Podcast of Renk Interview With The Lawyer For The WMU Athletes In Their Covid Vaccine Requirement Case Could Have National Implications
This morning I interview the Western Michigan University athlete’s attorney from the Great Lakes Justice Center (GLJC) David Kallman. I asked Dave to come on to inform us about the latest ruling from the U.S. Federal Sixth Circuit Appeals court about their case.
Last August I informed of the four Western Michigan University student-athletes who asked the Great Lakes Justice Center (GLJC) to bring a federal civil rights lawsuit against their University on their behalf. These four athletes are all on scholarship on Western’s soccer team and they believe that WMU violated their religious rights.
Here is what was going on. WMU is mandating that all of their student-athletes receive a Covid-19 vaccine. If they refuse to get the jab, as they call it, they will be kicked off of their team. A press release from the Great Lakes Justice Center states that the athletes were allowed to request a religious accommodation starting on August 24, 2021, which all four students did take advantage of. Once they filed their request all four of them were denied that exemption two days later. WMU gave them until Tuesday, August 31st to get the Covid-19 Vaccine or they will be thrown off their team.
After these initial four WMU athletes stepped up another 12 joined them.
Yesterday October 7th U.S. Federal Sixth Circuit Appeals court ruled once again in the favor of the plaintiffs and upheld Judge Maloney's original ruling. In a press release the Great Lakes Justice Center stated:
“Federal District Court Judge Paul L. Maloney’s Preliminary Injunction allowing sixteen athletes at Western Michigan University (WMU) to continue playing intercollegiate sports despite refusing a Covid-19 vaccine shot mandated by WMU was upheld today in a unanimous, published decision by the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals. Appellate Judges Ralph B. Guy, Jr., David W. McKeague, and Chad A. Readler, issued a published opinion that WMU violated the athletes’ First Amendment rights by denying their requests for a religious exemption from the mandate. This decision is now binding precedent in Michigan, Ohio, Kentucky, and Tennessee”
Did you catch that last line, this preliminary injunction is not just for WMU or Michigan is now binding also in Ohio, Kentucky, and Tennessee. That is a big win for many athletes who feel their religious rights were being infringed upon. Keep in mind we are told the Covid-19 vaccine works thus anyone who is concerned about catching Covid from an unvaccinated person only has to get vaccinated to address that concern.
In a 3-0 opinion the court stated:
“We do not doubt (WMU’s) good faith, nor do we fail to appreciate the burdens COVID-19 has placed on this nation’s universities. … But having announced a system under which student-athletes can seek individualized exemptions, the university must explain why it chose not to grant any to plaintiffs. And it did not fairly do so here”
The court said that they believe these athletes would likely prevail on their constitutional argument if WMU pursues a full-fledged appeal. Western Michigan University has argued that their vaccination policy is what they considered neutral toward religion.
In my discussion with Mr. Kallman I asked could this case have national repercussions. With all the vaccine mandates Biden is pushing on public employees could these public employees point to this decision and ask for a religious exemption.
This is what he had to say: