A beloved Roman Catholic nun, who is also a physician-surgeon and a retired U.S. Army colonel, is suing Washington, DC, over its COVID-19 vaccination mandate for health care workers. Thomas More Society attorneys filed suit on March 9, 2022, in the federal United States District Court for the District of Columbia on behalf of Sister Dierdre Byrne against the district’s mayor, Muriel Bowser, LaQuandra Nesbitt, Director the district’s health department, and the District of Columbia itself for their refusal to grant Byrne a religious exemption from vaccination.
Thomas More Society Special Counsel Christopher Ferrara shared how Byrne, who is a Roman Catholic religious Sister of the Little Workers of the Sacred Heart as well as a board-certified general surgeon and family physician, provides free medical services to the poor and the undocumented.
“Sister Dierdre has sought – and been denied – a religious exemption from DC’s health worker COVID-19 vaccination mandate,” explained Ferrara. “All three COVID-19 vaccines approved in the United States have been tested, developed, or produced with cell lines derived from abortions, something to which Sister Dierdre has deep and sincere religious opposition.”
The lawsuit notes that Bowser has twice been previously chastised by the court for burdening religion by her abuse of “emergency powers.”
“Judicial intervention is required once again,” observed Ferrara, “This time to prevent a senseless bar on the practice of medicine by a religious sister who has devoted her career in the District of Columbia to healing the sick who cannot afford quality medical care.”
“The suit against Bowser and DC|Health (the district’s health department) is based upon the Religious Freedom Restoration Act of 1993 and the First Amendment to the United States Constitution, both of which protect Sister Dierdre’s fundamental right to the free exercise of her religion,” said Ferrara.
The Complaint details that as an American retired colonel in the U.S. Army and a member of the Little Workers of the Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary, Byrne has served overseas as a soldier and a missionary. She is an active sister and superior of her community in Washington, DC. She is double board-certified in family medicine and general surgery.
During DC|Health’s nearly six months of purported consideration of Byrne’s amply documented request for a religious exemption from the vaccine mandate, Byrne practiced medicine without need of vaccination and without objection by any of the hospitals and clinics that benefit from her unpaid volunteer medical services for those in need.
Byrne’s request was denied with an unsigned letter in draft form sent via email. The only stated basis for the denial is the legally non-existent grounds that her religious exemption would pose an “undue hardship” to DC|Health.
This denial of Byrne’s request for religious exemption to Bowser’s COVID-19 vaccine mandate for health workers was made in spite of the following:
- DC’s health department conceded the sincerity of Sister Deirdre’s religious objection to being vaccinated
- Sister Deirdre has contracted COVID-19 and remains naturally immune to it, as confirmed by T-cell testing
- DC|Health does not employ Sister Deirdre and thus cannot as a matter of law suffer any “hardship” from Byrne’s volunteer medical services
Ferrara observed that DC|Health does not seem to have granted a single request for religious exemption from the vaccine mandate despite the paramount rights and guarantees to Sister Deirdre and others under the Religious Freedom Restoration Act and the First Amendment to the United States Constitution.
Read the Verified Complaint, filed on March 9, 2022, in the United States District Court for the District of Columbia by Thomas More Society attorneys on behalf of Sister Dierdre Byrne in Byrne v. Bowser, et al. here.
SOURCE Thomas More Society