A late Thanksgiving weekend preliminary injunction order by the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit has delivered victory for the family of a Scripps Ranch High School student. Thomas More Society attorneys obtained an emergency decision in a COVID-19 mandate related religious rights lawsuit. Attorneys sought – and received – an emergency injunction in the case on November 28, 2021, the day before a student must begin the mandatory vaccination process to meet the school board’s imposed deadline for becoming “fully vaccinated” before classes in 2022.
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 religious exemptions.
Paul Jonna, partner at LiMandri & Jonna LLP and Thomas More Society Special Counsel, responded to the Sunday, November 28, 2021 order issued by the Ninth Circuit:
“We are very pleased with the Ninth Circuit’s grant of the rare remedy of emergency injunctive relief pending appeal, which prevents the San Diego Unified School District’s vaccine mandate – one of the harshest in the nation – from going into operation on November 29, 2021. The Court’s full ruling will follow shortly, but the Ninth Circuit panel focused on the ‘per se’ deferral for pregnant students – which allows them to postpone vaccination for nine months, even though the school district’s own medical ‘experts’ recommend that pregnant women get vaccinated against COVID-19.
“Although the case is still in its early stages, this is a significant victory. The San Diego Unified School District should promptly revise its policy to include religious exemptions for students. Otherwise, we are confident that we will fully vindicate our clients’ rights either in the Ninth Circuit or in the United States Supreme Court, if necessary. As Judge Sandra Ikuta rightly observes: ‘any unvaccinated student attending in-person classes poses the same risk to the school district’s interest in ensuring a safe school environment’ as students seeking religious exemptions, who are barred at the schoolhouse door.
“Under the Free Exercise Clause, the San Diego Unified School District cannot treat students better if they seek exemption from vaccination for secular as opposed to religious reasons. The COVID regime of secular favorites but religious outcasts must end. There is no vaccine exception to the Free Exercise Clause. Until that truth becomes the law of the land, the battle for religious freedom from state-coerced vaccination – while secular exemptees are given a pass – will not be over.”
The original complaint was filed by Thomas More Society attorneys in federal court on October 22, 2021 on the behalf of the 16-year-old high school junior and her parents.
Read the Order issued on November 28, 2021, by Judges Marsha Berzon, Sandra Ikuta, and Mark Bennett of 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