DENVER — Sixteen students and faculty joined an ongoing lawsuit last week in partnership with the Thomas More Society alleging religious discrimination by the University of Colorado in the school’s vaccine mandate.
The plaintiffs, now totaling 18 after a Nov. 2 filing to expand the case, are suing the University of Colorado in federal court after being effectively denied religious exemptions to mandatory vaccination against COVID-19. The original lawsuit was filed on Sept. 29.
“This is a simple issue,” said Thomas More Society Senior Counsel Peter Breen in a press release. “The university has clearly violated the rights of its employees and students by agreeing to accommodations for those with health-based objections to the COVID vaccine but reusing to accommodate those with religious exemptions.”
The lawsuit includes 13 faculty plaintiffs ranging from physicians, educators, and administrators with five students suing the University of Colorado Board of Regents, the university president, and chancellor of the university’s Anschutz School of Medicine. The new complaint raises objections from a Catholic doctor and Buddhist student who have declined the vaccine.
The lawsuit was filed days after a 27-year-old nursing student was un-enrolled from the university’s nursing program after administrators reneged on their offer of a religious exemption.
When Caroline Pinto, who is not identified as a plaintiff in the lawsuit against the school, returned for her second semester at the Anschutz Medical Campus, she quickly became a second-class citizen on campus. She was forced to follow a strict regimen of questionnaires and weekly testing. Pinto’s religious exemption remained contingent on her compliance, which also included social distancing at all times both indoors and outdoors while wearing a mask. The only exception was when she was outside more than 10 feet from others.
“I heard I was in compliance,” Pinto told The Federalist in a September interview after she checked for reassurance with the school.
Just days into the semester, however, the school escalated its demands for students to remain enrolled without vaccination. After Pinto submitted a more than 800-word essay on her religious objections within the three-day timeline given by the school, the university un-enrolled her anyway.
“We are prevented from discussing any students under the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA),” a spokesman wrote in a statement to The Federalist at the time in refusing to offer a detailed explanation. “CU Anschutz strives to be a public health leader in Colorado and beyond and implement campus policies that reflect its values and mission.”
The University of Colorado did not respond to The Federalist’s request for comment on the lawsuit.
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