Hey, there! Log in / Register

Judge bars state for now from firing seven troopers who refuse to get Covid-19 shots

A Suffolk Superior Court judge today issued an injunction that prohibits State Police from firing seven troopers for not getting Covid-19 shots at least until she further considers their claims they are being discriminated against for religious reasons.

In a ruling today, Judge Christine Roach said it would be unfair to fire the seven while the case is proceeding because it raises novel, at least for Massachusetts, issues about religious freedoms and the rights of the state and its police to combat a deadly pandemic - novel because the union said it both accepted the validity of vaccinations in fighting Covid-19 and did not dispute Gov. Baker's right to issue an order requiring vaccinations, making the main issue one of how to balance religious beliefs with a government agency's right to manage itself, especially in the face of a deadly pandemic.

At least initially, Roach ruled, the union representing the seven troopers had made a compelling case of possible discrimination while State Police had not made a similarly strong case that they could make no "reasonable accommodations" to shift the troopers into administrative jobs without harming the department's work.

No other reported case has fully balanced this discretion [to require troopers be ready to answer any call] against bona fide religious exercise and the bodily integrity potentially implicated by these facts. The strongly competing interest at issue here compel caution in all respects.

However, Roach continued she is not really buying the union's arguments that the department's efforts to fire the men is a violation of its collective-bargaining rights - or that the government's interest in fighting Covid-19 is somehow reduced just because we're currently in something of a lull in the spread of the disease.

The seven troopers are among 156 who originally sought religious exemptions from Gov. Baker's mandate that all state workers show proof of vaccination or risk being fired. In written decisions, the state said it accepted they had valid religious reasons for opposing the shots, but that there was no way they could be accommodated, because of the nature of State Police work since the only way to let them stay employed would be to put them into administrative jobs where they would be physically isolated from other employees and the public, but the nature of the department is to require the ability to send all troopers out on "emergent calls."

The seven have been on unpaid leave since November; Roach's ruling does not change their status, just prohibits the state, for now, from firing them completely.

Roach said that because the seven represent only a tiny percentage of all state troopers - some 1,800 - it would not prove a burden on the department to keep the seven around while the case wends through her court - and that State Police had failed to show that providing "reasonable accommodations" to them during the trial would harm police work.

Roach continued, though, that she did not accept the union's argument that the state attempt to fire the seven is a violation of the union's contract and not an acceptable "management prerogative" for how to run the department.

In favor of honoring this well-established core management prerogative is the enormity of the risks at stake to the safety of every citizen of the Commonwealth in the face of the pandemic and the role of this employer in contributing to, not detracting from, that safety. I am not persuaded on this record that the contract before me encompasses bargaining over such an order as the Governor's Order 595 [the vaccination mandate]. Nor am I persuaded that it would be in the public interest to allow each executive department of public employees independently to bargain, to grieve, and to arbitrate over how the Governor's (here unchallenged) Order 595 should be implemented in their department.

Ad:
Like the job UHub is doing? Consider a contribution. Thanks!

Comments

Which anti-vax denominations are they members of? Fox News or Facebook?

up
Voting closed 59

the state said it accepted they had valid religious reasons for opposing the shots

And that was the mistake right there.

Religion is America's biggest sacred cow -- to the point where it is granted privileges even when it doesn't assert them, as in the case of covid.

up
Voting closed 64

Exactly what they are supposed to be doing. There is no mistake. It’ll get tossed in the end either way, so I wouldn’t worry about it too much.

up
Voting closed 35

It’ll get tossed in the end either way, so I wouldn’t worry about it too much.

When I see religion being privileged to such a degree that there is even the faintest most vanishing thought of it trumping public health concerns, I am worried. You should be too.

up
Voting closed 27

It's like people think that freedom of religion is some sort of constitutional right.

up
Voting closed 29

Are you being disingenuous or just dumb?

