Throughout the last few years, bureaucratic overreach has affected the lives of U.S. citizens and, in some cases, may have violated their civil rights. NRB member advocacy organizations are helping clients obtain recourse for religious liberty violations that took place during the pandemic, including vaccination policies that were implemented improperly.
Pacific Justice Institute
Pacific Justice Institute (PJI) launched what the legal group calls a “full-scale attack” against Oregon employers who denied accommodation for employees who objected to state vaccine mandates.
Oregon-based PJI attorney Ray D. Hacke has filed seven lawsuits against employers who refused religious accommodations requested by employees. PJI is suing entities including Asante Health Systems, Oregon Health & Sciences University, Cascadia Behavioral Health, Legacy Health, Mid-Columbia Medical Center, Foundation Hospitals, and Springfield Public Schools.
“Even in a pandemic, Title VII of the federal Civil Rights Act of 1964 and equivalent state laws require that employers accommodate their employee’s religious beliefs, if at all possible,” said Hacke in a press release. “The employers we’re suing could have provided a variety of accommodations that would have enabled their employees to keep working while limiting the spread of COVID-19. These employers chose not to accommodate them but to punish them for not abandoning their sincerely held beliefs concerning vaccination. For that, they should be held accountable.”
In New Jersey, PJI is also representing six correctional officers fired from the New Jersey Juvenile Justice Commission (JJC) after requesting religious exemptions. However, PJI’s case reports that JJC has, in the past, granted religious exemptions to over 200,000 officers.
“This inconsistent treatment of JJC officers is completely illogical since the JJC houses juveniles who are at much lower risk from COVID-19 than the adult offenders housed by the DOC,” said Brad Dacus, President of PJI.
First Liberty is representing 35 Navy SEALs who sought religious exemptions from the military vaccine mandate and were subsequently threatened with punishment, involuntary separation, or even court-martial.
“We acknowledge that the Secretary of Defense did as Congress directed. But that is the bare minimum owed to our brave service members,” said Mike Berry, Director of Military Affairs for First Liberty Institute in a press release. “In fact, the Secretary’s memo still permits military commanders to require the vaccine in making decisions regarding unvaccinated service members. There are still far too many in our military who were forced out or are still facing career-ending actions because of the Covid vaccine mandate. America owes it to those who defend our Constitution and our freedoms to ensure they do not lose theirs.”
Alliance Defending Freedom
In November 2022, ADF filed an application for stay in New Yorkers for Religious Liberty v. City of New York, requesting that the U.S. Supreme Court immediately halt the city’s vaccine mandates.
“New York City firefighters, teachers, police officers, sanitation workers, and other public employees have lost their livelihoods, and many are losing their homes, due to the city’s discretionary and unconstitutional vaccine policies,” said ADF Senior Counsel and Vice President of Appellate Advocacy John Bursch. “As we write in our emergency application for stay, these city heroes have dedicated their lives to serving their neighbors and keeping their city running safely and efficiently, yet New York City officials suspended and fired them because they cannot take the COVID-19 vaccine without violating their sincere religious beliefs. But for athletes, entertainers, and strippers, the city found a way to loosen its mandate. We urge the Supreme Court to listen to the stories of these dedicated public servants who are simply trying to provide for their families in a manner consistent with their faith. It’s past time New York City honored the faith tradition of its public workers and rescinded its unconstitutional vaccine policies.”
We applaud our member organizations for fighting strenuously to defend cherished and essential rights of conscience. NRB monitors issues of government incursion on religious freedom and hostility toward Christian faith, including emerging threats linked to contemporary political and cultural viewpoints.