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Methodist Health System grants COVID-19 vaccine exemption to employees after legal pressure

Vaccine
A COVID-19 vaccination injection is administered. |

A network of medical centers in North Texas has agreed to grant four employees an exemption to its mandate that all employees receive the COVID-19 vaccine for religious reasons after receiving a demand letter from a conservative legal group.

The Liberty Counsel sent a letter to Methodist Health System on Tuesday on behalf of healthcare workers who are opposed to getting vaccinated against COVID-19 due to the development of the vaccine being associated with aborted fetal cell research.

On Wednesday, Liberty Counsel announced that MHS had given three of the employees immediate exemptions and that a fourth employee was expecting to receive an exemption soon. 

The nonprofit urged other employees to step forward to request a similar exemption.

In a statement, the counsel quoted from a message by MHS given to three employees, explaining that the initial denial of an exemption had been reversed.

“The Exemption Committee re-analyzed some of the exemption requests that were submitted and had been initially denied ... and has reversed its initial decision and has now approved your exemption,” stated MHS, as quoted in the statement.

Liberty Counsel Founder and Chairman Mat Staver said he was “happy for these health care workers who received religious accommodations.”

“However, many more have been denied by the sham committee designed to force employees to take these shots. What kind of an employer acts this way toward these health care heroes?” Staver asked.

On July 29, the Dallas, Texas-based MHS announced that its approximately 10,000 employees would be required to be vaccinated against COVID-19 by Oct. 1.

“The highly contagious Delta variant is causing another spike in the number of COVID-19 infections in North Texas," MHS leadership stated in the announcement. "We believe the best way to keep our hospitals and communities safe is to achieve a fully vaccinated workforce."

MHS encouraged employees who may have objections “on medical or religious grounds” to apply for an exemption by Sept. 10, so it could be reviewed by the deadline.

On Sept. 7, the Liberty Counsel sent a complaint letter to MHS leadership on behalf of four employees who claimed that they were unlawfully denied an exemption.

“MHS cannot compel any employee’s compliance with MHS’s mandatory COVID-19 vaccination policy against the employee’s sincerely held religious beliefs,” read the letter, in part.

“Moreover, it is unlawful for MHS to deny any employee’s request for religious accommodation either because other religious adherents have beliefs different from the employee’s or because of the employee’s past personal health decisions, whatever the employee’s theological reasons for those decisions.”

COVID-19 vaccine mandates have been a source of controversy for healthcare workers in Texas.

Over 150 nurses and staff at the Houston Methodist Hospital's health system, which consists of seven hospitals and more than 26,000 workers, lost their jobs for refusing to abide by the hospital system's demand they get vaccinated or receive a medical or religious exemption by a June deadline.

Last month, a lawsuit was filed on behalf of 62 former employees of the Houston Methodist medical system, alleging they were wrongfully dismissed because they did not receive the COVID-19 vaccine. The lawsuit was filed about two months after another lawsuit challenging Houston Methodist Hospital's vaccine mandate was dismissed.

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