Saturday, December 11, 2021

Denial Of Religious Exemptions To Vaccine Mandate Violated Free Exercise Rights

In Grantonz v. Earley, (ND OH, Dec. 10, 2021), an Ohio federal district court issued a temporary restraining order preventing the Cleveland Municipal Court from enforcing its COVID vaccine mandate against two employees (a bailiff and a court reporter) who sought, but were denied, religious exemptions. The court said in part:

Where the Cleveland Municipal Court Order compels Plaintiffs to choose between following their religious beliefs or forfeiting their jobs, it significantly burdens their free exercise of religion and is not neutral. Further, by setting up a mechanism for exemptions which are granted at Defendants’ discretion and without an opportunity for appeal, AO 2021-05 is not generally applicable....

The Cleveland Municipal Court’s Administrative Order AO 2021-05 does not pass the test of strict scrutiny. Defendants have not articulated compelling reasons for denial of religious exemptions. In the October 2, 2021 letters to Plaintiffs, in fact, Defendants provided no reasons whatsoever. A policy, such as the one before this Court, that infringes the free exercise of religion, that does not serve interests of the highest order and is not narrowly tailored to achieve those interests cannot survive strict scrutiny.