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Poughkeepsie Judge Denied Religious Exemption from COVID Vaccination

City of Poughkeepsie Court Judge Frank Mora has filed a lawsuit in federal court against the New York State Unified Court System Office of Court Administration (OCA) over the COVID vaccination with which he refuses to be injected.

Mora, a devout Catholic, says that the defendants have violated his First Amendment right by requiring him to receive the COVID vaccine. According to the complaint, Mora says that “his religious beliefs prevent him from subjecting a healthy body to vaccinations and views such a practice as contrary to God’s commandments as reflected in scripture.”

In addition to the OCA, Mora names Judge Lawrence Marks, the Chief Administrative Judge for the OCA, and Ninth Judicial District Administrative Judge Anne Minihan, along with the members of the OCA Vaccine Exemption Committee (VEC) as defendants.

In September 2021, the OCA ruled that all judges and court employees must submit proof of vaccination or apply for a medical or religious exemption by September 27, 2021.

Mora applied for a religious exemption noting that his religion prohibits healthy people from receiving vaccines and since becoming an adult, Mora adhered to those beliefs, despite a plea from Pope Francis for Catholics to get the vaccination. The VEC declined to interview Mora but made five additional requests for information that he submitted.

The leader of the Catholic church, Pope Francis, has encouraged Catholics to receive the vaccine. In a video message to Catholics around the world, the Pope said “Getting vaccinated is a simple yet profound way to care for one another, especially the most vulnerable.” The full video message can be viewed here.

On December 21, 2020, the Vatican’s doctrinal office, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF), issued a statement noting it is “morally acceptable” for Catholics to take vaccines against COVID-19. In part, the CDF stated said “All vaccinations recognized as clinically safe and effective can be used in good conscience with the certain knowledge that the use of such vaccines does not constitute formal cooperation with the abortion from which the cells used in the production of the vaccines derive,” adding “The morality of vaccination depends not only on the duty to protect one’s own health but also on the duty to pursue the common good.”

Mora was informed that his exemption request was denied without any explanation.

In December of last year, Mora filed a complaint against the OCA with the New York State Division of Human Rights for unlawful discrimination based on religious beliefs.

Judge Marks then issued an order prohibiting Mora and all other denied applicants from entering any courthouse in New York, requiring Mora to work remotely from his residence.

Judge Mora, through his attorney, has argued that the OCA now allows anyone to enter a courthouse without showing proof of vaccination or a negative test but he is still forced to work remotely, handling civil cases. Judge Mora’s criminal cases were reassigned to Poughkeepsie City Court Judge Scott Volkman.

Mora is seeking compensatory damages for having his rights violated, the granting of his religious exemption, and being restored to full duty by presiding over cases in person, in his courtroom.

Source: Mid-Hudson News

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