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Federal judge upholds Indiana University’s vaccine mandate, claims it isn’t coercive

Students at Indiana University who do not take a vaccine by the appointed deadline have their class registrations canceled. Those who qualify for an exemption are required to undergo twice-a-week testing, forced quarantine if exposed to a person who has tested positive for COVID-19, and mandatory mask-wearing on university property.
Wed Jul 21, 2021 - 11:57 am EST
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Photo taken from a recent protest against Indiana University’s vaccine mandate WHAS11 / YouTube

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SOUTH BEND, Indiana, July 21, 2021 (LifeSiteNews) — A federal judge on Monday upheld Indiana University’s vaccine mandate which requires students, faculty, and staff to take an experimental COVID-19 jab as a condition of attending classes or maintaining employment at the institution. 

The Trump-appointed judge said the mandate is in the “legitimate interest of public health.”

James Bopp Jr., Director of Litigation for America’s Frontline Doctors and lead counsel in the Indiana students’ lawsuit, said in a July 19 press release following the ruling that the vaccine mandate is “unconstitutional,” adding that “[c]ontinuing our fight...is necessary to guarantee that IU students receive the fair due process they’re owed by a public university.”

“An admitted IU student’s right to attend IU cannot be conditioned on the student waiving their rights to bodily integrity, bodily autonomy, and consent to medical treatment like IU has done here,” Bopp said. 

Bopp said that the compulsory vaccination policy of the university “did not properly balance the risks (both known and unknown) of the COVID vaccine to college-age students against the risks of COVID itself to that population.”

Indiana University’s COVID-19 mandate, put in place in May, requires “students, faculty and staff at all IU campuses” to “be fully vaccinated or have an approved exemption by August 15 or when they return to campus after August 1, whichever is earlier.”

Following the announcement of the mandate, eight students filed a lawsuit against the university’s board of trustees in June, saying the institution’s COVID-19 vaccine mandate violates the constitutional rights of students under the 14th Amendment. 

The 14th Amendment stipulates that no state shall "deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law."

As reported by USA Today, the students argued the mandate violates the right of students to refuse medical treatment, and said that the policy also breaches an Indiana law forbidding COVID-19 vaccine passports. 

However Ross Silverman, a health policy professor with Indiana University’s Fairbanks School of Public Health, said in May that the university is not subject to the ban on vaccine passports which applies to “state and local government units” since “Indiana University is defined as a state educational institution.”

“It’s not considered a state agency, it’s not considered local government,” Silverman said.

The students who sued Indiana University asked U.S. District Court Judge Damon Leichty to grant a preliminary injunction to prevent the institution from forcing students to take the experimental shots before the fall semester. 

But Leichty, who was appointed by former President Donald Trump in July 2018, denied the request, saying students failed to show that the vaccine mandate would cause the plaintiffs irreparable harm.

Judge claims forcing staff and students to comply or leave, is a ‘hard choice’, but ‘doesn't amount to coercion’

In a 101-page opinion, the judge said that the “Fourteenth Amendment permits Indiana University to pursue a reasonable and due process of vaccination in the legitimate interest of public health for its students, faculty and staff.”

“Today, on this preliminary record, the university has done so for its campus communities,” Leichty wrote, adding that “[t]he students haven’t established a likelihood of success on the merits of their Fourteenth Amendment claim or the many requirements that must precede the extraordinary remedy of a preliminary injunction.”

Leichty also claimed that the mandate — which requires students, faculty, and staff to either take the experimental shot or apply for an exemption under very narrow criteria, or else lose their jobs or be removed from their classes — was not coercive.

"The university is presenting the students with a difficult choice — get the vaccine or else apply for an exemption or deferral, transfer to a different school, or forego schools for the semester altogether," Leichty said. "But, this hard choice doesn't amount to coercion."

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Univeristy promises ‘strong consequences’ for those who don’t comply. Exempt students required to undergo regular testing, mandatory masking

Under Indiana University’s policy, students are allowed to request exemptions from the COVID-19 vaccine mandate for religious, ethical, or medical reasons, but the university says that exemptions will be “extremely limited” and students with exemptions will be subject to “extra requirements.”

It is unclear what proof the university requires for students to obtain exemptions for religious or ethical reasons.

A narrow category of immunocompromised individuals may request the medical exemption if they have had a hematopoietic or solid organ transplant or been treated with the prescription drug Rituximab. Pregnant or breastfeeding mothers planning to attend Indiana University in the fall may also request a medical exemption, as well as those who have “received COVID-specific monoclonal antibodies in the past 90 days.” 

Students enrolled in a program designed to be held exclusively online will not be required to get the jab, however students may not opt to take online versions of standard university classes to skirt the mandate. 

The university says it will provide “strong consequences for those who choose not to meet the COVID-19 vaccine requirement and do not receive an exemption.” 

