San Diego Public School Student’s Religious Rights Case Appealed to Ninth Circuit


Thomas More Society attorneys filed an emergency appeal with the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals in a religious rights lawsuit filed on behalf of the family of a Scripps Ranch High School student-athlete against the San Diego Unified School District over its COVID-19 vaccine mandate. Attorneys are asking for an emergency injunction in the case by November 29, 2021, the date by which the student must get her first dose of the Pfizer vaccine in order to comply with SDUSD’s deadline to become “fully vaccinated” before classes in 2022. The Ninth Circuit issued a briefing schedule and ordered SDUSD to file a response by November 23.

The appeal was filed after the United States District Court for the Southern District of California denied the request by the student’s family for a Temporary Restraining Order and vacated a hearing that had been set for November 19, 2021. The case is being fought over religious discrimination as a result of the school district’s requirement that all students must be vaccinated against COVID-19, from which they are refusing to acknowledge reasonable religious exemptions. The original complaint was filed in federal court on October 22, 2021 by Thomas More Society attorneys on the behalf of the 16-year-old high school junior and her parents.

Paul Jonna, partner at LiMandri & Jonna LLP and Thomas More Society Special Counsel, explained the core complaint behind the lawsuit. “Our clients are opposed to the COVID-19 vaccines because they were all either made or tested using aborted fetal cells. Our clients are firmly pro-life and refuse to benefit from vaccines that were made in this way, which they view as immoral – as do many other people of faith.”

The San Diego Unified School District is not offering religious exemptions to the mandate – only medical exemptions, and Jonna noted, “as well as many other exemptions for preferred categories of students.”

Jonna detailed how the student whose family is suing the school district has to make a decision either to get vaccinated and violate her faith, or refuse the vaccine, sign up for distance learning, and drop out of sports, losing the shot at a college sports scholarship.

The school district’s policy allows unvaccinated students with a medical exemption to attend school in person and participate in school athletics. And teachers can obtain religious exemptions and teach class in person.

The San Diego Unified School District policy has what Jonna calls, “an obviously unconstitutional framework.” Lawyers for the family are counting on the panel of Ninth Circuit judges who will review the case to recognize the flaws in the lower court’s ruling and reverse it in short order due to the “significant constitutional issues at stake.”

Read the Urgent Motion for an Injunction Pending Appeal Under Circuit Rule 27-3; Relief Requested by Monday, November 29, filed on November 19, 2021, with the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, in John Doe, et al. v. San Diego Unified School District, et al. here.

Read more about the Thomas More Society’s quest to uphold the constitutionally guaranteed rights of this student, in the face of unwarranted religious discrimination by a public school entity here.

SOURCE Thomas More Society

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