Hallelujah! Reason prevails at appeals court over Indiana Univ. vaccine mandate

Indiana University

The Freedom From Religion Foundation hails the decision by an appeals court panel not to enjoin Indiana University from enforcing its new vaccine mandate.

The case will proceed to a full hearing, but meanwhile a three-judge panel of the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals has issued a short ruling denying a temporary injunction sought by eight student plaintiffs.

Indiana University at Bloomington is requiring all students to be vaccinated against COVID-19 unless exempt for religious or medical reasons. Exempt students must wear masks and be tested at least twice a week. The suing students lost at the district court level, and appealed.

U.S. Appeals Court Judge Frank H. Easterbrook, joined by Judges Michael Y. Scudder and Thomas L. Kirsch, the latter two President Trump appointees, writes: “Given Jacobson v. Massachusetts (1905), which holds that a state may require all members of the public to be vaccinated against smallpox, there can’t be a constitutional problem with vaccination against SARS-CoV-2.”

Easterbrook, a President Reagan appointee, notes that Indiana University’s policy provides exceptions, which Jacobson did not, and only makes vaccination a condition of attending Indiana University. “People who do not want to be vaccinated may go elsewhere,” he reasonably notes. He further asserts that each university “may decide what is necessary to keep other students safe in a congregate setting,” including health exams and vaccinations against multiple diseases.

The decision also notes: “We assume with plaintiffs that they have a right in bodily integrity. They also have a right to hold property. Yet they or their parents must surrender property to attend Indiana University. Undergraduates must part with at least $11,000 a year (in-state tuition), even though Indiana could not summarily confiscate that sum from all residents of college age.”

The panel further reasons: “The First Amendment means that a state cannot tell anyone what to read or write, but a state university may demand that students read things they prefer not to read and write things they prefer not to write. A student must read what a professor assigns, even if the student deems the books heretical, and must write exams or essays as required.”

“If conditions of higher education may include surrendering property and following instructions about what to read and write,” the ruling continues, “it is hard to see a greater problem with medical conditions that help all students remain safe while learning. A university will have trouble operating when each student fears that everyone else may be spreading disease.”

We couldn’t have said it better.

Indiana University is to be applauded for leading the way for other public colleges and universities to mandate vaccinations. And institutions of higher learning in the handful of states where foolish, religiously inspired governors have barred masking and vaccination mandates, should be showing leadership by suing those governors.

It’s past time for public and private universities, governments and businesses everywhere to mandate Covid-19 vaccinations so that reason and science prevail in U.S. public policy.

Freedom From Religion Foundation

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