U.S. Senator Cindy Hyde-Smith (R-Miss.) has joined 10 colleagues in filing an amicus brief with the U.S. Supreme Court in support of protecting religious liberties in a case challenging the lack of religious exemptions to the COVID-19 vaccine mandate for state and private healthcare employees in New York.
The brief supports the petition for certiorari filed by The Becket Fund for Religious Liberty and the Thomas More Society. The petitioners seek a full Supreme Court review of Dr. A. v. Hochul which involves a lawsuit filed by healthcare employees with religious objections to COVID-19 vaccines to prevent the loss of their employment and unemployment benefits.
“This Court should grant certiorari and reverse the decision below,” the Senators stated in their brief. “New York’s mandate cannot stand. The mandate represents a calculated effort to prevent the religious accommodation process that the Constitution and Congress have long required.”
In their lawsuit, the healthcare workers cited comments by the Governor of New York that those with religious objections to the vaccine “aren’t listening to God and what God wants.”
“Public officials have a duty to safeguard religious liberty,” the Senators wrote. “Allowing New York’s mandate to remain as-is would serve as a dangerous precedent that may invite other authorities, motivated by their zeal to implement the latest public health guidance—or something else in the future—to disregard the fundamental rights of their citizens.”
After the Second Circuit reversed a district court’s preliminary injunction in favor of the employees, the Supreme Court on Dec. 13, 2021, denied injunctive relief to these employees by a vote of 6-3. Dissenting from the denial, Justice Neil Gorsuch, joined by Justice Samuel Alito, wrote: “Today, we do not just fail the applicants. We fail ourselves. It is among our Nation’s proudest boasts that, ‘[i]f there is any fixed star in our constitutional constellation, it is that no official, high or petty, can prescribe what shall be orthodox in [matters of] religion.’”
In order to ensure that the Supreme Court’s denial for emergency relief is not its last word on this critical issue for religious liberty, the Senators’ amicus brief argues:
- Congress has robustly and repeatedly sought to defend religious liberty under the authority of the First Amendment.
- New York’s vaccine mandate reflects an intentional effort to undermine Congress’s protection of religious observance and practice in the workplace.
- New York has established a roadmap for undermining religious liberty in the workplace. If unchecked, it would set a dangerous precedent for future state and local officials who might be tempted to circumvent congressional protections of faith.
U.S. Senator Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) led the amicus brief. In addition to Hyde-Smith, the brief was also signed by Senators John Barrasso (R-Wyo.), Mike Braun (R-Ind.), Kevin Cramer (R-N.D.), Ted Cruz (R-Texas), John Hoeven (R-N.D.), James Lankford (R-Okla.), Mike Lee (R-Utah), Cynthia Lummis (R-Wyo.), and Rick Scott (R-Fla.).
Click here to read the Senators’ amicus brief.