A day before it was set to begin a federal court has placed a temporary hold on a California school district’s vaccine mandate.
On Sunday, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals granted an emergency petition against the San Diego Unified School District’s vaccination mandate that applied to students 16 years of age or older, and it said that the pause must remain in effect as long as it continues to allow exemptions for pregnant students, The Washington Free Beacon reported.
“The injunction shall be in effect only while a “per se” deferral of vaccination is available to pregnant students under San Diego Unified School District’s COVID-19 vaccination mandate,” Judges Mark Bennett and Marsha Berzon said in the majority decision. “The injunction shall terminate upon removal of the “per se” deferral option for pregnant students.”
“I concur in granting Doe’s emergency motion for an injunction pending appeal,” Judge Sandra Segal Ikuta said in her dissent. “But I would keep the injunction in effect until the San Diego Unified School District ceases to treat any students (not just pregnant students) seeking relief from the vaccination mandate for secular reasons more favorably than students seeking relief for religious reasons, because any unvaccinated student attending in-person classes poses the same risk to the school district’s interest in ensuring a safe school environment.”
The case was brought by attorneys for the Thomas More Society on behalf of a 16-year-old Scripps Ranch High School student.
“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,” attorney Paul Jonna said.
“Although the case is still in its early stages, this is a significant victory,” she said. “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.”
The Supreme Court in recent months has rejected a series of individual appeals to COVID-19 vaccine mandates. On Monday, the justices dismissed an appeal from Massachusetts health care workers who said the state’s vaccine mandate violates their religious beliefs. The Court has yet to consider a case on public school COVID-19 vaccine mandates.
The San Diego Unified School District board voted to implement the mandate in September. Unvaccinated students would have needed to get their first dose on Nov. 29 in order to be fully vaccinated by Dec. 20, the deadline set by the mandate. Any student not vaccinated by that date would have had to attend school remotely.
The Ninth Circuit issued the injunction in response to a lawsuit filed by an anonymous 16-year-old student. The student says the mandate violates her Christian beliefs, which prohibit her from taking vaccines developed using aborted fetal tissue.
Pfizer and Moderna used stem cell lines from aborted fetal tissue to test their vaccines. Johnson & Johnson used aborted fetal tissue to develop and produce its vaccine.