Sixteen more unnamed students and staff of the University of Colorado have joined a lawsuit against the school challenging its policy for religious exemptions to the COVID-19 vaccine mandate.
The revised civil complaint comes one week after a federal court declined to intervene against the school in a previous version of the lawsuit. The initial allegations were based on the Anschutz Medical Campus's original requirements for religious exemptions, which the school later revised. U.S. District Court Judge Raymond P. Moore indicated he would wait to rule until the plaintiffs put forward arguments about the current policy specifically.
Originally, a children's physician identifying herself as Jane Doe and a first-year medical student identified as John Doe took issue with CU's Sept. 1 policy requiring full vaccination against COVID-19 except for those whose religions were "opposed to all immunizations." Jane Doe, a Roman Catholic, and John Doe, a Buddhist, asserted they were opposed to only vaccines developed with fetal cell lines, such as the coronavirus vaccines. The school denied them an exemption.
Under the current version of the policy, the school allows for employee exemptions for sincerely held religious beliefs, but not if doing so results in an unreasonable burden to the health and safety of others. The amended lawsuit asserts violations of the First Amendment's religious freedom protections and also the Americans with Disabilities Act, under the argument that CU is treating unvaccinated students and staff as disabled.
"On his national late night show Jimmy Kimmel stated that the unvaccinated who contract COVID should be allowed to die rather than being admitted to the hospital: 'Rest in peace, wheezy.' The audience roared its approval," wrote attorneys at the Thomas More Society, which litigates issues involving Judeo-Christian beliefs. "There is a top-down cultural, societal, and legal assault currently underway against those who forgo the vaccines."
The university responded to the initial lawsuit by saying the vaccination mandate served a compelling governmental objective: to achieve herd immunity against COVID-19 and protect children and immunocompromised patients at the medical campus.
The lawsuit now includes 11 women and seven men, consisting of 13 employees and five students. They say they will lose their jobs or their enrollment at CU if they choose not to get vaccinated. Some say they have already been terminated.
Many of the plaintiffs, who all remain anonymous, based their objections to the vaccines on the use of fetal cell lines in research and development (the vaccines do not contain cells from aborted fetuses). One doctor asserted she already contracted COVID-19 and therefore her "natural immunity to the virus and should not pose a threat to my patients or colleagues at this institution."
A study released on Friday by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention suggested that immunity through vaccines is stronger than immunity as the result of infection.
The plaintiffs have asked Moore to issue a preliminary injunction to prevent the Anschutz Medical Campus from enforcing its vaccine mandate in a way that infringes upon their First Amendment rights. Although CU denied the religious exemptions by pointing to the health and safety risk to patients, the lawsuit denounced the national "frenzy" in favor of COVID-19 inoculations that has allegedly turned unvaccinated Americans into a "caste of untouchables."
As of Tuesday, 90% of health care workers in the state were fully vaccinated against COVID-19. Five percent have received exemptions, with the large majority being for religious reasons.
To date, there have been approximately 8,628 deaths due to COVID-19 in Colorado, with 3,164 cases reported on Nov. 3 alone. On Friday, Glen Mays, a health systems professor at CU, said rising hospital admissions of unvaccinated patients may endanger the vaccinated who require medical assistance for other reasons.
"If left unchecked, we know that high volumes of unvaccinated COVID-19 patients will over-crowd hospitals and diminish access to care and quality of care for vaccinated patients," he said.