Students Sue Catholic University for Denying Them Religious Exemptions to COVID-19 Vaccine Mandate

By GQ Pan
GQ Pan
GQ Pan
September 14, 2021 Updated: September 15, 2021

A group of students is suing Creighton University, a Jesuit Catholic institution in Nebraska, for refusing to grant them religious exemptions to its COVID-19 vaccine mandate.

The lawsuit was brought against Creighton by four female students who alleged that they received “arbitrary and disparate treatment” because of their religious objections to COVID-19 vaccination. Specifically, the women argued that the vaccines were developed or tested using abortion-derived fetal cell lines, which goes against their Christian beliefs.

Among the four students is Lauren Ramaekers, the president of campus group Creighton Students for Life. In a written affidavit obtained by The Epoch Times, the senior student stated that as part of her Catholic faith, she believes that abortion is an “intrinsic evil” and that even “remote cooperation” with abortion would violate her conscience.

“The use of fetal tissue, fetal cells, or any product of abortion in the development or testing of a vaccine or any medical treatment, is abhorrent to me,” Ramaekers wrote. “This is a sincerely held religious belief, which impacts my moral and ethical views of the world.”

Creighton announced in July that all students must receive COVID-19 vaccines in order to register for and attend classes, warning that it would unenroll anyone who failed to show proof of vaccination by a Sept. 7 deadline. According to a report by the student newspaper Creightonian, more than 93 percent of the university’s 9,000 students had already been vaccinated by the end of August.

The university initially offered a medical exemption and a temporary exemption while the vaccines were under emergency use authorization by the federal government. Ramaekers was given a temporary exemption, which expired on Aug. 23, when the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine received formal federal approval. No religious exemptions have been offered to students.

Ramaekers, who planned to graduate this December, said that as of Sept. 10, she has been banned from entering the campus or registering for fall classes. She and the other three students are seeking a court order that would have them reenrolled or reinstated.

The suing students are represented by attorney Robert M. Sullivan, who sent a letter to Creighton President Rev. Daniel S. Hendrickson on Sept. 2, asking the university to allow his clients to continue their education without having to violate their own consciences. Sullivan said he didn’t receive a response to the letter.

According to Sullivan, the Jesuit university’s “rigid and intolerant approach” to unvaccinated students “came as a great surprise to many.”

“The hope is that educational institutions and others in positions of authority will come to appreciate the fact that it is better to educate and encourage than to force compliance,” Sullivan said in a statement to The Epoch Times. “This is especially true when those who are not in a position of authority have serious and deeply held conscientious objections, and when those in authority refuse to listen and consider alternative approaches.

“While the Plaintiffs are very disappointed in the harsh treatment they have suffered from Creighton University, they remain confident that justice will prevail.”

A Creighton spokesperson said the university is aware of a filing, but can’t comment on legal action or pending litigation.

The lawsuit comes amid an ongoing debate within the Catholic community over the morality of COVID-19 vaccine mandates. While guidance from the Roman Curia stated that vaccination is “not a moral obligation” and therefore “must be voluntary,” it also told believers that if no “ethically irreproachable” vaccines are available, it is “morally acceptable to receive COVID-19 vaccines that have used cell lines from aborted fetuses in their research and production process.”

According to a report by the British Medical Journal, the Johnson & Johnson vaccine’s manufacturing process used cell lines derived from elective abortions performed decades ago. The other COVID-19 vaccines being used in the United States, by Pfizer and Moderna, used these cell lines in testing but not in production.

GQ Pan
GQ Pan