Supreme Court Justice Neil Gorsuch was one of three court members who dissented from the court’s decision issued Monday to allow the vaccine mandate for health care workers in New York state to stand as the case continues to make its way through the federal court system.
Catholic physicians joined together to bring a lawsuit against New York’s Democratic Governor Kathy Hochul, alleging that the mandate illegally discriminates against those who decline the vaccine on religious grounds. The mandate penalizes non-compliant healthcare workers with termination and makes them ineligible to receive unemployment benefits.
Hochul’s mandate does not include any exemptions for religious reasons. The plaintiff doctors allege in the case that they oppose receiving vaccines or medications that use tissues or material obtained from the abortion industry in development or manufacture.
Six justices, including Amy Coney Barrett and Brett Kavanaugh, voted to allow Hochul’s mandate to remain in place. Gorsuch was joined in dissent by Justices Clarence Thomas and Samuel Alito. He wrote a 14-page dissenting opinion laying out his reasons for why he would immediately block the mandate from taking effect.
Gorsuch blasted Hochul’s public statements discounting the rights of religious objectors in the days before the mandate went into effect. He said that religious beliefs might seem “strange and bewildering” to some political groups and that feeling can “evolve into fear and anger” in times of national crisis. He believed Hochul was “far from alone” in that evolution.
Gorsuch wrote that Supreme Court precedents established that it is sufficient to show the government has illegally discriminated against religious beliefs when “official expressions of hostility” are demonstrated.
Hochul made light of religious objections to the vaccines, saying they are out of step with religious leaders, including Pope Francis. She told a church congregation in Harlem that anyone refusing vaccination is “not listening to what God wants.”
She is receiving additional negative attention regarding a new indoor mask mandate she imposed last Friday. Some county officials in the state have said that they will defy the new masking rules, which led Hochul to tell reporters this week that she will not seek enforcement penalties against local government officials.
Hochul replaced disgraced Andrew Cuomo in August and announced that she intends to run for a full term in next year’s election. She faces a primary challenge from various Democrats around the state who are on both sides of the COVID mandate issues.