A sign held by a healthcare worker reads “Last Year’s Heroes, This Year’s Unemployed” at a protest at St. Catherine of Siena Hospital in Smithtown, New York, on Sept. 27, 2021.
Raychel Brightman | Newsday | Getty Images
The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday denied an emergency bid to block enforcement of New York’s coronavirus vaccine mandate for health care workers.
The legal challenge was filed by a group of 20 doctors and nurses who argued that the state’s vaccine mandate violates the First Amendment to the Constitution because it fails to include a religious exemption.
The request for an injunction had been presented to Justice Sonia Sotomayor, who is assigned to handle cases from New York.
Justices Clarence Thomas, Neil Gorsuch and Samuel Alito — three of the court’s six-member conservative majority — said in the order that they would have granted the bid to block the mandate.
The ruling comes amid reports that some health care providers have opted not to enforce vaccine requirements for their workers, as they grapple with labor shortages that existed even before the Covid pandemic began.
In a 14-page dissent, Gorsuch said New York’s mandate “falters at each step” to show that it is narrowly written to serve a compelling state interest.
Gorsuch noted that while the proposed vaccine mandate under former New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo included a religious exemption, it was cut after Cuomo resigned and was replaced by current Gov. Kathy Hochul.
Gorsuch, who was nominated to the high court by former President Donald Trump, wrote disdainfully of Hochul’s remarks at a Christian cultural center in Brooklyn in September, when she said unvaccinated people “aren’t listening to God and what God wants.”
The governor’s record “practically exudes suspicion of those who hold unpopular religious beliefs,” Gorsuch wrote in the dissent. “That alone is sufficient to render the mandate unconstitutional as applied to these applicants.”
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