Students who are not “fully vaccinated” and who have not obtained an exemption by the deadline will have their class registrations canceled, student ID card and online portal access terminated, and will be prohibited from participating in campus activities.

The university said faculty and staff who refuse the shot “will no longer be able to be employed by Indiana University,” adding that choosing to refrain from taking the injection and working remotely “is not an option.”

According to court filings, six of the eight students who sued the school were granted exemptions from the vaccine requirement, but are subject to “extra requirements” including twice-a-week testing, forced quarantine if exposed to a person who has tested positive for COVID-19, and mandatory mask-wearing on university property. 

Jaime Carini, one of the plaintiffs in the suit, reported “a sincerely held religious objection to receiving the COVID vaccine,” and accordingly “sought and was granted a religious exemption.”

According to the document, Carini suffers from several chronic illnesses and was told by her doctor she should not receive the COVID-19 shot.

Carini is seeking a medical exemption in addition to the religious exemption, arguing that her serious medical conditions were not included in Indiana University’s narrow medical exemption criteria. 

Further, Carini has stated that since she is taking Ivermectin she is protected against COVID-19, according to advice from her physician. She has argued she should not be subject to bi-weekly testing since she is not at risk from the coronavirus. 

According to the filing, Indiana University denied the request.

Another student who was granted a religious exemption attempted to gain an exemption to the extra requirements, also on religious grounds. According to the suit, the university’s COVID Response Team denied the request, stating that religious exemptions apply only to vaccination and that “anyone who is granted an exemption on this basis is required to wear a mask at all times on IU property and is subject to routine mitigation testing.”

The university added that “[t]here are no exemptions from these masking and mitigation testing requirements,” and warned that “[f]ailure to comply with masking and mitigation testing requirements will result in disciplinary action up to and including dismissal or termination from the university.”

Vaccine safety concerns weighed against ‘almost zero’ risk from COVID to college-aged students

Data released last week from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) VAERS system reported 463,457 total adverse events in the United States following injections of experimental COVID-19 gene therapy vaccines, including 10,991 deaths and 48,385 serious injuries, between Dec. 14, 2020, and July 9, 2021. Such figures are based on voluntary reports to Vaccine Adverse Events Reporting System (VAERS), and the Harvard Pilgrim study found that under 1% of adverse effects from vaccines are reported to VAERS.

Last week  The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) announced that it has added a label to Johnson & Johnson’s COVID-19 vaccine that warns of a risk of Guillain-Barré syndrome (GBS), a rare neurological disorder that can cause paralysis. The FDA’s GBS warning followed similar announcement by the European Medicines Agency (EMA) for AstraZeneca’s COVID-19 vaccine. 

The FDA and CDC had notably halted use of the Johnson & Johnson shot in April due to a link to blood clot disorders. In June, the FDA also added a label warning of heart inflammation to fact sheets for the mRNA vaccines made by Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna, after the CDC revealed that more than 1,200 cases of post-vaccination heart inflammation have been reported to U.S. authorities. 

College-aged young adults are statistically at very low risk from COVID-19, leading some experts to argue that the risks posed by vaccination outweigh the possible benefits of administering experimental treatments to combat a virus which does not present a serious threat to them.

As reported previously by LifeSiteNews, Dr. Robert Malone, who invented the mRNA technology which is used in the Moderna and Pfizer/BioNTech jabs, told Fox News host Tucker Carlson that for the young, “the benefits probably don’t outweigh the risks.”

Malone lamented that “unfortunately, the risk-benefit analysis is not being done,” and said in his view that “the risk-benefit ratio for those 18 and below doesn’t justify vaccines, and there’s a pretty good chance that it doesn’t justify vaccination in these very young adults.”

Meanwhile Dr. Aaron Kheriaty, director of the Medical Ethics Program at the University of California, Irvine, said the risks posed by COVID-19 to college aged students “are very, very small — almost zero, statistically speaking. So any risk from vaccination is likely going to outweigh risks from COVID in this population.”

Ruling does not end students’ fight

Details regarding the other plaintiffs in the suit are included in the document filed with the U.S. District Court.

It is unclear whether students who are dismissed from the school for failing to comply with the vaccine mandate or “extra requirements” will have recourse to pursue a refund of their tuition.

Despite the majority of students being granted exemptions to the vaccine mandate, the students plan to appeal the judge’s decision upholding the policy.

In his press release James Bopp Jr., lead counsel in the Indiana students’ lawsuit said that the ruling “does not end the students’ fight — we plan to immediately appeal the judge’s decision.”

“In addition, we plan on asking the judge to put a hold on IU’s Mandate pending that appeal. We are confident the court of appeals will agree that the Mandate should be put on hold.”

LifeSiteNews has produced an extensive COVID-19 vaccines resources page. View it here. 

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