If you cannot see the difference between "freedom of religion" and the use of "religious beliefs" as a get outta jail free card for doing things that are harmful to others, then I pity you. And if you do see the difference but are conveniently pretending to be blind to it, then you disgust me. Either way, it doesn't speak well for your qualifications as a member of a civil society.

up
Voting closed 27

But at the end of the day, that pesky first amendment is just sitting there, saying that peyote can be ingested at religious services and that Christian Scientists are allowed to refuse medical care.

What percentage of the the population has religious objections to vaccinations? And what percentage of the population needs to be vaccinated for society to be safe? Heck, at the end of the day, many of the promises made behind people getting Covid vaccinations were less than valid, which is why the line shifted from "stopping the spread" to "keeping people from dying."

up
Voting closed 28

Ingesting peyote or refusing care only harms yourself. If you're a public servant, there's no constitutional right to put other people at risk who are not part of your suicide pact. There's no religious right to endanger others.

up
Voting closed 26

Not getting the Covid vaccine, as shown by the omicron variants race through Massachusetts. Every Covid case I knew this past winter was from vaccinated people. So why are people being forced for be vaccinated, again?

up
Voting closed 27

Literally one second of googling: https://www.cnbc.com/amp/2022/01/31/the-new-omicron-subvariant-is-more-c... “The omicron subvariant is more contagious, but vaccinated people are less likely to spread it, study finds”

Not to mention, do you know who’s taxing our public healthcare system? The idiot people who don’t get vaccinated

People are being “forced” to get vaccinated if they want to work at their public service jobs in order to protect the public health. Is that a clear enough answer for you?

up
Voting closed 27

Does not mean not spread. Both data and anecdotes (every person I know who had Covid this winter) show that vaccinated people get Covid.

At the end of the day, the Moderna vaccine was touted as akin to the measles shot, but it is more like the flu shot. Somehow, public employees are still not required to get flu shots. Why not?

up
Voting closed 21

I find your dishonesty in the face of a pandemic that has killed over a million people in this country pretty shocking. Compare those numbers to the flu, troll.

The science shows the vaccine makes you less likely to spread COVID-19, which means you’re less likely to kill people, especially the vulnerable who can’t get vaccinated. You literally can’t dispute this, so you’re trying to argue something else.

You should go back and try again on that freedom of religion spiel too, it didn’t make a bit of sense.

up
Voting closed 23

The data shows that vaccinated people can still spread Covid. The vaccines should be seen as a means for individuals to mitigate the effects of the virus on themselves.

Or are you going to ignore the fact that most of the million US Covid deaths have occurred in the period when vaccines were available?

up
Voting closed 18

Who is saying that vaccinated people can't spread COVID? Not me, not once. Reading is essential...you know... if you're not in it just to troll.

What I said was the science shows that vaccinated people are less likely to spread COVID. A reduction in the amount of people getting COVID means less people dying, it doesn't mean zero. Since you seem to have not read the link I posted, here's the money quote from the study:

Although fully vaccinated people are more likely to catch BA.2 than the previous strain, they are less likely to spread it to others, researchers found.

People who received a booster were even less likely to transmit the virus than people who were fully vaccinated.

"This indicates that after a breakthrough infection, vaccination protects against further transmission, and more so for BA.2 than BA.1," the scientists found.

Not too hard to understand, is it friend?

This is beside my other point that you anti-vax friendly folks going around comparing COVID to the flu and chugging invermectin are unnecessarily burdening our public health system in the middle of the pandemic with your pointlessly selfish dumbassery.

up
Voting closed 22

But at the end of the day, that pesky first amendment is just sitting there, saying that peyote can be ingested at religious services and that Christian Scientists are allowed to refuse medical care.

Ah yes, that pesky first amendment, just sitting there saying that Christian Scientists can refuse medical care on their children's behalf...oops.

Yeah, that's the first amendment, the one that says that you can freely exercise your religion, which may include requirements to not suffer a witch to live...um.

Yup, that good old first amendment, the very same one that says you may project your religious belief that the earth was created in seven days and Jesus rode the dinosaurs onto public school curricula to the extent of getting rid of anything that doesn't agree with your religion...right.

