ALBANY, N.Y. (NEWS10) – Governor Hochul and religious officials are reacting to a federal judge’s decision to block New York’s vaccine mandate for healthcare workers, on grounds the state is denying staff the opportunity to seek religious exemptions.
Tuesday, a federal judge in Utica suspended the requirement, arguing the Department of Health is “barred from enforcing any requirement that employers deny religious exemptions.”
“This is not intended to be dictatorial, it’s intended to save lives,” Governor Hochul said during a COVID update Wednesday.
The governor saying the state will continue its legal fight, “I’m not aware of a sanctioned religious exemption from any organized religion. In fact, they’re encouraging the opposite. They’re encouraging their members, everybody from the Pope on down, is encouraging their members to get vaccinated.”
All the unnamed plaintiffs in the case are Christian, with several identifying as Catholics.
The executive director of the New York State Catholic Conference responding to the case. In a written response saying in part, “The Catholic Church has no religious or moral objection to the COVID-19 vaccine. On the contrary, the Church views getting vaccinated as an act of charity toward our neighbors and important for the common good.”
Dennis Poust adding that the state’s Catholic Conference strongly encourages Catholics to get vaccinated, however, “We always get uneasy when the state begins to limit religious liberty in any way, and if it is possible to safely accommodate those with sincere religious objections, that would be our preference.”
Locally, Pyramid Life Center, a camp retreat center in Essex County owned by the Albany Diocese, is requiring guests to show proof of vaccination or negative test.
“It’s been going pretty well. I think the big thing is it’s made people feel at ease to know that the majority of people here are vaccinated,” said Brian Evers, the director.
The state’s stalled mandate was set to take effect on September 27th, when all staff would be required to be at least partially vaccinated.