A gaggle of scholars at St. John’s University in New York is suing the Catholic faculty over its vaccine mandate, claiming the requirement violates their proper to their spiritual beliefs.
The 17 plaintiffs say of their swimsuit that they oppose abortion — and subsequently don’t wish to take any of the three federally authorized COVID-19 vaccines as a result of the photographs had been examined utilizing “aborted fetal tissue or human embryonic stem-cell derivation.”
“As a devout Roman Catholic, I believe life is precious. In the Ten Commandments, it says, `Thou Shall Not Kill,’ ” mentioned plaintiff Kimberly Vineski, a 19-year-old, second-year pharmacy scholar from Glendale, LI, to The Post, referring to abortion.
St. John’s says in courtroom papers that it received’t take into account an exemption for the plaintiffs as a result of there are questions on “the genuineness of their purported religious beliefs.”
Then there may be the truth that the Catholic Church helps the immunization mandate, which it says doesn’t violate church teachings or dogma.
Still, it’s clear even the Church has wrestled with the vaccines’ testing.
In a steerage paper issued earlier this 12 months, the US Conference of Catholic Bishops concluded that “neither Pfizer nor Moderna used an abortion-derived cell line within the growth or manufacturing of the vaccine.
“However, such a cell line was used to test the efficacy of both vaccines,” the bishops’ group acknowledged.
It is “wrong to create abortion-derived cell lines and for pharmaceutical companies to utilize them,” and “the use of vaccines produced with such cell lines should be avoided if comparable alternatives with no connection to abortion are available,” the bishops wrote.
But “grave reasons (e.g., serious health risks) may justify the use of vaccines produced with these cell lines when there are no such alternatives,” they wrote.
“While neither vaccine is completely free from any use of abortion-derived cell lines, in these two cases the use is very remote from the initial evil of the abortion,” the paper mentioned.
The paper didn’t tackle the third at present obtainable shot, which is manufactured by Johnson & Johnson. But Reuters has reported that the vaccine used “lab-replicated fetal cells,” a ok a “fetal cell lines,” in its manufacturing course of, though the shot itself doesn’t include any.
St. John’s campuses embody places in Manhattan, Queens, Staten Island and Hauppauge, LI.
The college students are looking for $2.75 million in damages, barring a change within the faculty’s place, in keeping with their lawsuit filed in state Supreme Court in Suffolk County on Long Island.
Plaintiff James Callichio II, 40, a Navy veteran and legal-studies main from Staten Island, informed The Post, “I couldn’t believe a Catholic university would deny my religious beliefs I fought for.”
He mentioned the college ought to take into account college students’ relationship with God — not what clergy higher-ups say — when figuring out potential waivers.
“The pope is a man. The bishop is a man. They are not God,” the army vet mentioned.
“This is between me and God,” he mentioned of his opposition to the vaccine. “You don’t need a middleman to talk to God.”
Matthew Margolefsky, 19, sophomore enterprise main from Syosset, LI, who’s Jewish, can be a plaintiff within the case.
“The Torah teaches us that we should ‘guard thy soul scrupulously,’ ” Margolefsky mentioned.
“I was quite upset that I was rejected for an exemption,” he mentioned, complaining that St. John’s didn’t have an appeals course of. “It violates my beliefs to put this vaccine in my body.”
Still, another St. John’s college students mentioned the vaccine mandate has been a blessing.
“Campus life feels back to normal,” mentioned Ethan Burrell, a 20-year-old junior who’s president of scholar authorities on the faculty. “The solely factor completely different is we put on masks.
“The vaccine mandate was necessary to make life come back to normal. The pandemic shut down a lot of activities. Students can now enjoy meeting other students.”
But the plaintiffs’ lawyer, James Mermigis, mentioned, “St. John’s University is trampling on college students’ spiritual rights.
“It’s disgusting,” he mentioned.
Mermigis added that St. John’s additionally has raised eyebrows by just lately honoring alumnus Frank D’Amelio, who’s the chief monetary officer and government vice chairman of world provide for COVID-19 vaccine producer Pfizer.
D’Amelio, who graduated from St. John’s with a grasp’s diploma in enterprise in 1983, delivered St. John’s graduation tackle for graduates within the spring.
Scores of different lawsuits have been filed to overturn the state and New York City vaccine mandates, together with by health-care staff who raised related spiritual objections over the vaccine.
Gov. Kathy Hochul argued in courtroom that the state just isn’t obligated to supply a non secular exemption from the vaccine mandate for health-care staff.
St. John’s — the second largest Catholic University within the nation with 20,000 college students — has barred college students from attending in-person lessons with out getting vaccinated or being granted an exemption.
The faculty says 98 p.c of its college students have obtained at the very least one dose of a coronavirus vaccine up to now.
The vaccination price on the 64-campus State University of New York additionally has reached 98 p.c compliance, making the state’s faculties arguably the most secure locations to be for college students of their communities.
St. John’s permits for different vaccine exemptions it deems legit.
According to courtroom papers, 564 of its college students filed for medical or spiritual exemptions from the vaccine mandate for the autumn semester, and 183 had been granted.
But college officers have taken a tricky line in courtroom with the plaintiffs within the Suffolk County case.
In an affidavit filed within the case, SJU’s vice chairman of scholar affairs, Kathry Hutchinson, mentioned lots of the purposes had been flimsy and didn’t move the odor check.
“In reviewing the Plaintiffs’ applications, among others, my colleagues and I noticed certain recurring patterns that either invalidated their applications or called into question the sincerity and credibility of the applicants’ claims,” Hutchinson mentioned.
“Numerous applications were denied because the students appeared to have submitted materials purchased from the Internet, or copied verbatim from online sources, which called into question the genuineness of their purported religious beliefs.”
Hutchinson mentioned some plaintiffs had been “particularly brazen in their attempt to abuse the religious exemption process” — together with a scholar who submitted an utility that included a type from a minister with the Universal Life Church, a Web web site providing “instant online ordination and selling minister clothing and paraphernalia.”
The ULC Web web site lists celebrities resembling Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson and Sir Paul McCartney amongst its “Notable ULC Ministers.”
St. John’s received the preliminary spherical, after a decide denied the plaintiffs’ request for an emergency injunction, which suggests the mandate continues to be in place. A choice on the deserves of the case is spending.
“St. John’s University is confident our COVID-19 vaccination requirement, announced last April, will withstand this legal challenge,” faculty spokesman Brian Browne informed The Post. “Courts have consistently upheld student vaccination requirements as necessary to promote health and safety.”
“At St. John’s, we encourage all college students and workers to get vaccinated as a matter of public well being and to stick to our insurance policies. The St. John’s household has come collectively all through this ongoing pandemic and adherence to campus security protocols, and a shared spirit of compliance and cooperation is clear.
“St. John’s will persist in our mutual commitment to campus health to get past this pandemic.”
Asked about St. John’s relationship with a prime Pfizer government D’Amelio, Brown mentioned, “There’s no connection between our vaccine mandate and our alumni network.”