The US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit ruled Monday that former government employees can sue the city of San Francisco, California for infringing on their religious freedom after they were denied exemptions from receiving the COVID-19 vaccine.
The court found that the vaccines are remotely “derived” from aborted fetal stem cells and that the plaintiffs have a “sincere religious belief” against the medical use of fetal cells. Therefore, the plaintiffs had a claim that should not have been dismissed by the lower court.
Selina Keene and Melody Fountila sued the city over its COVID-19 vaccine mandate. The plaintiffs argued that the development of the vaccine used fetal stem cells from “elective abortions.” Because plaintiffs are devout Christians, they argued receiving a vaccine that was made from fetal stem cells violated their belief in the “sanctity of life.” The plaintiffs requested accommodations such as working from home or attending work wearing protective equipment in lieu of the vaccine. Specifically, they argued the city violated Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and California’s Fair Employment and Housing Act, which both protect employees from religious discrimination.
In 2022, the US District Court for the Northern District of California dismissed the plaintiffs’ religious freedom lawsuit on the grounds that their argument was not likely to succeed. Keene and Fountila argued that the COVID-19 vaccine was not effective enough, was made from “murdered children,” and that they had natural immunity from previously contracting COVID-19. Ultimately, the court found the vaccines were not made from fetal stem cells and that the vaccines were effective in preventing sickness and death.
In April, the US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit reinstated a religious freedom claim against a loyalty oath public employees must take in California that requires individuals to pledge allegiance to federal and state governments and take up arms to defend those institutions.