New York Gov. Kathy Hochul (D) said this week she does not believe health care workers in the Empire State should be permitted to forgo vaccination against COVID-19 via religious exemptions.
Hochul, a Democrat who took the place of disgraced former Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D), made the comments in response to a court decision temporarily upholding the rights of some in the medical community who have refused the inoculation citing their religious beliefs, according to WAMC-FM.
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The governor told reporters her administration intentionally excluded religious exemptions from its mandate requiring all health care workers receive their shots by Sept. 27.
“I’m not aware of a sanctioned religious exemption from any organized religion,” she said with a slight hesitation in her voice. “In fact, they are encouraging the opposite. Everybody from the Pope on down is encouraging people to get vaccinated.”
Hochul went on to say her administration will “defend the right of New York to ensure that anyone in a health care facility can meet a patient and that patient does not have to worry, when they go in there for health care, that they’re gonna contract a virus from one of the people that are supposed to protect their health.”
The governor also imposed a stricter mask mandate, announcing everyone two years or older must wear face coverings, regardless of vaccination status.
“If you’re watching the national news, the scariest announcements coming out every morning are the number of children contracting COVID,” Hochul said.
As for Hochul’s religious exemption comments, New York’s state attorneys will be arguing the case in court Sept. 28.
Earlier this week, Judge David Hurd in Utica temporarily blocked the state from enforcing its vaccination mandate on 17 health professionals — including doctors and nurses — who argued in a lawsuit Monday that the state edict violates their constitutional rights by disallowing their faith-based exemptions.
Hurd has given New York State until Sept. 22 to respond to the lawsuit, according to The Post-Standard.
“The vaccine mandate is suspended in operation to the extent that the [state Department of Health] is barred from enforcing any requirement that employers deny religious exemptions from COVID-19 vaccination or that they revoke any exemptions employers already granted before the vaccine mandate [was] issued,” the judge wrote in his decision.
Last week, the Chicago-based United Airlines announced it will begin placing staffers previously granted religious exemptions against COVID-19 vaccination on indefinite unpaid leave.
The airliner announced via email that front-facing workers who have not received the shot and regularly interact with customers will only be permitted to return to work “once the pandemic meaningfully recedes.” United, however, did not provide any timeline for when staffers can anticipate returning to work.
Furthermore, for any staffers whose “request for a religious exemption was denied,” the company stated they have until Sept. 27 to receive at least one vaccine shot. Those who fail to comply with the mandate “will be terminated,” United stated.
Kirk Limacher, Vice President for human resources at United, suggested it is not safe to allow unvaccinated people to participate in the workforce.
“Given the dire statistics,” he said, “we can no longer allow unvaccinated people back into the workforce until we better understand how they might interact with our customers and their vaccinated co-workers.”
During a recent phone interview with Faithwire, conservative author and podcaster Dave Rubin condemned the denial of religious exemptions, even calling President Joe Biden’s vaccine mandate for all companies with 100 or more employees a “massive threat” to religious freedom.
“It’s an absolute assault on the Constitution of the United States of America,” Rubin said. “I think what we’ve learned in the last two years is they’re gonna just keep taking and taking and taking and taking until enough people say, ‘You cannot take anymore,’ and maybe it’ll be the faith community, which is under assault in a million different ways.”
“Maybe it’ll be the faith community that’ll finally say, ‘Enough is enough,’” he added.
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