A federal judge blocked a university in Michigan from enforcing a COVID vaccine requirement against athletes due to the students' religious beliefs.
According to the Associated Press, Western Michigan University had enacted a policy that required student-athletes to receive the first shot of their vaccination before August 31st. Western Michigan's vaccine policy was noticeably different from most universities. While athletes were required to obtain the vaccination, students and staff were "strongly encouraged."
When four of Western's female soccer players attempted to pursue religious exemptions from the vaccine mandate, they were denied. So the players brought it before the court with the help of the Great Lakes Justice Center.
District Judge Paul Maloney in Grand Rapids temporarily blocked the mandate on Tuesday, stating that "WMU's vaccination requirement for student-athletes is not justified by a compelling interest and is not narrowly tailored." Mahoney also noted that based on the evidence, it was likely that the four students would win the case based on the First Amendment. This temporary blocking will allow the four women to continue to play until the matter is resolved in court. The women have agreed to take necessary precautions while playing, including wearing masks and weekly testing.
"Our clients are grateful that the Court has recognized they have a strong case for a religious exemption from this vaccine requirement," GLJC attorney David Kallman stated in a press release. "Our clients are thrilled that they can continue to be part of their soccer team, be with their teammates, and compete for WMU at the highest level in a safe manner."