Judge Says N.Y. Must Allow Religious Exemptions to Vaccine Mandate

COVID-19 vaccine vaccination

A federal judge has granted a preliminary injunction that will allow New York health care workers to apply for religious exemptions to the state COVID-19 vaccine mandate.

In his 27-page ruling, Judge David N. Hurd of the Northern District in Utica wrote that New York appeared to overreach by barring all religious accommodations in the mandate. He issued a preliminary injunction preventing the Department of Health from acting against any employer who grants religious exemptions, and wrote that the 17 health care workers were likely to succeed in their case.

“The Department of Health is barred from interfering in any way with the granting of religious exemptions from Covid-19 vaccination going forward, or with the operation of exemptions already granted,” Judge Hurd wrote.

The judge had earlier issued a temporary restraining order barring the state from enforcing the mandate against people with religious objections starting in mid-September; technically, Tuesday’s order extended that ruling. The restraining order effectively allowed many health workers who applied for religious exemptions in New York to continue working even after the mandate went into effect.

Gov. Kathy Hochul, responding to the order, said she backs the vaccine mandate, whose original deadline was September 27, with the state's 450,000 medical and care staff expected to have received at least one vaccine dose by that date.

'My responsibility as Governor is to protect the people of this state, and requiring health care workers to get vaccinated accomplishes that. I stand behind this mandate, and I will fight this decision in court to keep New Yorkers safe,' she wrote in a statement.

Only last month Greek Orthodox Archbishop Elpidophoros of America that there is no religious exemption from any vaccine.

“Today the Holy Eparchial Synod declared that there is no religious exemption from any vaccine, including the COVID19 vaccine. Any such letter written by any clergyman of the Holy Archdiocese of America is not valid. No clergy are to issue such religious exemption letters.” announced Archibishop Elpidophoros on his official twitter account.

The announcement sparked outrage amongst many of his twitter followers, many accusing the Archbishop and the Church of betrayal with comments ranging from the vulgar to the ridiculous.