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Supreme Court rejects COVID-19 vaccine mandate case from New York

The court’s action follows a decision in December in which the justices declined an emergency request to halt the requirement.

WASHINGTON — The Supreme Court declined on Thursday to take up a case involving a COVID-19 vaccine requirement for health care workers in New York that does not offer an exemption for religious reasons.

The court's action follows a decision in December in which the justices declined an emergency request to halt the requirement. At the time, doctors, nurses and other medical workers who said they were being forced to choose between their jobs and religious beliefs.

Three conservative justices — Neil Gorsuch, Clarence Thomas and Samuel Alito — dissented earlier and did so again Thursday.

New York is one of three states, along with Maine and Rhode Island, that do not accommodate health care workers who object to the vaccine on religious grounds.

The court had previously turned away health care workers in Maine, who filed a similar challenge, with the same three justices in dissent. 

In his dissent, Gorsuch drew a link between the health care workers and the World War II-era Jehovah’s Witnesses schoolchildren who refused on religious grounds to stand and salute the American flag for the Pledge of Allegiance.

The court at first refused to intervene when a public school in Pennsylvania expelled the children. But three years later, the justices overruled the earlier case in a landmark decision that declared schools couldn’t force students to salute the flag or recite the pledge.

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