The recently concluded Supreme Court term was, by any honest measure, appalling for separation of church and state. We have much work ahead of us as we seek to rebuild the church-state wall.
As bad as things were, the high court did take one action on its final day that made sense: It declined to hear a case from New York challenging that state’s vaccine mandate for health care workers.
When COVID vaccines became available, many states mandated that health care workers take the shot. While several states offered religious exemptions, not all did. New York was one of them.
Gov. Kathy Hochul (D) argued that people working in hospitals, nursing homes and hospice facilities were serving vulnerable populations and needed to be vaccinated. Sixteen health care workers, all Christians, sued over the state’s refusal to offer religious exemptions.
In court, some of them argued that the COVID vaccine was developed using fetal cell lines obtained from abortions and thus, requiring vaccination violated their anti-abortion religious beliefs. But this claim about vaccines is misleading at best. It’s true that fetal tissue used during the testing of some of the vaccines originally came from abortions that happened decades ago, but those cells have been duplicated so many times that none of the original material is left. And these cells were used during the testing protocol; they don’t appear in the actual vaccines. The claim some on the far right are making that the vaccines contain material from aborted fetuses is false.
The Supreme Court’s refusal to hear the Dr. A v. Hochul case ends the matter. Alarmingly, three justices – Clarence M. Thomas, Samuel A. Alito and Neil M. Gorsuch – would have heard the case. Dissenting from the court’s refusal to hear it, Thomas incorrectly wrote that the vaccines come “from aborted children.”
It’s bad enough that some justices are eager to hear cases like this. It’s even more appalling when they do so on the basis of false narratives. (Or when they base entire decisions on “facts” that turn out not to be true.)
Is it any wonder the American people are increasingly viewing the court as a partisan institution not worthy of their trust?