The U.S. Supreme Court on Thursday declined to hear a challenge to New York’s mandate that healthcare sector workers be vaccinated against COVID-19 brought by a group of doctors, nurses and others who objected on religious grounds.
Turning away an appeal by 16 healthcare workers, the justices left in place a lower court ruling that rejected their claim that the mandate violates the U.S. Constitution’s First Amendment prohibition against religious discrimination by the government. Most of the workers either resigned from their jobs, lost hospital admitting privileges or were fired for refusing the vaccine.
Conservative Justices Clarence Thomas, Samuel Alito, and Neil Gorsuch dissented from the decision to deny the appeal.
The Supreme Court previously rejected other challenges to vaccine mandates including one focusing upon Maine’s lack of a religious exemption for healthcare workers.
New York’s Department of Health last Aug. 26 ordered healthcare professionals who come in contact with patients or other employees to be vaccinated against COVID-19 as a safety measure during a pandemic that has killed more than a million Americans.
The state allows a narrow medical exemption for the small number of people with a serious allergic reaction to the COVID-19 vaccines.
The state has said that under the policy employers can consider religious accommodation requests and employees can be reassigned to jobs such as remote work. Healthcare workers in the state have also been subject to similar vaccine mandates measles and rubella, which also have no religious exemptions.
The dispute began when a group of doctors, nurses, therapists and other healthcare workers – mostly Catholics – sued in federal court under pseudonyms. Among the plaintiffs, three doctors lost admitting privileges, seven providers were fired or resigned, five chose to be vaccinated “under protest” and one eventually received a medical exemption.
Overall, nearly 37,000 New York healthcare workers either resigned, retired or were fired or furloughed for being unvaccinated, according to state data.
The plaintiffs have said they object to any COVID-19 vaccine whose testing or development relied on cell lines from aborted fetuses.
The COVID-19 vaccines used in the United States do not contain aborted fetal cells. Laboratory-grown cells that descended from the cells of an aborted fetus obtained decades ago were used in testing during the vaccine development process. The Vatican issued guidance to Catholics in 2020 that it is morally acceptable to use COVID-19 vaccines.
New York noted in a legal filing that use of such cell lines for testing is common, including for the rubella vaccination, which healthcare workers already take.
The Manhattan-based 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals rejected a bid by the plaintiffs for a preliminary injunction, finding last November that the mandate neutrally applied to everyone and likely was not biased against religion.
Liberal MP Adam van Koeverden apologized on June 13 for swearing at a Canadian woman living overseas after a heated exchange between the two on social media about the federal travel vaccine mandate.
“Last week I responded in an unacceptable way to a message on social media, and I deeply regret it,” van Koeverden said during question period in the House of Commons.
“I want to apologize to the person I offended and anybody else I let down. I realize that the past two years have been really difficult for a lot of people, but my conduct was unacceptable. We have an obligation to disagree without being disagreeable, and in that regard I failed.”
The former Olympic gold medalist and current parliamentary secretary to the minister of health was responding to a question from Conservative Party MP and health critic Michael Barrett about the federal vaccine mandates.
“Will [van Koeverden] give us a date on when he will end the mandates, or will he tell me to eff off, like he did to one of his constituents?” asked Barrett.
Barrett was referring to van Koeverden’s conversation on Instagram with Ontario-born woman Kate Faith, 29, who now lives in New Zealand and has been unable to visit her family in Canada due to the federal vaccine mandate for travel.
“You guys stand in Parliament and act like these mandates actually serve a purpose?” she told van Koeverden. “I was a teacher who got fired for not taking a jab. Now I am a supply teacher, covering classes every single day because all the jabbed teachers have covid and can’t work.”
After some back and forth, Faith said to Van Koeverden “You are a disgrace of a Canadian. Do the right thing.”
“F— you,” the MP replied.
Faith answered she hasn’t been able to see her family since the onset of the pandemic and had to attend her father’s funeral via video link.
“I can’t hug my parents or nana’s because of your Liberal mandates and you have the nerve to swear at me?”
Van Koeverden ended the conversation by saying he “made a mistake in responding to someone like you. Good luck.”
