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Supreme Court declines religious challenge to N.Y. vaccine mandate for health care workers

Justices Clarence Thomas, Samuel Alito and Neil Gorsuch said the court should have blocked enforcement of the mandate.

The Supreme Court declined Monday to block New York’s vaccination mandate for health care workers, which has an exception for medical reasons but not for religious objections.

The court denied a request for a temporary order to block the requirement while lawsuits against it proceed. The request was denied in a one-sentence order with no explanation, the normal procedure when such a request is denied.

Conservative Justices Clarence Thomas, Samuel Alito and Neil Gorsuch said the court should have issued an injunction to block enforcement of the mandate.

When New York announced the requirement in August, it included exemptions for medical and religious reasons. But the state later revised it to remove exceptions on religious grounds.

Lower federal courts declined to block the mandate after a group of doctors and nurses sued.

In a 14-page dissent joined by Alito, Gorsuch said the record in the case "practically exudes suspicion of those who hold unpopular religious beliefs." He said the state failed to show that accommodating the religious objectors would make any meaningful difference in protecting public health.

Since August, the court has turned down other challenges to vaccination mandates from students at Indiana University, teachers in New York and health care workers in Maine and Massachusetts.