August 8, 2022

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The Supreme Court has rejected an appeal from a small group of New York City...

The Supreme Court has rejected an appeal from a small group of New York City school teachers who were hoping to block a COVID-19 vaccine mandate. 
The group of 15 Department of Education workers had argued in an emergency appeal that it violated their religious freedom but Justice Sonia Sotomayor rejected the appeal.
The group claimed that the city was violating their religious freedoms because it refused to accept their claims for exemption.  

Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor (pictured) denied a challenge from a small group of NYC public school teachers to block the city’s vaccine mandate through religious exemption

The small group of 15 teachers had argued the mandate violated their religious freedom. Pictured, NYC teachers protesting against COVID-19 vaccine mandates in New York in August

Sotomayor, who is the justice for the second circuit including New York, Connecticut and Vermont and so rules on emergency matters in the Big Apple, rejected the teachers’ last-ditch effort to block the mandate without giving any explanation, which is normal for cases of emergency appeals. 

This was the second time the teachers’ request was rejected. A similar request filed by the same group last year was also denied without comment by Sotomayor. 
The liberal justice’s decision followed a similar ruling from conservative Justice Amy Coney Barrett back in August.
Coney Barrett denied a bid from a group of students at Indiana University to block the school’s vaccine mandate – also providing no comment and no referral. 

Teachers protest the mandate in August. A group of four teachers sent an emergency petition to Sotomayor Thursday asking her to halt it

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The teachers claimed the requirement to be vaccinated was tantamount to religious discrimination because it unfairly denied applications and did not offer exemptions for employees with unorthodox religious beliefs. 
The judgment came on the same day as a deadline passed for New York City employees to comply with the vaccine mandate or risk losing their jobs. 
It means that unless the group now rethink over the weekend and drop their objection to getting vaccinated, all 15 will be terminated on Monday, or agree to remain on leave without pay and drop their objection to the policy.
That deadline was announced less than two weeks ago. The city’s health commissioner issued an order that all municipal employees must receive their vaccination series in order to work. 
New York City public school teachers were required to be vaccinated against COVID-19 from October, when the controversial mandate went into effect.

This was the second time the teachers’ request was rejected. A similar request filed by the same group last year was also denied without comment by Sotomayor. Pictured, a rally protesting the vaccine organized by teachers in September 2021

Since then, the city also issued a mandate for all non-public school employees to provide proof of first dose of a COVID-19 vaccination as of December.
The city does allow exemptions for medical or religious reasons but those religious exemptions must also be the position of religious leaders according to NBC News.
Catholics were unable to file for a vaccine exemption after Pope Francis urged followers to get vaccinated.  
It means nearly 4,000 out of New York City’s 400,000 municipal employees will have their positions terminated after failing to get vaccinated against the coronavirus.  
Earlier this week, Mayor Eric Adams said he intended to push ahead with the terminations despite the rules being put together under former Mayor Bill de Blasio’s administration.   
About 9,000 other municipal employees are still seeking exemptions or dealing with their unions in an attempt to avoid being fired. 

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Justice Sonia Sotomayor, seen bottom right, who reviews emergency appeals from the New York region denied the application for an emergency injunction without commenting. This followed a similar ruling from conservative Amy Coney Barrett (top right) last August

The city administration is said to be working out how many will lose their jobs with updated figures to be released over the weekend, according to the New York Times.
Although the Supreme Court rejected the New York City teachers’ case, last month the high court ruled against Joe Biden’s vaccine-or-test mandate for businesses with at least 100 employees. The court described it as an overreach.
‘The Secretary has ordered 84 million Americans to either obtain a COVID–19 vaccine or undergo weekly medical testing at their own expense,’ the justices wrote last month. 
‘It is instead a significant encroachment into the Lives—and health—of a vast number of employees. … There can be little doubt that OSHA’s mandate qualifies as an exercise of such authority.’
‘We are pleased the U.S. Supreme Court has again denied an attempt to block the mandate,’ Nick Paolucci, a spokesman for the city’s Law Department, said in a statement.
‘The city’s goal has always been to vaccinate, not terminate,’ he added. ‘The vast majority of city workers have stepped up to protect themselves and their communities, and the city is grateful to them.’
Barry Black, a lawyer for the plaintiffs, declined to comment on the decision.


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