As parliamentary secretary to the minister of health, van Koeverden has taken many questions in the House from Conservatives on vaccine mandates and COVID-19 management.
Some of those exchanges have also been tense at times.
“I am happy to address the question from my colleague and the entire Conservative caucus, which is unmasked today and is pretending that COVID-19 is completely over,” van Koeverden said on March 22.
“Put your mask on,” an unidentified MP told van Koeverden.
“I will put my mask on as soon as I sit back down, like the rest of my colleagues who are committed to following the science. This pandemic is not over,” van Koeverden continued.
Conservative MPs have accused the Liberals of using masks as “theatrics.” Masks are not required in the House when MPs are at their seat, but Liberals have them on at all times, mostly.
MP Todd Doherty released a video on June 9 showing Liberal MPs Iqra Khalid and Julie Dzerowicz not wearing a mask and then putting one on after apparently realizing they were being captured by the House camera filming a colleague between them and the camera.
Noé Chartier is an Epoch Times reporter based in Montreal.
A man charged with conspiracy to commit murder at a border blockade in southern Alberta has been denied bail by a judge.
Chris Carbert, 45, appeared by video in the Court of Queen’s Bench in Lethbridge on May 27 to hear the decision after a bail hearing last week.
Reasons for Justice Johnna Kubik’s ruling are protected by a publication ban.
Carbert and three other men are accused of conspiring to kill police officers at a blockade near Coutts, Alberta, in protest of COVID-19 vaccine mandates and other pandemic restrictions.
One of the men, Christopher Lysak, who is also charged with uttering threats, possession of a weapon, and mischief to property over $5,000, was denied bail March 2.
Anthony Olienick’s bail decision is to come June 9 after a hearing Friday, and Jerry Morin also remains in custody.
Crown prosecutor Matt Dalidowicz had indicated in April that the plan was to try the four men together.
They are to return to court on June 13.
The protest near Coutts began in late January and lasted for over two weeks.
Thirteen people were charged on Feb. 14 after the RCMPuncovered 13 long guns, handguns, multiple sets of body armour, a machete, a large quantity of ammunition, and high-capacity magazines in three trailers.
RCMP also said a semi-truck and farm tractor attempted to ram a police cruiser on Feb. 13.
“The group was said to have a willingness to use force against the police if any attempts were made to disrupt the blockade,” the law enforcement agency said in a release on Feb. 14.
Marco Van Huigenbos, convoy organizer at the Coutts border crossing, said at the time that their protest had nothing to do with the individuals arrested by the RCMP. To maintain the narrative that the protest and the protesters were peaceful, he decided to end the blockade.
“We want to wrap this up in a peaceful way,” said Van Huigenbos in a video message, posted by Rebel News reporter Syd Fizzard on Twitter the evening of Feb. 14.
“After the … news released that the RCMP made arrests and [came] forward with an arrest, resulted in long-arm firearms, handguns, and protective equipment, … we, as the Coutts convoy, have decided that as a peaceful protest, and to maintain that narrative, we will be rolling out tomorrow morning at 10 a.m.”
The protest at the Coutts border crossing was one of several demonstrations inspired by the Freedom Convoy encamped in Ottawa, which started in opposition to the federal government’s vaccine mandate for cross-border truck drivers.
The first convoys converged in Ottawa on Jan. 29, and many protesters had indicated they would stay until all COVID-19 mandates were lifted. The movement then mushroomed to include supporters from across the country who oppose all pandemic mandates and restrictions imposed by governments.
Van Huigenbos said at the time he hoped their protests had started something that would have “wide-reaching effects” on the governments at all levels.
“That governments will continue to go back to the grassroots, listen to the constituents, and that these mandates, these restrictive mandates will soon be eliminated,” he said.
On Feb. 15, the Canada Border Services Agency confirmed operations were resumed at the Alberta-U.S. crossing.
A video posted to social media showed RCMP members shaking hands and hugging the protesters.
The Canadian Press contributed to this report.
Isaac Teo is an Epoch Times reporter based in Toronto.
Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey on Friday said he had signed into law a measure that bars state health officials from adding a COVID-19 vaccine to the list of inoculations needed to attend public schools.
He also signed a second bill that bans mask mandates in any state or local government buildings, which include libraries, courthouses, and other public buildings.
Ducey’s office announced late Friday afternoon that he had signed the two bills—House Bill 2086 (pdf) and House Bill 2453 (pdf)—along with 18 others. The measures will take effect 90 days after the Legislature adjourns its ongoing 2022 session.
The two bills mark the latest efforts by majority Republican lawmakers to limit what they have called government overreach. All House and Senate Republicans voted for the two measures, with no support from any Democrats.
The text of H.B. 2086 says that “immunization against COVID-19 or any of its variants is not required for school attendance in Arizona.” It also says that it “[r]equires an immunization to be required by [Department of Homeland Security] rule before the immunization is permitted to be required for in-person school attendance.”
The latter bill, H.B. 2453, will prohibit any local or state government from “imposing any requirement to wear a mask or face covering on the governmental entity’s premises, except where long-standing workplace safety and infection control measures that are unrelated to COVID-19 may be required.”
Ducey, a Republican, has already signed other legislation this year targeting COVID-19 related restrictions. In April, he signed into law a measure to block government entities from requiring proof of COVID-19 vaccination for employees, and another measure blocking schools from enforcing masks for students under 18, unless their parents explicitly approve.
Ducey had previously backed COVID-19 restrictions early in the pandemic prior to joining many other Republican in opposing mandates. The governor had ordered business closures, issued orders requiring mask-wearing at public schools, and did not object when municipalities and county governments issued mask mandates during 2020.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
Mimi Nguyen Ly is a reporter based in Australia. She covers world news with a focus on U.S. news. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org
Starting from the upcoming 2022 summer semester, the University of Cincinnati (UC) will no longer require students and employees to get COVID-19 vaccines.
The change comes about a month after UC, the second largest university in Ohio, stopped demanding people wear masks while inside campus buildings.
UC still “strongly encourages” members of the campus community to get one of the COVID-19 vaccines and booster doses. It also reminds those who work and learn in certain sites, such as hospitals or clinical facilities, that they may still need to comply with site-specific COVID-19 vaccination requirements.
“Non-compliance may prevent one from fulfilling one’s academic and professional objectives,” it says.
The university now joins a handful of institutions that have dropped the COVID-19 vaccine mandate they had implemented last year. The University of Hawaii in March indefinitely suspended its vaccine and mask requirements, except for certain programs and courses such as medicine and nursing. It also halted its daily COVID-19 health screening, and no longer asks visitors to show proof of vaccination or negative test results to attend on-campus events.
Several Virginia schools, notably Radford, George Mason and Virginia Commonwealth Universities, and Virginia Tech, changed their COVID-19 vaccination policy and went vaccine-optional earlier this year. The change was promoted by Virginia’s newly inaugurated Attorney General Jason Miyares, who wrote in a legal opinion that public universities in his state should not require COVID-19 vaccination as a condition for enrollment or attendance, unless the state passes a law saying otherwise.
“There is no question that the General Assembly could enact a statute requiring the COVID-19 vaccine for in-person school attendance,” Miyares wrote. “As of this writing, it has not done so.”
Meanwhile, in Florida, university system officials have been asking, but not requiring, students and employees to wear masks and get vaccinated. When Florida State University (FSU) resumed normal operation last August, it told the campus community it doesn’t have the authority to impose those mandates on them.
“Our authority is limited by the State of Florida and the university cannot mandate vaccines, testing or mask wearing,” an FSU announcement reads.
In September, the presidents of University of Florida (UF) and Santa Fe College were asked by Alachua County Commission to adhere to a public health emergency declaration and implement indoor mandated masks on their campuses. The presidents replied that they would not be able to meet the county’s request.
“Unfortunately, we do not read the State University system policymaking environment the way you describe in your letter,” UF president Kent Fuchs wrote in response to the commission. “The university does not currently have the authority to take the actions you recommend.”
