A U.S. District Court has dismissed a case involving President Biden’s federal employee vaccine mandate after it concluded that it lacks jurisdiction over the matter.
The United States District Court for the District of Columbia issued a memorandum opinion in the case Church et al. v. Biden. Civil Action No. 21-2815 (CKK) in which it said, “…the Court concludes that it lacks jurisdiction over the Federal Employee Plaintiffs’ remaining claims…”
The case involved 18 federal employees who filed suit over the federal employee vaccine mandate on the basis that it violated their freedom of religion. They alleged that they had submitted requests for religious exemption under the mandate on the basis that each was a “devout Christian who cannot in morality receive the vaccine without compromising [his or her] closely held religious beliefs.” (p. 7)
According to the court’s decision:
…the Federal Employee Plaintiffs claim that the COVID-19 vaccination requirement of Executive Order 14043 (1) infringes on their First Amendment right to the free exercise of religion, Compl. ¶¶ 156–69; (2) contravenes the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (“RFRA”) by “substantially burdening” their “sincerely held religious beliefs” which compel them to abstain from receiving any COVID-19 vaccine, id. ¶¶ 170–79; (3) violates their Fifth Amendment Right to Equal Protection, id. ¶¶ 190–202; and (4) violates the Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act (“FDCA”), 21 U.S.C. § 360bbb-3 et seq., by failing to provide them the “option to accept or refuse administration” of a product available under emergency-use authorization, Compl. ¶¶ 203–20. Each Federal Employee Plaintiff asserts these claims against President Biden and the head of the agency at which the plaintiff is employed in his or her official capacity.pp. 7-8
However, the court said in its decision, “The Federal Employee Plaintiffs have not demonstrated that their remaining claims are constitutionally ripe because they are “riddled with contingencies and speculation that impede judicial review.” (p. 11)
The court said that the that they be vaccinated or fired from their jobs is an argument that “hinges on ‘contingent future events that may not occur as anticipated, or indeed may not occur at all.'” (p. 11)
It further added that while the religious exemption requests are pending, the federal employees are not required to be vaccinated and are not subject to discipline. Also, if their exemption requests were to eventually be approved by the government, they would not have to get the COVID vaccinations, “meaning the injuries alleged in this case would never occur.” (p. 11)
The court ultimately summed it up by saying:
In sum, the Federal Employee Plaintiffs’ alleged injury of being “forced” to choose between their jobs and their religion rests on hypothetical predictions of the outcomes of their exemption requests; but the “mere potential” for future injury is insufficient to “render an issue ripe for review.” Friends of Keeseville, Inc. v. FERC, 859 F.2d 230, 236 (D.C. Cir. 1988). Therefore, the Federal Employee Plaintiffs have failed to demonstrate that the alleged deprivation of their right to freely exercise their religion is “imminent” or “certainly impending,” and so they have not established a ripe, justiciable controversy.p. 12-13
Other Cases Against the Federal Employee Vaccine Mandate Face Legal Setbacks
Another case recently faced a legal setback when a federal appeals court upheld the Biden administration’s vaccine mandate.
The 5th Circuit Court of Appeals reversed a lower court ruling which had placed an injunction on the federal employee vaccine mandate, saying in its decision that the judge in that case did not have jurisdiction in the case and those challenging the vaccine mandate could have instead pursued administrative remedies under Civil Service law.
What the ultimate legal fate of the federal employee vaccine mandate will be remains to be seen. It could wind up before the Supreme Court, but in the meantime, the White House has said that the vast majority of federal employees are in compliance with the mandate, having either had the required number of vaccinations or have exemption requests that are either approved or pending.