We The Patriots USA, Inc. v. Hochul, No. 21-2179 (2d Cir. 2021)Annotate this Case
New York’s “Prevention of COVID-19 transmission” Rule, issued in August 2021, directs hospitals, nursing homes, hospices, adult care facilities, and other healthcare entities to “continuously require” certain employees to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19. It establishes a medical exemption to the requirement, but—consistent with New York’s prior vaccination requirements for healthcare workers—does not include an exemption based on religious belief. The Rule permits, but does not require, employers to make other accommodations for individuals who choose not to be vaccinated based on their sincere religious beliefs.
The plaintiffs, primarily healthcare workers, challenged the Rule, claiming that being vaccinated would violate their religious beliefs because the vaccines were developed or produced using cell lines derived from cells obtained from voluntarily aborted fetuses. One district court enjoined the Rule insofar as it prevented healthcare workers from being eligible for a religious exemption; the other denied relief.
The Second Circuit rejected the Plaintiffs’ claims. With respect to the Free Exercise claim, they have not established that they are likely to prove that the Rule is not a neutral law of general applicability or that it does not satisfy rational basis review. Nor have they demonstrated a likelihood of success on their Supremacy Clause claim; they have not shown that it would likely be impossible for employers to comply with both the Rule and Title VII. The Plaintiffs are not likely to succeed on their claim that the Rule contravenes the Fourteenth Amendment.
The court issued a subsequent related opinion or order on November 12, 2021.