Louisiana’s House of Representatives has passed legislation to ban state and local governments from requiring proof of a COVID-19 vaccine to enter public areas and private businesses, or to receive services and goods from them.
The measure now moves to the state’s Senate after a vote of 64–31 in the House late on Wednesday.
According to the text of the legislation, House Bill 990 (pdf), the ban does not apply to “any COVID-19 vaccination mandate that is required in accordance with federal law or regulation.”
State Rep. Thomas Pressly, a Republican who sponsored the bill, said the measure doesn’t interfere with businesses’ own decisions on whether they would require proof of vaccination.
State Rep. Beryl Amedée had offered an amendment (pdf) to the bill to remove a provision that reads: “Nothing in this Part shall be interpreted or construed to prohibit or otherwise impede the rights of a private business or other private entity wishing to implement any policy, procedure, or requirement regarding COVID-19 vaccinations.”
She said removing it “does not impact the overall intent of the bill” and that keeping that section is “problematic” because it “greenlights, endorses, and promotes religious and medical discrimination in the private sector,” reported The Center Square.
The amendment failed by a vote of 21–71.
Amedée voted against the bill although she was supportive of the overall measure.
Her amendment would have also inserted the words “valid and enforceable” in referring to federal laws, in Section B of the bill.
The section currently reads: “The provisions of this part shall not apply to any COVID-19 vaccination mandate that is required in accordance with federal law or regulation.” The amended version would have read: “The provisions of this part shall not apply to any COVID-19 vaccination mandate that is required in accordance with valid and enforceable federal law or regulation.”
Amedée said that the federal government delegated enforcement of the vaccine mandates to private businesses, “and the mandates are now being overturned,” reported The Center Square.
Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards had last year vetoed legislation regarding vaccine mandates. It is unclear whether he would veto Pressly’s bill if it passes the state Legislature.
Gabrielle Stephenson is a reporter covering world news. She is currently based in Australia.
LOS ANGELES—The union representing Los Angeles County sheriff’s deputies has filed a second legal action in its dispute with the Board of Supervisors concerning who has legal authority to suspend or fire deputies for noncompliance with the county’s mandatory coronavirus vaccination order.
The Association for Los Angeles Deputy Sheriffs originally sued Los Angeles County on Dec. 3 regarding the board’s establishment last August of a mandatory vaccination policy requiring all county workers, including those employed by the sheriff’s department, to be fully vaccinated. The board maintains it has the legal authority to subject those failing to comply to disciplinary action, including being fired.
But according to the union’s Los Angeles Superior Court suit, that disciplinary power rests exclusively with Sheriff Alex Villanueva, who has said he will not enforce the county’s mandate due to the adverse impact on his ability to ensure public safety.
The first suit is still pending trial. While declining to comment on the court action, a representative for the county previously said extensive steps have been taken during the pandemic “to keep the public and employees safe and the vaccination policy is an essential public health measure intended to protect employees and the public we serve.”
On April 8, the association filed a petition in Los Angeles Superior Court claiming that after the filing of the union’s first case, the county then began the process of amending its local law to give its personnel director the authority to discipline ALADS members for alleged non-compliance with the mandatory vaccination policy.
“The county, however, has failed and refused to exhaust the bargaining process as required by the [state Government Code] and has taken action to unilaterally implement its proposed amendments to local law,” the petition states.
The union, which also has filed a complaint with the county’s Employee Relations Commission, alleges in the new legal action that the county has violated its duty under local collective bargaining law by adopting the amendment on April 5. ALADS is asking a judge to maintain the status quo until the bargaining process is complete.
President Joe Biden’s requirement that all federal employees be vaccinated against COVID-19 was upheld Thursday by a federal appeals court.
In a 2-1 ruling, a panel of the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals reversed a lower court and ordered dismissal of a lawsuit challenging the mandate. The ruling, a rare win for the administration at the New Orleans-based appellate court, said that the federal judge didn’t have jurisdiction in the case and those challenging the requirement could have pursued administrative remedies under Civil Service law.
U.S. District Judge Jeffrey Brown, who was appointed to the District Court for the Southern District of Texas by then-President Donald Trump, had issued a nationwide injunction against the requirement in January.
