Dec 19, 2021 - Politics & Policy

Religious groups ask Supreme Court for emergency stay on vaccine rule for U.S. companies

Joe Biden

Photo: Al Drago/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Three religious organizations on Saturday asked the Supreme Court to grant an emergency stay over the Biden administration's vaccine mandate for businesses with at least 100 workers.

Why it matters: The challenge, filed by the American Family Association, Answers in Genesis and Daystar Television Network, comes days after the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Cincinnati reinstated the mandate.

  • The mandate is "an important step in curtailing the transmission of a deadly virus that has killed over 800,000 people in the United States," according to the three-judge panel, which reinstated the measure.
  • The religious groups suggested that the measure infringed upon their First Amendment rights, arguing that it "fails to provide any religious exemptions or accommodations."

The backdrop: A three-judge panel on the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals previously ruled in November that the administration had not proved "COVID-19 poses the kind of emergency that allows OSHA to take the extreme measure."

  • The Supreme Court is expected to weigh in on the issue, which has divided lower federal courts.

What they're saying: "Any mandate that forces the organizations to compel their employees to be vaccinated against their will is one that would require it to violate their employees’ sacred rights of belief and conscience," the court filing read.

  • "That is something that none of the organizations can do without sinning against God," it continued.

But, but, but: A divided majority of justices previously declined to block New York's coronavirus vaccine mandate for health care workers, which does not allow for religious exemptions.

  • A group of health care workers had sued the state arguing the mandate violated their religious freedoms.
  • The high court in October also declined to block enforcement of Maine's COVID vaccine mandate for health care workers while they waited for the lower court to rule on the merits of the case.
  • The 6-3 decision in the emergency appeal was not made on the merits of the case. But in previous rulings, the justices have upheld COVID vaccine requirements — though this was the first case that involved a mandate without religious exemptions.

Go deeper: OSHA vaccine mandate penalties will begin on Jan. 10

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