court seems has either deferred to rule on or upheld COVID-vaccine requirements. Many legal experts, however, believe that previous rulings will not necessarily affect this case as there is precedent for granting religious and non-profit organizations the freedom to follow deeply held religious beliefs.