Judge Clears Way for Religious Discrimination Trial Against ’20th Television’ After Actor Fired Over COVID-19 Vaccine Refusal

Rockmond Dunbar (Credit: Hallmark Channel/Youtube)

In a potential landmark case for Hollywood, Rockmond Dunbar, a former actor on the hit television series ‘911,’ is taking 20th Television to trial after alleging religious discrimination.

The case centers around his termination for non-compliance with COVID-19 vaccination requirements after his request for a religious exemption was denied.

U.S. District Judge Dolly Gee ruled on Friday that 20th Television, a subsidiary of Disney, might have unlawfully discriminated against Dunbar based on his religious beliefs as a follower of the Church of Universal Wisdom, according to Hollywood Reporter.

The upcoming trial will thoroughly examine the sincerity of Dunbar’s religious convictions against the vaccine mandate and whether the studio could have accommodated his beliefs without undue hardship.

The controversy began when Dunbar was dismissed from the ‘911’ series for refusing the COVID-19 vaccine, which was part of the return-to-work protocols agreed upon by studios and Hollywood guilds.

Dunbar’s lawsuit, initiated in 2022 against 20th and Disney, which owns the TV production arm of 20th Century Studios (later dismissed from the case), challenges the rejection of his exemption request.

While the court dismissed Dunbar’s other claims of race discrimination, retaliation, and breach of contract, the religious discrimination claim remains a significant test case.

Hollywood Reporter reported:

If 20th is found to have engaged in religious discrimination in the trial, the decision could threaten how studios approach exemptions to vaccine mandates if they are reimplemented in the future. Dunbar claimed that his request for an exemption was denied after Disney determined that he was not a true believer in the Church of Universal Wisdom.

An exemption request from General Hospital’s Ingo Rademacher, who was fired from the series after refusing the vaccine, was similarly rejected after Disney, which owns ABC, questioned the sincerity of his belief in a book called The Revelation of Ramala. It appears that Disney vetted exemption applications on a case-by-case basis, investigating whether the religions constituted true religious institutions and whether applicants actually followed the beliefs.

In 2022, Dunbar sued 20th and Disney, which owns the TV production arm of 20th Century Studios and has been dismissed from the case, after he was fired for refusing to comply with vaccine mandates. The return-to-work protocols, which were agreed upon by Hollywood’s guilds and studios, stated that vaccines could be required for those working in Zone A of a production — typically a project’s main actors, as well as key crewmembers who work closely with them in the highest-risk areas of the set.

In response to an alleged violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, which bars discrimination on the basis of race, religion and sex, among other things, 20th contested the sincerity of Dunbar’s beliefs. It stressed that he had repeatedly taken actions contradicting tenets of the Church of Universal Wisdom by undergoing certain medical procedures less than a year before refusing the vaccine.

Dunbar answered by claiming that he communed with God, who allegedly made exceptions and “permitted [him] to act differently,” he attested to the court. According to the actor, he was also told “that the COVID-19 vaccine was made from evil and that it will compromise [his] spirit and that it was not for [him].”

The court expressed skepticism at the assertions, explaining that communing with God is not a “blanket privilege that undermines our system of ordered liberty.” She also noted that Dunbar’s original request for an exemption only mentioned unspecified medical issues, not any sort of religious objection.

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Jim Hᴏft is the founder and editor of The Gateway Pundit, one of the top conservative news outlets in America. Jim was awarded the Reed Irvine Accuracy in Media Award in 2013 and is the proud recipient of the Breitbart Award for Excellence in Online Journalism from the Americans for Prosperity Foundation in May 2016.

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