ALBANY, N.Y. (AP) — New York Gov. Kathy Hochul vowed this week to fight a lawsuit launched by a group of Christian health care practitioners who argue that New York’s COVID-19 vaccine mandate for many health care workers is unconstitutional because it lacks a religious exemption.
A federal judge temporarily blocked the state Tuesday from enforcing any part of its mandate that prohibits religious exemptions for healthcare workers. The court will hold arguments in coming weeks.
The judge’s order means healthcare workers must still get vaccinated before Sept. 27 — but for now, they can ask for religious exemptions.
Hochul said Wednesday she’s not aware of any major religious group that has prohibited adherents from receiving the COVID-19 vaccine.
“Everyone from the Pope on down is encouraging people to get vaccinated,” she said, referring to Pope Francis, the head of the Roman Catholic Church.
The nurses, doctors and other New York health care workers in the lawsuit say they don’t want to be forced to take any vaccine that employs aborted fetus cell lines in their testing, development or production.
Fetal cell lines were used during research and development of the Pfizer and Moderna mRNA vaccines, and during production of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine.
Thomas More Society senior counsel Stephen Crampton, who’s representing the anonymous group of nurses, doctors and other health care workers, said he’s confident the courts will find that people have a right to refuse the vaccine on religious grounds, even if they are part of a religious group that is endorsing the shots.