Mike Yoder, attorney for the Plaintiffs in Church v. Biden, filed a response late last night to opposition from the Defendants—the U.S. Government—to Plaintiffs' application for a temporary restraining order (TRO) and preliminary injunction to ensure Plaintiffs will not lose their jobs during litigation if the government denies their religious exemption requests. Yoder quickly points out that Defendants wrongly argue that not until the government has inflicted imminent and irreparable harm upon Plaintiffs by forcing either compliance with the Vaccine Mandate or possible termination of employment do Plaintiffs have a right to seek the fundamental liberties guaranteed them by the Constitution. The lawsuit declares:
"And spectacularly, the basis upon which Defendants rely in making this assertion boils down to "The federal government has not inflicted the injury, yet." It is the "yet" (e.g., Defendants imply they have the unilateral, discretionary authority to violate Plaintiffs' rights if they feel so inclined to do so) that is at issue here."
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Affirming Plaintiffs' claims are ripe for injunctive relief, the lawsuit asserts that to have standing under Article III of the U.S. Constitution, Plaintiffs "need not suffer an irreparable injury." Instead, "Article III standing is satisfied when a plaintiff, such as the Plaintiffs here, seek injunctive relief when faced with imminent, irreparable harm." As such, the suit declares, Plaintiffs must demonstrate—and have demonstrated—"an injury in fact that is (1) concrete and particularized . . . (2) imminent . . . (3) fairly tracible to Defendants' challenged conduct . . . (4) likely redressed by a favorable decision."
As stated in the complaint, Plaintiffs "rushed to federal court" because to be "fully vaccinated" by Biden's Nov. 22, 2021 deadline, they must be inoculated by Nov. 8—just four days away. Meanwhile, on Thursday, Nov. 4, the Biden administration announced the date for full vaccine compliance had been extended to Jan. 4, 2022. Nonetheless, the Plaintiffs insist "it is not subject to reasonable dispute that delayed review of the instant motion before the court would cause hardship to the Plaintiffs." Indeed, Yoder reminds that the Supreme Court recently declared:
"There can be no question that the challenged restrictions, if enforced, will cause irreparable harm. The loss of First Amendment freedoms, for even minimal periods of time, unquestionably constitutes irreparable injury."
Yoder brilliantly emphasizes that "the entire basis for the courts' existence is to administer justice fairly and impartially." In the Plaintiff's case, intervention from the court "appropriately interferes with unconstitutional conduct and stifles the federal government's attempt to abjectly disregard the fundamental rights of Plaintiffs and approximately 7.6 million other Americans." Plaintiffs, who merely move the Court to preserve the status quo and prevent Plaintiffs from suffering irreparable harm, insist:
"It can hardly be stated that turning a blind eye and allowing Defendants to violate Plaintiffs fundamental rights—which is exactly what Defendants have asked this Court to do—constitutes the fair and impartial administration of justice."
The lawsuit explains Plaintiffs rely squarely on Defendants' very own policies, procedures, and actions to establish the "very real imminent and irreparable injury Plaintiffs will suffer" without injunctive relief from the Court. In the response, Yoder describes how, on two separate occasions, Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly has offered the Defendants the opportunity to ensure Plaintiffs will not face discipline or termination while the case is in the Courts. Both times, Defendants "provided no guarantee of what will happen to Plaintiffs if their exemption requests are denied and if they reach the point of being disciplined or terminated." Referencing the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) and unsupported assertions by Defendants, the Plaintiff response states:
"a person whose exercise of religion is substantially burdened by the government is entitled to an exemption from the rule unless the Government 'demonstrates that application of the burden to the person (1) is in furtherance of a compelling governmental interest; and (2) is the least restrictive means of furthering that compelling governmental interest.'"
Defendants, who described Plaintiffs' claims as "mere say-so," asserted that they can neither establish that Plaintiffs sincerely held religious beliefs are sound nor they will likely succeed on their merits since Defendants and the Court have not had an opportunity to examine Plaintiff claims. This assertion—as they seek to mandate experimental vaccines for COVID-19—is not valid, according to Plaintiffs. Just this year, EEOC guidance instructed employers to "ordinarily assume that an employee's request for religious accommodation is based on a sincerely held religious belief." Without question, for 229 years, the First Amendment has protected those with sincerely held religious beliefs from discriminatory government action. The lawsuit maintains:
"Absent an objective basis giving rise to a bona fide doubt in the sincerity of a religious belief for which an employee requests an accommodation, employers are prohibited from making even limited inquiries as to whether his or her beliefs are sincere."
The Plaintiffs' response draws attention to the extensive list of cases cited by Defendants to support the Biden administration's unprecedented Vaccine Mandate. Reviewing the Defendants' failed attempt to apply rational basis review to defend the mandate, Plaintiffs declares, "Not a single case cited is remotely relevant to the facts of this case."
Moreover, the lawsuit summarizes that Defendants cannot rebut perhaps the most decisive factor: mandatory vaccination is not the least restrictive means necessary to stem the spread of COVID-19. Without question, there is no comparison between the irreparable injury suffered by Plaintiffs and the non-existent interest Defendants have in enforcing unconstitutional mandates that deprive Plaintiffs of federally required protection of the exercise of their sincerely held religious beliefs. The lawsuit concludes:
"Allowing Defendants to continue enforcing the Vaccine Mandate that was issued to save lives will only cause more lives to be lost, or at the very minimum, subjected to dangers far greater than COVID-19. To do so would be unfathomable."