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University's Vaccine Mandate Upheld in Federal Court

Judge says the 'balance of harms and the public interest favor Indiana University'
By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff
Posted Jul 19, 2021 5:45 PM CDT

(Newser) – A federal judge has ruled against students who argued that Indiana University's requirement for students and staff to receive COVID vaccines violates both state law and the Constitution. Judge Damon Leichty declined to block the mandate, saying the "balance of harms and the public interest favor Indiana University," Politico reports. This appears to be the first ruling upholding a university's COVID vaccine mandate, the New York Times notes. The IU policy requires students and staff to be fully vaccinated before the start of the fall semester. The university will recognize medical and religious exemptions, but unvaccinated students and staff will be require to continue wearing masks and socially distancing, reports the South Bend Tribune. The requirements are only in effect for the fall semester.

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The students' reasons for opposing both the vaccine and masks ranged from religious objects to a belief masks caused acne, the judge noted. James Bopp Jr., a lawyer for the eight student plaintiffs—six of whom have already received exemptions—argued that the vaccine mandate is the "government forcing you to do something that you strenuously object to and have your body invaded in the process." He said an appeal would be funded by the conservative anti-vaccine group America's Frontline Doctors. The judge acknowledged that students opposed to the mandate may face a "hard choice," but said 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." (Read more coronavirus vaccine stories.)

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