A San Diego Unified School District public school student has won a religious rights case in an Appeal at the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals for an Injunction over the school districts’ COVID-19 vaccine mandate.
Last week, 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.
The attorneys asked for an emergency injunction in the case by November 29, 2021, the date the student must get the first dose of the Pfizer vaccine in order to comply with SDUSD’s deadline to become “fully vaccinated” before classes in 2022, Thomas More Society said. The Ninth Circuit issued a briefing schedule and ordered SDUSD to file a response by November 23.
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.”
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.
“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 (“SDUSD”) vaccine mandate – one of the harshest in the nation – from going into operation on November 29, 2021,” said Paul Jonna, Thomas More Society special counsel and partner, LiMandri & Jonna LLP.
“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 9 months, even though SDUSD’s own medical “experts” recommend that pregnant women get vaccinated against COVID-19,” Jonna said.
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.
Attorney Jonna explains:
“Although the case is still in its early stages, this is a significant victory. SDUSD 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 U.S. Supreme Court, if necessary. As Judge 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, SDUSD 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.”
San Diego Unified has been providing free COVID vaccines to students and staff since early November. Some would say they’ve been pushing the vaccines: “The latest vaccine recommendation from the CDC means the vast majority of students in kindergarten through high school are now eligible to be vaccinated against COVID-19, signaling a major step toward preventing the spread of the virus in our community and nationwide,” the SDUSD website says.
“San Diego Unified is providing new opportunities for students, staff, families, and community members to receive free COVID-19 vaccines at schools throughout the district to help stop the spread of the coronavirus and maintain a safe learning environment,” the district website says. “Beginning this week and into December, a Vaccine Van operated by UC San Diego Health will make stops around the district. All vaccines are available at the mobile unit, including booster shots, vaccines for adults, and vaccines for children ages five to 18.”
You can read the Ninth Circuit order here, and there is more to come:9-circuit-decision-for-injunction
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