When the case was argued at the 5th Circuit last month, administration lawyers had noted that district judges in a dozen jurisdictions had rejected a challenge to the vaccine requirement for federal workers before Brown ruled.
The administration argued that the Constitution gives the president, as the head of the federal workforce, the same authority as the CEO of a private corporation to require that employees be vaccinated.
Lawyers for those challenging the mandate had pointed to a recent Supreme Court opinion that the government cannot force private employers to require employee vaccinations.
Twelve of 17 active judges at the 5th Circuit were nominated to the court by Republicans, including six Trump appointees.
Judges Carl Stewart and James Dennis, both nominated to the court by President Bill Clinton, were in the majority. Judge Rhesa Barksdale, a senior judge nominated by President George H.W. Bush, dissented, saying the relief the challengers sought does not fall under the Civil Service Reform Act cited by the administration.
The case marked ideological divides at the appeals court even before Thursday’s ruling.
A different panel had refused in February to block Brown’s ruling pending the appeal. That panel’s vote was 2-1. There were no reasons given by the majority — Judge Jerry Smith, a President Ronald Reagan nominee, and Don Willett, a Trump nominee.
But there was a lengthy dissent by Judge Stephen Higginson, a nominee of President Barack Obama, who said a single district judge “lacking public health expertise and made unaccountable through life tenure,” should not be able to block the president from ordering the same type of COVID-19 safety measures many private sector CEOs have ordered.
Brooklyn Nets NBA player Kyrie Irving, who is unvaccinated, is no longer blocked from competing in New York state over a vaccine mandate, but that will not block him from keeping up the fight against mandates.
“I’ve been saying from the beginning with all this, it’s never been just about me, and any special privilege or exemption,” Irving told the N.Y. Daily News. “I think there are a lot of people dealing with real consequences from being unvaccinated. And I don’t think it’s talked about enough in terms of our essential workers and people on the front lines, and it’s just it’s a whole community of us that really want to stand together.”
Irving praised New York Democrat Mayor Eric Adams for privileging professional athletes on an exemption from the state’s vaccine mandate.
“And though I’m very appreciative of Mayor Adams doing what he did, and everyone in our Nets organization, everyone sending in notes to the mayor and tweets or Instagram posts or wherever you call it, you know, now is the time to really get all of us included and get everybody back to work so we get some normalcy around here,” Irving added to the Daily News. “But I know everybody still feels it, and there’s a whole community of people that have lost their jobs due to this mandate as well.
“And I’m just putting care out for them most importantly, and standing alongside of them.”
Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, called it “asinine” Americans were blocked from work for the choice of not taking the COVID-19 vaccine.
“We’ll let you play,” Cruz said of the Houston Rockets. “He’s a hell of a player being benched by asinine Democratic theater.”
There were 1,400 New York City municipal workers fired last month due to the vaccine mandates, according to the report.
The labor unions are noting the Democrats’ hypocrisy of exempting millionaires and punishing the working class New Yorkers, including NYPD officers and public school teachers.
“There’s some progressive action we can take,” Irving vowed in support of the unions fighting back at the mandates.
Still, Irving is thankful for his exemption.
“Please take my comment serious when I say I’ve been pinching myself since Wednesday and Thursday, because there was a time where I got my hopes really, really high and all the air was just let out,” Irving told the Daily News. “And it’s just a level of disappointment, and I didn’t want to get too excited.”
HAGERSTOWN, Md.—Organizers of the “People’s Convoy” have vowed to continue pressing for an end to the national COVID emergency, saying they were in it to play the “long game.”
During speeches at a March 26 rally in Hagerstown, Maryland, co-organizers Brian Brase and Mike Landis said that spending a few days away from Hagerstown Speedway, an auto-racing venue and the temporary campground of truckers, helped bring new perspectives to their missions.
“Being home solidified my reasoning for being here,” Brase said of his short break back home in Ohio over the previous weekend. “It reminded me that I’m doing this for my children.”
“I know that as a human being walking this earth, no government, no company, no one may violate my God-given right!” Brase added.
