Kane v. De Blasio, No. 21-2678 (2d Cir. 2021)Annotate this Case
Teachers and school administrators challenge the denial of motions to preliminarily enjoin the enforcement of an order issued by the New York City Commissioner of Health and Mental Hygiene mandating that individuals who work in New York City schools be vaccinated against the COVID-19 virus.
The Second Circuit concluded that the Vaccine Mandate does not violate the First Amendment on its face. However, the court concluded that plaintiffs have established their entitlement to preliminary relief on the narrow ground that the procedures employed to assess their religious accommodation claims were likely constitutionally infirm as applied to them. The court explained that the Accommodation Standards as applied here were neither neutral nor generally applicable to plaintiffs, and thus the court applied a strict scrutiny analysis at this stage of the proceeding. The court concluded that these procedures cannot survive strict scrutiny because denying religious accommodations based on the criteria outlined in the Accommodation Standards, such as whether an applicant can produce a letter from a religious official, is not narrowly tailored to serve the government's interest in preventing the spread of COVID-19. Accordingly, the court vacated the district court's orders denying preliminary relief and concurred with and continued the interim relief granted by the motions panel as to these fifteen individual plaintiffs. The court remanded for further proceedings.