What Did Governor Hochul Say About Religion!?

The Supreme Court today denied an urgent application for injunctive relief. Dr. A. v. Hochul. New York’s mandate to provide vaccines for health workers was challenged in this case. Although the policy permits exemptions for medical reasons, it does not allow religiously-based exceptions. Justices Thomas and Alito would again grant relief. All the rest were silent.

Justice Gorsuch wrote 14 pages of dissent to the denial of injunctive Relief, which Justice Alito also signed. Justice Thomas said that he would grant the application and did not require a separate written statement. Gorsuch found that Governor Hochul (who replaced Governor Cuomo) presided over the removal and modification of the religious exemption. In doing so she displayed an animus toward religion. Below are some of her statements.

[T]The Governor replied that there was no sanctioned exemption for religious beliefs from organized religions and encouraged them to do the opposite. Ibid. Hochul apparently thought of Catholics who would not consent to a vaccine and added that, “everybody starting from the Pope down” is encouraging everyone to get vaccinated. Ibid.

The Governor spoke to another audience and said: “How could you believe God would provide a vaccine which would cause you harm?” This is false. These are lies spread on social media.

All of you are vaccinated. You’re smart. But you also know that there’s people who don’t listen to God or do not want what God desires. They are known.”

Huh!? These statements seem far worse than the seemingly innocuous ones at issue. Masterpiece Cakeshop. The First Amendment protects beliefs not just promoted by “organized religion.” Catholics can hold different beliefs from the Pope. Hochul stated that vaccines were “truth” and that beliefs contrary to it are likely false. She also stated that people who have been vaccinated by faith were “smart”. This implies that vaccine opponents are ignorant. Und they are “not listening to God.”

Justice Gorsuch finds that these statements are supportive of a targeting claim.

This is New York’s mandate. It began by attempting to exempt religious objectionors from the vaccine mandate. The state only changed its mind later. In its regulatory impact statement, the State did not offer any explanation. However, the new Governor who took office in conjunction with the shift in policy acknowledged that the amended mandate “intentionally left off” a religious exemption. The Governor also offered an unusual explanation for this change. She said that “God wants” people to be vaccinated—and that those who disagree are not listening to “organized religion” or “everybody from the Pope on down.”The Governor then announced changes to the state’s unemployment program, which was intended to target healthcare workers in special need of assistance who had not complied with the mandate. This records raises suspicions that New York may have acted in animosity. [toward]distrust in ” unorthodox religious beliefs or practices Id., at ___ (slip op., at 17).The record is almost a warning sign that people who believe in unpopular religions are being questioned. This alone can render this mandate inapplicable to applicants. . . .

Instead of burdening a religious exercise unintentionally or incidentally, the Governor admits that the State intentionally targeted those whose religious beliefs do not align with the teachings “any organized faith” and “everybody but the Pope” to disfavor them. Although one could interpret the actions of the State as signs other than animus, it is clear that the amended mandate targeted applicants with unorthodox religious beliefs or practices..

Other jurisdictions can now impose mandatory vaccines, without religious exemptions.

Justice Gorsuch also comments on the way progressives approach unorthodox religions in a skeptical manner. This case is a direct connection between his and West Virginia v.. (This is another case where the Court had to overrule a precedent just because it was not right.

Today, our Nation faces not a world war but a pandemic.Like wars, though, pandemics often produce demanding new social rules aimed at protecting collective interests— and with those rules can come fear and anger at individualsunable to conform for religious reasons. If cases like Gobitis It is their warning tale that if they are to be of any benefit. This Court’s biggest regret is in its failure to uphold the Constitution’s promises, they remind us. The Court reminds us that America’s freedom to disagree is not meant to be restricted to those things which do not really matter. This would only be the shadow of freedom. “The test of its substance lies in the freedom to disagree with things that are not part of the established order.” Barnette, 319U. S., at 642. This Court’s strength lies in its ability to protect freedom during difficult times and not only the simple ones.

Gorsuch analogizes also the journey between South Bay/Tandon to Gobitis/Barnette:

We have already lived through the GobitisBarnette cycle once in this pandemic. . . . One can only hopeToday’s ruling will not be the final chapter in this grim story. This case may provide a cautionary tale for anyone who follows. We need to remember that, “the Constitution cannot be respected or ignored according to the particular circumstances” . . “? Downes v. Bidwell, 182 U. S. 244, 384 (1901) (Harlan, J., dissenting). 

What does Justice Kavanaugh and Barrett do about these arguments? They don’t. They hide in shadows because the case won’t be eligible for certiorari.