The Supreme Court let stand New York State’s edict requiring health care workers to get vaccinated for the coronavirus without offering an exemption from the mandate for religious reasons.
The nation’s highest court on Monday refused an emergency appeal from 20 doctors, nurses and other medical workers who claimed the vaccine mandate forced them to choose between their jobs and religious beliefs.
The vaccine mandate for health care workers in hospitals and nursing homes was initiated by former Gov. Andrew Cuomo and implemented under Gov. Kathy Hochul in August.
Thousands of medical workers have been fired since then for refusing to get vaccinated.
The request for an emergency injunction had been presented to Justice Sonia Sotomayor, a Bronx native who is assigned to handle cases from New York.
The justices’ refusal to intervene was not unanimous.
Justices Neil Gorsuch, Clarence Thomas and Samuel Alito dissented.
“Now, thousands of New York healthcare workers face the loss of their jobs and eligibility for unemployment benefits,” Gorsuch wrote in a 14-page opinion.
New York is one of just three states along with Maine and Rhode Island, who do not offer religious waivers from the vaccine mandate.
Gorsuch wrote that he would have granted the requests, noting that the doctors and the nurses “have gone to great lengths to serve their patients” during the pandemic.
He noted that two of the doctors are not “anti-vaxxers who object to all vaccines,” and argued that the sincerity of their religious beliefs should be honored.
Gorsuch said most other states found they “can satisfy its COVID-19 public health goals without coercing religious objectors to accept a vaccine.”
But the decision shows that the high court is hesitant to overrule states attempting to keep the COVID-19 pandemic in check, amid the presence of a new omicron strain.