I think the answer to my question is "disingenuous". You seem intelligent enough when it's convenient to your agenda.

up
Voting closed 29

Or would you prefer that you were in the minority and were being prosecuted because you don't believe that dinosaurs coexisted with Jesus?

Protection of beliefs that others find abhorrent is kind of what the Bill of Rights are all about. If you think that religious freedom is wrong, move to Saudi Arabia, where their views on the matter are more in tune with yours.

up
Voting closed 23

to vaccinations? I don't know of any organized religion that actually has that as a rule.

And if we're going to say "well people may have their own faiths", what's preventing me from just declaring that my own personal relationship with Jesus Christ gives me the ability to drive on the wrong side of the road if I feel like it and no one has the right to stop me?

up
Voting closed 27

what precisely their objection is on religious grounds, which from what I've seen is mostly a garbled understanding of research on fetal cell lines and a willful ignorance that they might also want to swear off ibuprofen, Pepto Bismol, and Tums, among other common over-the-counter medications.

Jesus, take the wheel!

up
Voting closed 22

There's no such thing as a legitimate religious exemption from vaccines, especially during a dangerous pandemic.

In my old hometown of Lincoln, MA, there was one family in our neighborhood who were Christian Scientists. Subsequently, they did not have their kids vaccinated against the various childhood illnesses, such as whooping cough, diphtheria, etc. One of the kids came down with whooping cough, whooped and vomited for about an hour during class time, and was not even sent home. This was over 6 decades ago, but there's now a law that if a child's life is in, the family must allow professional medical intervention, regardless of their religion.

up
Voting closed 17

Idonwanna

"Sincerely held religious beliefs."

Sure, if your "sincerely held religious belief" is that you must be a danger to the public, you be you. Just don't expect to get a job that requires you to protect the public.

It would be interesting to know if these folks belong (or used to belong) to any particular religions, or if it's just some loosey-goosey roll-your-own "religious belief." No mainstream church has antivaxx as part of its catechism.

up
Voting closed 39

What religions is the state accepting as valid for antivax exceptions these days? Can we see that list somewhere? And do you have to prove you've been participating since before covid?

up
Voting closed 29

Nobody of any religion should be exempt from getting vaccinated, especially during a dangerous pandemic such as the Covid-19 pandemic, in which close to a million people here in the United States have died, as a result of.

up
Voting closed 18

Obviously, all or almost all of these dunderheads do not follow religions that forbid vaccination. Bet you a dollar to a dime they’re all vaxxed for MMR and TDAP, etc. And that they can’t tell you the name of the religion that forbids Covid vaccination, nor tell the date of their conversion to it.

But there really is religious discrimination in the world. People who are scared to wear their religious clothing in certain parts of the country. Children being bullied for belonging to the wrong religious. Occasionally a mass shooting at a place or worship or an attack on a clergyman. De facto tests of faith for public office.

The officers’ false insistence on their own invented victimhood is an insult to everyone who needs to pass through a metal detector or pass armed guards when they go to pray.

up
Voting closed 45

The seven have been on unpaid leave since November; Roach's ruling does not change their status, just prohibits the state, for now, from firing them completely.

Thank goodness they remain on leave. Who would willingly roll down their window or depart their vehicle knowing you're taking a roulette spin with your health?

It's not like there's a way to tell which State Troopers are vaccinated as opposed to those who took a religious exemption and are not.

BTW: I tried to find a list of which religions actually oppose Covid vaccinations but there aren't any. Even the Jains think it's a good thing.

up
Voting closed 32

As do the Christian Scientists

up
Voting closed 26

The idea of religious exemptions from receiving vaccines, especially during a dangerous pandemic such as Covid-19 is utter bullshit, plain and simple. Those guys who refused to get vaccinated should've been fired from their jobs, because they're putting others, including themselves, at risk for hospitalization, serious illness and/or death.

Some people really can't get the vaccines at all, due to really severe immunocompromisations, but guys like this are making it a whole lot worse for such people, as well as everybody else.

These seven guys are part of a society, and there are certain things that a society has to do, including being vaccinated, so as to protect not only themselves, but other people, as well.

up
Voting closed 17