Maricopa County Community College District (MCCCD) may not prohibit nursing students with a religious objection to the COVID-19 vaccine from completing clinical rotations due to being unvaccinated, according to the U.S. District Court for Arizona. U.S. District Judge Steven Logan issued the ruling Friday, as he’d promised at the hearing on Monday. The two plaintiffs – nursing students Emily Thoms and Kamaleilani Moreno – were granted a preliminary injunction against MCCCD’s vaccination requirement. Thoms and Moreno will be able to complete their nursing programs one way or another, whether by accommodation or through regular clinical rotations, by their scheduled graduation date next month.
“Plaintiffs have shown a likelihood of success on the merits of both of their claims, that they are likely to suffer irreparable harm absent injunction, and that the balance of equities and the public interest weigh in their favor,” wrote Logan. “Their case is not doubtful, and the harm that they have alleged – the violation of their constitutional and fundamental right to free exercise – is an injury of the highest order under the Constitution and the law. Such an injury cannot be remedied by damages.”
While MCCCD claimed that they required universal vaccination due to their clinical partners’ requirements, Logan cited evidence given by the plaintiffs to the contrary. This evidence included MCCCD previously providing similar accommodations to other students for both religious and non-religious reasons: simulated clinicals, extra assignments, finding new clinical sites, and swapping assigned clinic sites requiring vaccination with those that didn’t.
Logan did note that Thoms and Moreno hurt their case by framing the lawsuit as a challenge to a “vaccine mandate,” because MCCCD doesn’t define its vaccine requirements as a mandate. For that reason, Logan modified their request for relief.
“The only vaccine mandates in this case belong to Defendant’s clinical partners, who are not parties before the Court. Rather, Defendant’s Policy is a set of requirements that together, when applied to Plaintiffs, are likely to substantially burden Plaintiffs’ right to freely exercise their sincere religious beliefs in violation of FERA and the First Amendment, to cause Plaintiffs irreparable harm, and to go against the public interest,” wrote Logan.
Both Christians, Thoms and Moreno objected to the COVID-19 vaccine due to its reliance on fetal cell lines during its testing, development, and production.
MCCCD Board Member Kathleen Winn criticized the district’s decision to hire a group of attorneys just to fight two nursing students. She also asserted that the nursing department head lied in court.
When this started back in August the administration could have done what this judge ordered us to do here. Instead we hired 5 attorneys to fight against these nursing students who represent thousands more in our state. The head of our nursing department lied in court, was caught and the judge made the best decision for these students allowing them their religious exemptions. If we appeal we are using taxpayers money to do so. Stand with these nursing students…I am proud of them and the moral courage to put it all on the line for the greater good!
PHOENIX — On Friday, Governor Doug Ducey signed legislation sponsored by Rep. Jake Hoffman, HB2906, which prohibits the state and any local governments from requiring their employees to engage in orientation, training or therapy that suggest an employee is inherently racist, sexist or oppressive, whether consciously or unconsciously.
“Critical Race Theory and it’s divisive, bigoted ideas have become a growing problem within Arizona governments,” said Rep Hoffman. “Often times disguised by innocuous sounding terms like “equity,” this Marxism-based movement has crept up in cities and school districts throughout our state including the cities of Phoenix, Tucson, and Flagstaff, among many others. Arizonans rightfully refuse to support racism and this legislation ensures that remains the commitment of our state.”
“I applaud Jake Hoffman and our legislature for taking strong action to stop the insidious, racist ideology packaged under CRT from infecting our government any more than it already has,” said Phoenix City Councilman Sal DiCiccio.
“Phoenix currently has multiple CRT-based programs employees are being subjected to – they won’t call them CRT, they’re smart enough to use generic “equity” language – but that’s exactly what they are,” explained DiCiccio. “Worse, it’s not just employees being indoctrinated with this garbage, multiple programs like our recently passed Climate Action Plan and the Office of Arts and Culture’s Racial Equity Learning Cohort are actively pushing CRT on the public.”
“As educators and citizens concerned with the future of our state, our goal should be to achieve unity and diversity,” said Kathleen Winn Maricopa Community College Governing Board member. “Unity as people with shared dignity, but diversity of thought and beliefs. When you create conflict and try to transform society through bias and hatred you only perpetuate hatred. I am grateful for this legislation crafted and passed in response to the public outcry to end Critical Race Theory.”
Governor Ducey’s signing of HB 2906 follows the signing of HB 2898 last week. That law ensures that students cannot be taught that one race, ethnic group or sex is in any way superior to another, or that anyone should be discriminated against on the basis of these characteristics. The law allows a fine of up to $5,000 for schools that violate the law.
“As a school board member,” said EVIT School Board Member Shelli Boggs. “I have seen firsthand taxpayer funds being spent to train hundreds of board members and staff from across the state on the disgusting racist ideology called Critical Race Theory. I’m glad the legislature put an end to this pervasive abuse of taxpayer money.”
By Kathleen Winn, Maricopa Community College District Governing Board Member |
Arizona’s largest college system is experiencing the effects of Covid. Since last March when the college shut its doors to on campus learning and cancelled all athletic programs the enrollment numbers have significantly changed. Across the district enrollment is down almost 20%. This taxpayer enterprise continues to remain on-line and as we have learned this is not conducive for students who attend community college. At the same time GCU and ASU are getting the benefit as their enrollments are up by 7 to 10 percent.
Ironically, the college campus has allowed thousands of community members on campus to be tested for Covid and now to be vaccinated. One board member had suggested “we let people know they could benefit from taking classes” as they had a captive audience waiting in line. They were told this would be in poor taste. So, the numbers continue to decline.
The Interim Chancellor has made many personal changes and has many interim positions serving as college Presidents. After Maria Harper-Marinick was forced out, Leslie Cooper, and the recent resignations of Provost Karla Fisher and Dr. Larry Johnson from Phoenix College, one might question what all the volatility is about.
Many classes require hands on experience that cannot be accomplished virtually. The choice to stay closed has been a costly one for the district and may cost some their jobs. There have been no layoffs like University of Arizona or ASU. Unbelievably the board gave a COLA raise recently. If it were not for mismanagement, there would be no management at all. As college Presidents make hard decisions, the leadership has not committed to reopening the college.
This week the community college is asking to expand some of their programs to 4 years, a bill that was designed to help the rural colleges (HB2523). If Maricopa cannot serve the community by training a much-needed workforce, does adding more expensive 4-year programs make sense? Until this college is fully operational and can demonstrate stable leadership and better enrollment numbers we may want to wait before asking taxpayers for more money. But while they remain closed you can get a COVID vaccine and that is the only way you can get on a Maricopa Community College campus.
Ms. Winn has extensive experience in public service, devoting much her time to combating a variety of causes including senior abuse, human trafficking, crime, homelessness and substance abuse.