Credit: University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus

In a landmark decision earlier this month, the United States Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit issued a harsh rebuke to the University of Colorado Anschutz School of Medicine, declaring its COVID-19 vaccine mandate unconstitutional.

55 page decision It highlighted that the mandate, which did not include religious exemptions, was tainted with “religious animus” and thus violated the First Amendment’s protection of religious freedom.

The court’s decision overturned a lower court’s earlier decision, ending a contentious legal battle launched by the Thomas More Society on behalf of 17 faculty members and students.

These individuals faced serious consequences, including dismissal and expulsion, for refusing to follow the university’s vaccine policies due to their deeply held religious beliefs.

In September 2021, as part of its controversial policy, the University of Colorado made COVID-19 vaccination mandatory for all individuals accessing its facilities or attending its events, with strictly limited exemptions. Legal challenges grew rapidly as affected parties claimed that their rights to religious freedom were being violated.

“Attorneys for the Thomas More Society filed their lawsuit in September 2021 in the U.S. District Court for the District of Colorado against the University of Colorado, the chancellor of the Anschutz School of Medicine, and the school’s senior associate dean of medical education. The original lawsuit was filed for a Catholic doctor and a Buddhist student who were unable to take the vaccine because of their integrity and deep religious faith, and in October 2021, more than a dozen additional staff and students were added to the lawsuit . The Thomas More Society said in its letter, they are seeking injunctive relief, damages and attorney’s fees against the university for unlawful discrimination and violation of fundamental constitutional rights. Press release,

Peter Breen, executive vice president and head of litigation for the Thomas More Society, echoed the confirmation, saying, “The University of Colorado mistreated staff and students of faith during COVID, and the Court of Appeals has now unequivocally declared That’s what we’ve fought for nearly three years to establish: The university acted with ‘religious hostility’ and blatantly violated the fundamental religious freedoms of these brave healthcare providers and students. Honored as they bravely served on the front lines during the worst of the pandemic, these heroes were brutally sidelined when their religious principles clashed with the beliefs of University of Colorado bureaucrats.

“With this ruling in favor of our clients, the Court of Appeals has made clear that people of faith are not second-class citizens – they deserve full respect in their free exercise of religion and the protections of the United States Constitution. By unlawfully and intrusively investigating the religious beliefs of our employees and students, the University made value judgments that not only smack of religious bigotry but also violate the constitutional rights of our customers as well as basic decency. We are grateful for this strong court decision in favor of religious freedom.

“The Court of Appeals correctly ruled that no government entity has the right to appoint itself as an ideological tribunal that defines what religious beliefs are deeply and sincerely held and those religious beliefs. Is considered valid or invalid. We are also encouraged that this decision reaffirms and strengthens our foundational First Amendment protections for countless others in the future,” Breen said.

The court’s findings included shocking revelations about how the university administration made arbitrary decisions on legitimate religious belief.

Specific examples cited in the decision included unfair treatment of Roman Catholic and Buddhist applicants, whose objections to vaccination were dismissed as mere personal belief rather than genuine religious belief.

Furthermore, the Court took issue with the University’s intrusive questioning of the sincerity of applicants’ religious beliefs – a practice that not only undermines individual dignity but also violates constitutional protections.

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