MONTGOMERY COUNTY, Md. (WDVM) — Employees of all 25,000 Montgomery County Public Schools were required to receive their first dose of a COVID-19 vaccine by Thursday. One administrator is taking a stand, though, filing a lawsuit against the school system for infringing on his religious rights under the First Amendment.
John Doe, as he’s named in the suit, says he applied for a religious exemption from the vaccine mandate but was denied on the grounds that no religious accommodations would be made. He filed a suit in federal court with the help of the Center for American Liberty earlier this week.
Court documents state that Doe feels “that obtaining a COVID-19 vaccine would constitute a sin in the eyes of God.” Center for American Liberty Executive Director Mark Trammel says the county’s lack of religious accommodation is discriminatory under Title VII.
“It doesn’t mean they have to grant the religious accommodation, but we believe Title 7 prohibits discrimination on basis of religion. The employers have to make an individualized assessment as to whether an accommodation is possible,” said Trammell.
The school board unanimously passed a resolution enacting the mandate back on Sept. 9. It says employees need their first shot by Sept. 30 and their second shot by Oct. 30, and clearly lays out exemptions for medical reasons but not religious reasons. After a court hearing yesterday, that could change.
“The School Board’s attorney said there was a miscommunication, and religious beliefs will be considered. It seems contradictory but we are excited he’s able to apply for accommodation now,” said Trammell.
As of Thursday, the language outlined in the resolution remains the same. WDVM’s Randi Bass reached out to MCPS for comment on the lawsuit, and MCPS said via email, “General counsel is aware that a suit was filed but has not seen it or its specifics.”