By STACY DRIKS
It doesn’t matter if the court is conservative or liberal – teachers who want to work in the classroom will need a vaccine. Maybe two.
The U.S. Supreme Court has rejected a new attempt by some educators to skip on-campus vaccine requirements, citing a religious exemption.
It’s been a point of contention between school administrations and a handful of educators even before COVID-19 vaccines began rolling out to the public last year. In the months before the coronavirus, it was measles and other childhood vaccines that many fought over.
But the COVID-19 vaccine has renewed a number of issues, especially from those who feel they shouldn’t be forced to be vaccinated.
It was even more noticeable in New York public schools which, under Mayor Bill de Blasio, required teachers returning to class to be vaccinated. Otherwise, they were placed on temporary leave without pay until they complied.
That was more than enough incentive for at least 95% of teachers who received at least one dose of the vaccine, according to city officials. But it is this last recalcitrant group that becomes problematic.
Although the city left little room for exemptions at first, it eventually allowed religious exclusions thanks to the efforts of groups like Educators and Teachers for Choice. These educators could qualify for an exemption as long as they had a member of the clergy sign their application.
But that was not enough for thousands of teachers who claimed the conditions violated their rights, and were even outright illegal. One of them was Michael Kane, a 14-year-old special education teacher, who was made redundant last month.
“My manager brought me into the office as we neared the end of the deadline, and she actually cried because she knew it was like the end of the line for me,” he said. -he declares.
Kane and fellow teacher Matthew Keil argued that providing documentation to prove religious restriction was unconstitutional.
Worse still, Kane thinks de Blasio’s armed teachers’ unions are accepting the warrants. Without the voice of these unions, Kane and Keil believed there was little resistance to the city’s vaccination mandates.
“They (the city) can’t ask other human beings to tell them that my religious beliefs are valid,” Kane said, “So I flatly refused.”
The courts would not support them, however. They tried to get support every step of the way until only the Supreme Court of the United States was left.
To be registered for the role, it was necessary to obtain Sonia Sotomayor.
The Bronx-based associate justice — who made headlines for continuing to wear a mask during Supreme Court sessions when her colleagues refused — dismissed Kane’s complaint without comment.
But that wasn’t the end of the line. Kane and Keil instead tried to go through the more conservative judge Neil Gorsuch – someone Kane believed had “more sympathy for religious liberty issues”.
Because of this quick work, the court only needed four judges to approve bringing the case before them instead of five.
Kane says lawyers representing the city believed Roman Catholic or Buddhist people could not apply for an exemption because Pope Francis had decided that getting vaccinated was an “act of love” and a “moral obligation.”
The Dalai Lama, for his part, did not hesitate to announce that he was vaccinated himself.
Even when the city granted byes, Kane said it was more lip service than anything. Of the 1,600 people, according to Kane, who have applied for religious exemptions to vaccinations in New York public schools, just over 100 have had those exemptions accepted.
“People have provided documents from clergy, (but) very few have been accepted,” Kane said. The city “has always denied an overwhelming majority”.
The case is not yet dead. There are still other avenues to get back to the highest court in the land, and Kane thinks it could still end there.
However, the pressure to decide such a case is no longer as strong, especially since the omicron variant outbreak has died down significantly and many pandemic-era mandates are lifted.
Public school students over the age of 5 no longer need to wear masks on campus, while restaurants and theaters reopen to everyone, vaccinated or not.
But without a decision now, Kane fears his rights will be violated again. All he needs is his day in court, and he thinks he can convince the judges to see him his way.
“We think we’ll be victorious,” Kane said. “Ultimately.”