San Diego Public Schools Sued Over Religious Objections to Student Vaccine Mandate

The family of a Scripps Ranch High School student-athlete is suing the San Diego Unified School District for religious discrimination as a result of its COVID-19 vaccine mandate. Thomas More Society attorneys filed suit against the school district and its Board of Education on October 22, 2021, in the United States District Court, on the behalf of the 16-year-old high school junior and her parents.

“The San Diego Unified School District vaccine mandate attempts to nullify protections for sincere religious beliefs while allowing medical exemptions and refusing to enforce the mandate as to certain preferred categories of students,” explained Paul Jonna, partner at LiMandri & Jonna LLP and Thomas More Society Special Counsel.

“Our client’s faith prevents her from taking any of the currently available COVID-19 vaccinations due to their taint with aborted fetal cells. As a result, according to the district’s vaccination mandate, she must either abandon her faith or enroll in independent, online study,” Jonna detailed. “She is a preeminent athlete, looking forward to this winter’s season because she hopes to draw the attention of college recruiters and potentially earn a sports scholarship. However, the San Diego Unified School District’s discriminatory vaccination mandate requires that she either abandon her faith or abandon extracurricular sports at Scripps Ranch High School – dooming any chances at a sports scholarship.”

“The San Diego Unified School District has no right to impose a COVID-19 vaccine mandate without offering students an opportunity to request a religious exemption,” declared Charles LiMandri, partner at LiMandri & Jonna LLP and Thomas More Society Special Counsel. “SDUSD is fully aware that many people have sincere religious objections to vaccines that were tested, developed, or produced with cell lines derived from aborted children.”

The lawsuit details how, ignoring the pleas of thousands of parents, on September 28, 2021, the Board of Education of the San Diego Unified School District voted unanimously to make vaccination from COVID-19 a requirement to attend school. The board did this at the end of an open meeting that was held online, even though there are currently no limitations on large gatherings, and no safety reason to limit them. “However, this is probably explained best by the fact that approximately 1,651 parents signed up to speak in opposition to the COVID-19 vaccine mandate,” observed Jonna.

On September 29, 2021, the San Diego Unified School District issued a press release, sent a letter to all the parents, and updated its online FAQ page to inform the public about its new mandate that all students receive a COVID-19 vaccination in order to attend in-person classes.

The mandate dictates that all students aged 16 and up must be fully vaccinated by December 20, 2021. The only vaccine available for minors is a double-dose vaccine, which requires the first dose to be taken by November 29. As soon as the FDA approves vaccines for children ages 12 and up, and then children ages 5 and up, the district will inform the parents that they must get their children vaccinated to continue attending school.

“The Supreme Court made crystal clear in its six emergency COVID-19 orders issued late last year and early this year that governments cannot justify burdens on the free exercise of religion through appeals to an ‘emergency,” noted LiMandri. “But California officials have apparently not learned the lesson. Disfavored religious minorities are not second-class citizens.”

Following the San Diego Unified School District public announcement of its vaccine mandate for students, California Governor Newsom, on October 1, 2021, dictated via executive fiat that all public school students must be vaccinated against COVID-19 in order to attend any school – whether public or private. However, Governor Newsom acknowledged that because he was promulgating this rule via executive fiat and administrative rule – not legislative change – it was subject to exemptions “for both medical reasons and personal beliefs.”

Read the Verified Complaint about Declaratory, Injunctive, and Other Relief filed on October 22, 2021, in the United States District Court for the Southern District of California, in John Doe, et al. v. San Diego Unified School District, et al. here.

SOURCE Thomas More Society