Tuesday, March 08, 2022

Questionnaire Upheld As Basis For Vaccine Religious Exemption

In Ferrelli v. State of New York Unified Court System, (ND NY, March 7, 2022), a New York federal district court upheld the system for determining whether employees are entitled to religious exemptions from the COVID vaccine mandate imposed on all judges and employees of the New York state court system. The court described the screening process for exemptions in part as follows:

[T]he two most common reasons for seeking a religious exemption were (1) concern about the connection between COVID-19 vaccines and fetal cells, and (2) concern about the sanctity or purity of the applicant’s body.... Because the committee often found the information in applicants’ personal statements insufficient to assess the basis for and sincerity of the belief, it created a supplemental form.... In particular, Section A inquires as to applicants’ use of other medications and vaccinations that were tested using fetal cell lines, and requests explanations of inconsistencies in past or present use of such products.... Section B requests information about other medicines, medical treatments, vaccines and/or foods from which the applicant abstains due to her religious beliefs; when she began abstaining; and why her faith requires such abstention.....

The court concluded that this exemption process was neutral and generally applicable, saying in part:

Defendants have not created a system of individualized exemptions and refused to extend it to religious hardships. Rather, they have created a system of religious exemptions and refused to extend it to Plaintiffs based on responses, or lack thereof, to a supplemental form.