DC nun has medical license restored as litigation over vaccine mandate continues

Sister Deirdre Byrne, a Catholic nun, speaks at the 2020 Republican National Convention in support of then-President Donald Trump’s pro-life policies.
Sister Deirdre Byrne, a Catholic nun, speaks at the 2020 Republican National Convention in support of then-President Donald Trump’s pro-life policies. | YouTube/PBS NewsHour

A Roman Catholic nun who sued the District of Columbia for an exemption to the city’s COVID-19 vaccine mandate for healthcare workers has had her medical license restored and can continue to practice medicine for the foreseeable future while her lawsuit is adjudicated. 

Sister Deirdre Byrne, an outspoken pro-life activist and practicing physician who serves a ministry providing free medical services to the poor, filed a lawsuit against District of Columbia Mayor Muriel Bowser, the city and D.C. Health Department Director LaQuandra Nesbitt last week over their refusal to grant her a religious exemption to the vaccine mandate. 

Byrne first submitted a request for a religious exemption to the coronavirus vaccine mandate shortly after it was rolled out as an emergency measure six months ago, citing concerns about the use of aborted fetal tissue in the development and testing of the COVID-19 vaccines.

Throughout most of the past several months, Byrne had been able to practice medicine in D.C. without taking a coronavirus vaccine and had not faced any objections from the hospitals and clinics where she served.

Following a continued back-and-forth with the D.C. Department of Health, Byrne was informed late last month that her request had been denied and was told that failure to take at least one dose of the coronavirus vaccine would result in a prohibition on the renewal of her medical license or its “revocation or suspension.”

In an appearance on EWTN’s “The World Over” Thursday, Byrne said that her license had been suspended and that she was forced to close her clinics. She was unable to see patients and couldn’t help anyone.

With assistance from the Thomas More Society, the nun asked the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia to issue a declaratory judgment asserting that the vaccine mandate for healthcare workers violates her rights under the Religious Freedom Restoration Act and the Free Exercise Clause of the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.

Additionally, she sought a “temporary restraining order” and a “preliminary and permanent injunction” prohibiting the defendants from enforcing the vaccine mandate against her as well as an award of nominal damages, attorneys’ fees and other costs related to the litigation.

On Facebook Tuesday, the Thomas More Society announced that Byrne’s medical license had been restored.

The religious liberty law firm noted that “Friday’s letter notifying Sister Dede that her license was now active until September doesn’t resolve all of the issues raised in her lawsuit.” The legal group expressed concern that the letter stated that her exemption could be “rescinded” at a later date if the “director finds that it is in the best interest of public health.”

The letter informing Byrne that her medical license was restored came just a week before the order denying Byrne’s religious exemption to the coronavirus vaccine was scheduled to become final.

In an interview with The Epoch Times, Byrne’s attorney Christopher Ferrara described the letter as “unacceptable” but said “she’ll take it.” Ferrara said litigation will continue because the letter was “not a solution” but instead “a Band-Aid on a problem that has to be solved.”

“So Sister Deirdre, the Mother Teresa of the District of Columbia, who’s devoted herself to providing free medical care to the needy, including surgeries that can save their lives, is now living with the Sword of Damocles hanging over her head, wielded by defendant Nesbitt,” he added. “This is a woman who could have made a million dollars a year easily. Now, she’s a nun in a habit.”

Byrne first burst onto the national stage with a speech at the 2020 Republican National Convention, where she described the unborn as “the largest marginalized group in the world” and argued that then-Democratic presidential nominee, Joe Biden, and his running mate, Kamala Harris, were “the most anti-life presidential ticket ever.”  

Byrne also delivered remarks at a conference hosted by the pro-life group Heartbeat International last spring. She condemned abortion as “the greatest inhumanity.” She urged people to pray for “politicians who are wanting to make the abortion pill over the counter so people will be able to take it like bubble gum or Tylenol.” She warned, “their soul is in a mortal state.”

The District of Columbia has wound down most of its coronavirus restrictions and mandates, mirroring other major cities and states across the U.S.

Last month, the nation’s capital eliminated its requirement that those seeking entry into most businesses provide proof of vaccination while dropping its mask mandate for both public and private school students two weeks later.

Ryan Foley is a reporter for The Christian Post. He can be reached at:

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