The co-organizer said he would be happy if he could help ten Americans to notice “the big picture of what’s going on.” He encouraged the audience to “investigate, research, and hold accountable” their elected officials and vote for “God-fearing” men and women during midterms in November.
And Landis, who flew to Orange County, California, to meet with Democratic Congressman Lou Correa (D-Calif.) on March 21, called the meeting “a step in the right direction.”
“We all are the underdogs because the government has way more time and money than we do. You’ve got to pick the right time as to when to pick it up and when to just wait it out,” said Landis.
‘Integrity, Dignity, and Community’
Dr. Robert Malone also spoke at the rally and emphasized the “long game.” He described the Convoy’s current pursuit as “one little, tiny battle” in a “total information warfare,” in which those in power are trying to control information relating to COVID-19 for political purposes.
Malone is a virologist and immunologist who has contributed significantly to the technology of mRNA vaccines. He is also the chief medical officer of the Unity Project, a movement seeking to resist COVID-19 vaccine mandates for K–12 children.
“There’s no reason for the declaration of emergency because there is no medical emergency,” he told the audience.
The national COVID emergency, which was declared in March 2020 under President Donald Trump, has since been extended twice by President Joe Biden, in February 2021 and this month.
“It’s long been apparent that the U.S. and other Western governments have intentionally used the guise of an overstated public health crisis to justify the suspension of laws and rights that would be enforced without such a crisis, including the federal common rule, which defines the rights of all citizens to informed consent for medical procedures,” he said, adding that “COVID was politicized.”
Malone offered three words to form the basis of guiding the path back to a healthy country: “integrity, dignity, and community.” He said truckers and their supporters formed a community that could serve as the core to rebuild communities in the nation.
Reconnecting with God
“This movement has made me a true believer in God. You have shown me God from the groups that pray over me, or [co-organizer] Marcus [Summers], or Mike [Landis], or the Convoy,” Brase told the audience. “Thank you for showing me the way.”
The 37-year-old said he had “struggled” with his relationship with God up until recently.
He had questioned “why” and wavered between believing and not believing during difficult moments in life. The significant events he mentioned included the death of his grandfather, the difficulty of making ends meet, and his son’s suicide six months ago.
“What this movement has done, why this movement has been so successful, is because of God,” said Brase, adding, “I have felt my grandfather and my son here with me through this.”
Laura Kasner drove from Ohio in the morning to attend the rally and would head back immediately afterward. It hailed three times over the afternoon of the rally, two before and one during. “That’s God, letting us know that he’s here,” she told The Epoch Times.
To Kasner, the People’s Convoy means “getting the truth out there.”
“I think a lot of people are still asleep, and they need to wake up. And I pray every day that that happens. But I think the tide is turning. I think people are starting to understand what’s at risk,” she said.
The 62-year-old added said she wanted to live the remainder of her life free. In addition, she thought of the young people: “Do they have any idea what’s at stake here? I don’t think they do. And it’s so unfortunate.”
The U.S. Senate passed a resolution to end the national COVID emergency on March 3. However, the House version has been with the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee since May 2021.
Congressman Paul Gosar (R-Ariz.) filed a petition on March 16 to bypass the committee. It will take an absolute majority of 218 votes for that to happen and to allow the resolution to be voted on the House floor. The petition currently has 43 signatures.
Landis urged the hundreds of people on-site and the audience over livestream to call their representatives in Congress and ask them to support the petition.
He previously told The Epoch Times that the People’s Convoy’s extended its contract with Hagerstown Speedway to the end of the week without providing a specific date. Members of the convoy mentioned either March 30 or 31. Regardless, the venue may not be available for much longer, as the race season has begun.
Dr. Paul Alexander, chief scientific officer of the Unity Project, spoke of one possibility of the future direction. He told the audience, “We’re going to turn this convoy into the most political powerhouse. It already is.”
“Go back to your states and hold firm. Tell them what you saw. Activate your states,” he added.
Terri Wu is a Washington-based freelance reporter for The Epoch Times covering education and China-related issues. Send tips to email@example.com.