Judge Again Bars Mandatory COVID Shot For Michigan Student Athletes

Joseph M. Hanneman

A federal judge in Kalamazoo, Mich., issued a preliminary injunction Thursday barring Western Michigan University from enforcing a policy requiring all student athletes receive a COVID-19 gene-therapy injection, something 16 Christian student athletes say violates their constitutionally protected religious beliefs.

U.S. District Judge Paul L. Maloney agreed to the preliminary injunction after an hourlong hearing at the Federal Building in Kalamazoo. He extended an existing restraining order against the university pending publication of his opinion on the preliminary injunction. The ruling means a growing list of Christian student athletes are protected from facing a do-or-don’t-play decision under Western Michigan’s COVID-19 athletic policy. The policy does not apply to the general student body at the 20,500-student university, nor to those who play recreational sports.

“It’s a huge second-step win because now this order stays in place indefinitely,” said David A. Kallman, senior legal counsel for the Great Lakes Justice Center, which represents the 16 athletes in the case. “We’re very thrilled for our clients. Now, all the fall sports and everybody that’s participating and playing right now, they’re going to be able to play.”

Since Judge Maloney issued a temporary restraining order on Aug. 31, a dozen additional Christian athletes signed onto the suit against the university. The case was originally filed Aug. 30 on behalf of four women’s soccer players whose petitions for a religious exemption to the mandatory COVID jab were denied by Western Michigan. All of the additional plaintiffs had their religious-exemption petitions denied by the university, which said mandatory vaccines help “avoid the significant risk posed to the intercollegiate athletic programs of a COVID-19 outbreak…”

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