Federal Judge Upholds Indiana University's Vaccine Mandate

Libby | July 20, 2021
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A Trump-appointed judge upheld Indiana University’s (IU) COVID-19 vaccination mandate for students and staff on Sunday.

Challenged by eight students, the school is requiring all staff and on-campus students to be fully vaccinated by August 1, barring a medical or religious exemption.

Even with a medical or religious exemption, there are additional restrictions such as surveillance testing, masking, and social distancing protocols.

Six of the students have already received an exemption from IU but are challenging the additional protocols that they would be forced to comply with. Of the other two plaintiffs, only one is eligible for an exemption, according to the opinion.

The group of plaintiffs argued that IU was violating their right to bodily autonomy, informed choice of medical treatment, and religious freedom, U.S. District Court Judge Damon Leichty noted in the opinion.

Leichty, who was appointed by former President Donald Trump, denied the preliminary motion by the group of students on the grounds of a legitimate state interest for public health. He also ruled that the choice that the university presented students and staff with is not considered to be “coercion” despite it being a challenging decision.

“The university is presenting the students with a difficult choice — get the vaccine or else apply for an exemption or deferral, transfer to a different school, or forego school for the semester or altogether,” he wrote in the opinion. “But this hard choice doesn’t amount to coercion.”

Those in staunch opposition have compared the ruling to past decisions where government forced sterilizations and vaccines.

Lawyer Robert Barnes made this comparison in a tweet, also asserting that the motion “will be contested on appeal.”