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Hochul: New York will appeal decision to uphold religious exemptions to vaccine mandate

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ALBANY, N.Y. -- Gov. Kathy Hochul says New York will appeal a Utica judge's decision to continue to allow religious exemptions to the state’s vaccine mandate for health care workers.

In mid-September, Judge David Hurd blocked the state from enforcing the mandate, ordering state officials to respond to the lawsuit by Sept. 22. A court hearing was originally scheduled for Sept. 28 but postponed for two weeks.

On Tuesday, Oct. 12, Hurd ruled against the mandate again, saying the “Department of Health is barred from enforcing any requirement that employers deny religious exemptions from COVID-19 vaccination or that they revoke any exemptions employers already granted” prior to the mandate.

Hochul said Wednesday she is working with the state attorney general’s office to appeal the decision in the second circuit Court of Appeals, maintaining her stance that religious exemptions aren’t valid based on statements from religious leaders.

If someone needs more confirmation, if they're going to use the religious exemption -- and I think the courts should pay attention too -- what the religious leaders are saying is that they want people to get vaccinated. It's simple. We want to make sure people are safe and doing the smartest thing we can, getting vaccinated,” said Hochul.

The initial lawsuit was filed by 17 health professionals in New York, all Christians, who say they don’t want the vaccine because aborted fetus cell lines were used in either testing, development or production.

Hochul provided quotes from religious leaders in support of vaccination, including the Catholic Archdiocese of New York saying, “Pope Francis has made it very clear that it is morally acceptable to take any of the vaccines and said we have the moral responsibility to get vaccinated.”

Below are the current vaccination rates among health care workers at certain facilities based on state data:

  • Nursing homes: 97%
  • Hospitals: 96%
  • Adult care facilities: 96%
  • Home health agencies: 94%


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