UMD student opts for religious exemption to challenge U of M system’s vaccination policy
Last week, Diehl filed motions asking for an expedited relief hearing or temporary injunction against the university before Friday’s deadline for students to provide proof of a COVID-19 vaccine or submit medical or religious exemptions. . St. Louis County Judge Eric Hylden, who is presiding over the case, has scheduled a hearing for Thursday morning.
In a brief filed Tuesday in response to the injunction motion, an attorney representing the U of M system argued that “a ‘religious belief’ can include certain non-theistic moral or ethical beliefs as to what is right. and evil that are sincerely held with the force of traditional religious views.The record also indicates that of the approximately 1,400 requests for religious exemptions received by the university, 136 were rejected, but not on their merits.
The university then argued that because the student had not tried to submit a religious exemption, he had no legal basis for his request to be denied.
On Wednesday, the student’s lawyer wrote that based on the university’s assertion that conscientious beliefs would also be accepted as religious exemptions, his client was withdrawing his request for a fast-track hearing and the applicant was now opting for a religious exemption.
However, Diehl said the university’s inclusion of non-religious beliefs under the religious exemptions umbrella amounted to a reversal of policy, based on the language of the exemption form, earlier statements by the President of the System U of M, Joan Gabel, in writing and in a Special meeting of August 13 of the Council of Regents.
“Yesterday, seeking to avoid a negative court ruling at a hearing scheduled for October 7, University lawyers announced, for the first time, that the University would interpret its previously announced exemption for ‘religious’ beliefs to allow an exemption for “non-religious” ‘beliefs, “Diehl said in a statement. “Only a lawyer can now say that this change of position is anything but a reversal of position.”
In a statement provided to 5 EYEWITNESS NEWS, the U of M said, “We haven’t changed our position, we haven’t changed course and to suggest otherwise is completely false.”
Diehl said that while his client’s dilemma was resolved in time for the university’s vaccine reporting deadline, the lawsuit is still ongoing. Ultimately, he wants a judge to rule on the legality of the U of M’s COVID-19 vaccine mandate.