A federal judge has denied a request to block Indiana University’s (IU) COVID-19 vaccine mandate after a group of students sued the school, claiming the inoculation requirement is unconstitutional.
Judge Damon R. Leichty of the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Indiana, South Bend Division, said in an opinion issued on July 18 (pdf) that the plaintiffs—eight IU students who sued the university over the vaccine mandate—failed to establish “a likelihood of success on the merits of their Fourteenth Amendment due process claim, or that the balance of harms or the public’s interest favors the extraordinary remedy of a preliminary injunction.”
The 14th Amendment, which says no state may “deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law,” prevents public universities from mandating vaccines for students unless they can demonstrate that they have “rationally pursued a legitimate interest in public health” for their campus communities, the judge wrote.
Leichty wrote that while IU’s vaccine policy “has real implications,” such as potentially depriving students who refuse to get the COVID-19 vaccine or haven’t qualified for an exemption from attending the university, students still “have real options” in the face of the policy, including applying for a medical or religious exemption, applying for a medical deferral, attending a different college, or taking classes online.
“Recognizing the significant liberty interests the students retain to refuse unwanted medical treatment, the Fourteenth Amendment permits Indiana University to pursue a reasonable and due process of vaccination in the legitimate interests of public health for its students, faculty, and staff,” Leichty wrote, adding that IU’s COVID-19 vaccine policy “leaves the students with multiple choices, not just forced vaccinations.” – READ MORE
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