University of Alabama-Birmingham is denying religious exemption after allowing student to attend during previous school year
BIRMINGHAM, Ala., May 13, 2021 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) -- Today, First Liberty Institute sent a letter to the University of Alabama-Birmingham (“UAB”) demanding it exempt Jackie Gale, a rising Sophomore, from the school’s mandated vaccine policy. UAB did not require Jackie to comply with the school’s immunization policy to attend in-person during the 2020-21 school year but has refused to register her for 2021-22 unless she does so.
You can read the letter here.
“Jackie takes her faith very seriously and is simply asking UAB to respect her sincerely held beliefs,” said Christine Pratt, Counsel at First Liberty Institute. “Alabama’s constitution ensures that Jackie’s sincerely held religious beliefs cannot be dismissed by UAB. It is appalling that UAB is demanding that Jackie violate the deeply held religious beliefs she has honored her entire life.”
For religious reasons, Jackie’s parents never had her vaccinated as a child. Jackie has attended Alabama public schools since moving to Alabama in the second grade, and Jackie received from the Alabama state health department a religious exemption card that excuses her from the state’s vaccine requirements for K-12 public school students. Now a 19-year-old college student at UAB, Jackie herself has religious objections to receiving any vaccine. UAB granted Jackie an exemption from its vaccine requirements during the 2020-2021 school year but now refuses to apply the same exemption.
UAB provides exceptions from its vaccine mandates for students who can document medical and/or other contraindications to a vaccine, not for religious students. However, for employees of the medical school, for the flu vaccine only, UAB Medical provides for the possibility of an exemption due to “religious/ethical/moral beliefs.”
According to First Liberty’s letter, “Both the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution and the Religious Freedom Amendment of the Alabama Constitution protect Ms. Gale’s religious exercise right to refuse to take UAB’s mandated vaccines. UAB is a public university that provides exemptions to its immunization policy for medical, but not religious, reasons. As such, UAB’s policy triggers, and subsequently fails, strict scrutiny under recent Supreme Court precedent interpreting the Free Exercise Clause. In addition, UAB’s immunization policy impermissibly burdens Gale’s religious exercise under the Alabama Religious Freedom Amendment.” The letter adds, “Thus, under its current policy, UAB is treating a comparable secular activity—the act of declining vaccines for medical reasons—more favorably than when a student performs the same activity as part of his or her religious convictions.”
About First Liberty Institute
First Liberty Institute is a non-profit public interest law firm and the largest legal organization in the nation dedicated exclusively to defending religious freedom for all Americans.
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