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Supreme Court Rejects Religion Challenge to New York's Vaccine Mandate

A group of healthcare professionals filed a legal challenge on religious grounds against New York's vaccine mandate. The court rejected the challenge.
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Last Year's Heroes

In a case that shows where the court stands on state's rights related to Covid, the Supreme Court Rejects Bid to Block NY's Covid Vaccine Mandate.

  • The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday denied an emergency bid to block enforcement of New York’s coronavirus vaccine mandate for health care workers.
  • The legal challenge was filed by a group of 20 doctors and nurses who argued that the state’s vaccine mandate violates the First Amendment to the Constitution because it fails to include a religious exemption.

Where the Supreme Court Stands

Whereas Biden's OSHA mandate has failed at every turn in district and appeal's courts, New York succeeded.

Why?

To understand why, let's review a court ruling against Biden. 

Appeals Court Blocks Biden's Vaccine Mandate in a Blistering Rebuke

Please reconsider Appeals Court Blocks Biden's Vaccine Mandate in a Blistering Rebuke

Key Judicial Points of the 5th Circuit

  • On the dubious assumption that the Mandate does pass constitutional muster—which we need not decide today—it is nonetheless fatally flawed on its own terms
  • Rather than a delicately handled scalpel, the Mandate is a one-size-fits-all sledgehammer that makes hardly any attempt to account for differences in workplaces (and workers) that have more than a little bearing on workers’ varying degrees of susceptibility to the supposedly “grave danger” the Mandate purports to address.
  • The Mandate is staggeringly overbroad. Applying to 2 out of 3 private-sector employees in America, in workplaces as diverse as the country itself, the Mandate fails to consider what is perhaps the most salient fact of all: the ongoing threat of COVID-19 is more dangerous to some employees than to other employees. All else equal, a 28 year-old trucker spending the bulk of his workday in the solitude of his cab is simply less vulnerable to COVID-19 than a 62 year-old prison janitor.
  • In light of this immense complexity, one might naturally ask the Agency—is this situation truly amenable to a one-size-fits-all Mandate?
  • At the same time, the Mandate is also underinclusive. The most vulnerable worker in America draws no protection from the Mandate if his company employs 99 workers or fewer. The underinclusive nature of the Mandate implies that the Mandate’s true purpose is not to enhance workplace safety, but instead to ramp up vaccine uptake by any means necessary.
  • If the deficiencies we’ve already covered aren’t enough, other miscellaneous considerations seal the Mandate’s fate. For one, “[t]he Agency cannot use its ETS powers as a stop-gap measure,” Asbestos Info., 727 F.2d at 422, but concedes that that is precisely what the Mandate is intended to do here.
  • It lastly bears noting that the Mandate raises serious constitutional concerns that either make it more likely that the petitioners will succeed on the merits, or at least counsel against adopting OSHA’s broad reading of § 655(c) as a matter of statutory interpretation.
  • The Mandate likely exceeds the federal government’s authority under the Commerce Clause because it regulates noneconomic inactivity that falls squarely within the States’ police power. A person’s choice to remain unvaccinated and forgo regular testing is noneconomic inactivity.

State's Police Power

That last bullet point on police power belonging to state law not Federal mandates explains what you need to know.

Yet, following his defeat Biden Doubles Down on Vaccine Mandate With Another Circuit Court

Because of numerous court challenges, the case was moved to the 6th Circuit Court.

Biden could have and should have dropped his mandate but he presses on. 

I expect the 6th Appellate Court to rule similarly to the 5th Court and if so, the Supreme Court may not even take the case.

Wise Move?

The Supreme Court ruled properly. But whether New York made a wise move is of course subject to debate. 

What About New York City's Vaccine Mandate?

Mayor Bill de Blasio announces a new ‘first in the nation’ requirement that goes into effect later this month.

The mayor's mandate applies to all New York City workers including private sector workers.

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For discussion, please see New York City Mandates Vaccinations, Please Be Ready With Your Vaccine Card

For now, the NY State Supreme Court blocked enforcement. 

How Many People in NYC Are At Risk of Losing Their Job Over the Mayor's Vaccine Mandate?

On December 8, I addressed the question How Many People in NYC Are At Risk of Losing Their Job Over the Mayor's Vaccine Mandate?

My conclusion, based on employee counts and vaccination percentages: 

Some number of people will refuse vaccinations. I suspect between 150,000 and 450,000 people will lose their job over the mandate. To pick a number, call it 250,000

That's 5.9% of the entire city's workforce. The mandate also impacts restaurants and public facilities.

  • Vaccine proof for indoor dining, fitness, and entertainment required for children aged 5-11
  • Program now requires two vaccine doses for New Yorkers over age 12

My additional comments from December 8 come into play.

Is This Even Legal?

As an aside, it's likely the governor could make such a ruling for the state. It is highly questionable a mayor can do the same.

Even if a mayor could, it is beyond idiotic for a mayor with just a few days left in his term to do so. 

We now know the state can make such a ruling, even over religious objections. Can New York City? 

I doubt it, but we need a definitive answer soon. 

Formal guidelines are due the 15th and the rules are supposed to kick in on December 27.

A hearing by the state supreme court is tomorrow. My guess is the court will toss the case and NYC will foolishly appeal. 

Was Jim Bianco Right?

Jim Bianco at Bianco Research believes politicians will panic over Omicron with far more restrictions.

For discussion, please see Deeper Panic and More Restrictions Coming Over a Covid-19 Omicron Surge?

Thanks for Tuning In!

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