Dr. A v. Hochul

Becket Role:
Counsel
Case Start Date:
September 13, 2021
Deciding Court:
United States Supreme Court
Original Court:
U.S. District Court for the Northern District of New York
Supreme Court Status:
Cert Requested
Practice Area(s):

Case Snapshot

The State of New York has enacted a COVID vaccine mandate that will ban government employees and private healthcare workers with religious objections to the vaccine from working in their respected fields in New York and strip them of their unemployment benefits by November 22.

Thomas More Society and Becket have stepped in to help save the jobs of healthcare heroes by filing an emergency appeal to the Supreme Court.

Status

On November 12, 2021, the Becket Fund and Thomas More Society filed an emergency appeal to the Supreme Court to end New York’s discriminatory vaccine mandate and allow heroic healthcare workers to continue serving without violating their conscience. With the mandate currently in effect, New York has given employers until Monday, November 22, to fire religious objectors or remove them from their facilities. The Court could rule at any time.

Case Summary

Healthcare heroes on the frontlines

In March 2020, Americans gained new appreciation and admiration for doctors, nurses, and other healthcare workers who heroically put their own health and safety on the line day in and day out to help and heal their neighbors.

But now that the worst moments of the COVID-19 pandemic are behind us, doctors, nurses, and other healthcare workers in New York are being punished for abstaining from vaccination on religious grounds. In accordance with a state mandate, this week healthcare institutions across New York began firing healthcare workers who refused the COVID-19 vaccine.

Lose your job or violate your conscience

On August 18, 2021, New York Governor Kathy Hochul signed into law a vaccine mandate for the state’s heroic healthcare workers that allowed for religious exemptions along the lines of medical exemptions. But on August 26, 2021, New York suddenly changed course and removed the religious exemption while maintaining the medical exemption.

The mandate went as far as to demand healthcare workers either get vaccinated or lose their jobs. And if they decided to follow their conscience, they would also lose their unemployment benefits as well.

As New York faces a severe shortage of medical professionals, Governor Hochul has made it clear that it was no mistake to omit a religious exemption from the state’s mandate. At the Christian Cultural Center in Brooklyn, Hochul mocked religious Americans with objections to the vaccine, saying “you know there’s people out there who aren’t listening to God and what God wants. You know who they are.”

Seeking emergency relief

Shortly after the governor issued the mandate, Thomas More Society filed a lawsuit against Governor Hochul on behalf of 17 healthcare workers who have religious objections to the COVID-19 vaccine but are willing to undergo frequent testing and use protective clothing at all times onsite. Several of the healthcare workers have natural immunity from already contracting COVID due to their heroic work on the front lines of the pandemic.

In November of 2021, Becket joined Thomas More Society in filing an emergency application to the Supreme Court to end New York’s harmful vaccine mandate.

Becket’s and Thomas More’s brief points out that 47 other states, as well as the federal government, protect religious objectors by either not mandating vaccines or by allowing religious exemptions for those with objections to the COVID-19 vaccines.