Wednesday, November 17, 2021

Church Autonomy vs. Test-or-Vaccinate Mandates

Bloomberg Law is reporting on a number of nonprofit Christian schools, churches, and seminaries that are launching legal challenges to the OSHA test-or-vaccinate rules. (To add nonprofit on top of nonprofit, at least a handful of the cases are being handled by the nonprofit Alliance Defending Freedom.)

Essentially, the ADF's suit (and, I imagine, many of the others) assert that the OSHA mandate overreaches and represents a "serious intrusion on religious autonomy and free exercise that cannot withstand scrutiny under the First Amendment and the Religious Freedom Restoration Act." 

I'm not a Religion Clauses scholar but I know enough to know that Religion Clause jurisprudence is kind of a mess. Enough of a mess that I wouldn't put money down on how these challenges turn out. Still, because the religious organizations challenging the test-or-vaccine mandate fit into the world of nonprofits, it's worth keeping an eye on how these challenges turn out.

It's also worth pointing out that these challengers represent a subset of religious--and even of Christian--nonprofits. My employer, a Jesuit Catholic institution, required vaccination and masking of all employees and students long before the OSHA requirement came down. And Loyola is not alone in that.

As a side note, as a religious person, I have opinions about these challenges. And whatever their legal status, I think they're as bad for the future of religious liberty as they are bad for society. Again, though, as a legal matter, I'm not willing to prognosticate about how successful they're likely to be (though I welcome the prognostications of people more familiar with the area than I!).

Samuel D. Brunson

Current Affairs, Federal – Executive, Federal – Judicial, Religion | Permalink


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