The University of Virginia has spent around $2 million defending against lawsuits alleging that it refused religious exemptions to its vaccine mandates arbitrarily and capriciously.
The University didn’t deny every application for exemptions–just almost everyone. It decided whether a person’s religious beliefs qualified based on which church you attended.
#FromTheTJCBlog Check out our new post: What Happened to Religious Freedom at UVA? by James A. Bacon The University of Virginia has paid more than $1.8 million in legal fees fighting a lawsuit filed by UVA Health employees who… https://t.co/L9uTZrXDMA #UVA #TheJeffersonCouncil
— The Jefferson Council (@TheJeffersonC) January 17, 2024
First the facts: UVA Health implemented a vaccine mandate for all its employees, with the stipulation that people with a sincere religious belief that taking the vaccine would violate their conscience. This exemption was required both in law and by constitutional right, so it’s not like they had much choice in the matter.
What they did have a choice on is how they implemented the mandate, and their choice was a doozy.
The University of Virginia has paid more than $1.8 million in legal fees fighting a lawsuit filed by UVA Health employees who were fired, despite religious objections, for refusing to take the Covid vaccine. And that’s just through November. Given the continuing litigation, billing has likely passed the $2 million mark.
Eleven former employees filed a lawsuit a year ago, claiming that the $3 billion-a-year-in-revenues health system arbitrarily declined to grant them religious exemptions from the vaccine mandate.
Hunton Andrews Kurth is the lead law firm for UVA, charging between $600 and $900 per hour for legal services and racking up $1.52 million in charges through November, according to documents the Jefferson Council has acquired through the Freedom of Information Act. Eckert Seamons has charged $240,000, and IslerDare $70,000.
Ed, I want $900 an hour. I would even take $600.
So how did UVA Health decide to award an exemption?
Plaintiff J. Dwayne Phillips, for instance, told UVA Health that he believed that “the Holy Spirit of God has told me that I should not receive this vaccine”—but UVA Health responded, with rather shocking candor, that it thought “God speaking to him” did not qualify as “religious belief.”
Similarly, Plaintiff Mark Ehrlich’s Seventh-Day Adventist faith has caused him to refrain for more than 25 years from eating animal products, taking pain relievers, antihistamines, or cold medicines, and receiving certain vaccines—but UVA Health dismissed his objection to the COVID vaccine as not “a bona fide sincerely held religious belief,” but rather a secular concern “veiled in religious language.”
UVA Health also arrogated to itself the right to judge its employees’ religious beliefs as incorrect, and therefore not worthy of consideration. It did this especially to employees who objected to COVID vaccines on the (accurate) grounds that all available versions of COVID vaccine had been developed or tested using cell lines that originated from aborted fetuses. When employees like Mr. Phillips objected on that basis, UVA Health rejected their exemption requests on the ground that their religious beliefs are simply wrong, and that the vaccines’ connection with abortion is too remote to trigger any moral concern.
Based on these policies and practices, in late 2021 UVA Health denied exemption requests en masse, in brief boilerplate rejection statements, and without individual consideration. The result was that dozens or even hundreds of UVA Health employees were fired simply because UVA Health thought they went to the wrong church or held wrong religious beliefs. Countless more job applicants were rejected for the same reasons—UVA Health denied them religious exemptions and therefore employment, sometimes even after it had offered them a job.
UVA Health bureaucrats arrogated to themselves the right to decide what people believed and whether those beliefs were correct.
It seems obvious to me that if somebody is willing to risk losing their job over a belief, they clearly sincerely hold that belief. But then again, I am not God’s representative, while UVA’s bureaucrats clearly believe themselves to be His judge.
UVA Health has already lost on the matter in another lawsuit, so it’s not clear why it is keeping up the fight.
In his analysis of the case, the judge said UVa had acted in a an “arbitrary and capricious manner.”
“Plaintiff met the requirements necessary to show that she had sincerely held religious beliefs that allow her to seek an exception to the vaccine requirement,” Worrell wrote. “Further her application was sufficient on its face that it should not have been denied. The UVA policy allowed for religious exemptions and failed to grant one.”
UVa officials declined to comment to The Daily Progress. The attorneys representing McCoy did not respond to requests for comment before press time.
McCoy is not the only former UVa Health employee to challenge its vaccine policy.
UVa Health is also facing a possible class action lawsuit with roughly 400 claims of wrongful termination.
The commitment to mandates is, in itself, an article of faith for those in power. As we know by now, the premises on which the mandates were based turned out to be wildly wrong. There was never a reason to believe that taking the jab would benefit anybody but the recipient, and in most cases, it turns out the recipient himself was subjected to more risk than benefit.
Only a very small percentage of people who took the jab–mainly the very old and the very sick–were given much benefit at all. For most people, the risk of severe reactions was greater than the reduction in severity of illness.
In principle, the only justification for mandates is that failing to get a jab presents a danger to others in society. Nobody can force you to reduce your own risks. This is a basic principle of medical ethics.
Defending this lawsuit at such great expense has everything to do with preserving the arbitrary power of the bureaucrats and absolutely nothing to do with the principles of public health. The bureaucrats were wrong in imposing the mandate and especially using arbitrary and ridiculously restricted rules to grant legally required exemptions.
As usual, all this money is being spent to defend the arbitrary power of the Establishment. Freedom be damned. UVA