Federal Court Strikes Down Colorado University’s COVID-19 Vaccine Mandate as Unconstitutional

Credit: University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus

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

The 55-page ruling highlighted that the mandate, which excluded religious exemptions, was tainted by “religious animus” and thus violated the First Amendment’s protection of religious liberties.

The court’s decision reversed a prior ruling by a lower court, bringing to an end a contentious legal battle initiated by the Thomas More Society on behalf of 17 faculty members and students.

These individuals had faced severe repercussions, including dismissals and expulsions, for their refusal to comply with the university’s vaccine policies due to their deeply held religious beliefs.

In September 2021, under its controversial policy, the University of Colorado mandated COVID-19 vaccination for all individuals accessing its facilities or participating in its programs, with strictly limited exemptions. Legal challenges were quickly mounted as affected parties claimed that their rights to religious freedom were being infringed upon.

“Thomas More Society attorneys 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 due to their sincerely and deeply held religious convictions, and in October 2021, over a dozen additional staff and students were added to the lawsuit. They are seeking injunctive relief, damages, and attorney’s fees against the University for its unlawful discrimination and violations of fundamental constitutional rights,” Thomas More Society said in its press release.

Peter Breen, Executive Vice President and Head of Litigation at the Thomas More Society, expressed vindication, stating, “The University of Colorado ran roughshod overstaff and students of faith during COVID, and the Court of Appeals has now declared plainly what we’ve fought to establish for almost three years: the University acted with ‘religious animus’ and flagrantly violated the fundamental religious liberties of these brave healthcare providers and students. These medical providers were hailed as heroes, as they served bravely on the front lines through the worst of the pandemic, but when their religious principles conflicted with the beliefs of University of Colorado bureaucrats, these heroes were callously tossed aside.”

“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 are deserving of full respect and the protection of the United States Constitution in their free exercise of religion. By unlawfully and intrusively probing our staff and students’ religious beliefs, the University rendered value judgments that not only reeked of religious bigotry but violated our clients’ constitutional rights, as well as basic decency. We are grateful for this strong court decision in favor of religious liberty.

“The Court of Appeals correctly ruled that no government entity has the right to appoint itself as a doctrinal tribunal that defines which religious beliefs count as deeply and sincerely held and deem those religious beliefs valid or invalid. We are also encouraged that this ruling reaffirms and strengthens our bedrock First Amendment protections for countless many others into the future,” Breen said.

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

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

Moreover, the court took issue with the university’s intrusive questioning into the sincerity of applicants’ religious beliefs—a practice that not only undermines personal dignity but also violates constitutional protections.

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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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