Maricopa Community Colleges Honors Nursing Students COVID Vaccine Religious Exemptions Following Court Order

Maricopa Community Colleges Honors Nursing Students COVID Vaccine Religious Exemptions Following Court Order

By Corinne Murdock |

After a court ruling against them earlier this month, Maricopa County Community College District (MCCCD) honored the religious exemptions of two students who objected to the use of fetal cell lines to develop, test, and produce the COVID-19 vaccine. The two nursing students, Emily Thoms and Kamaleilani Moreno, were needing to complete clinical rotations to finish their final semester of MCCCD’s nursing program. Thoms and Moreno were given their requested 36 hours of capstone experience in clinical care, scheduled to begin and end in time for their expected graduation date next month.

In court, MCCCD argued that a blanket rejection of religious exemptions was necessary for their nursing program due to the vaccination requirement of some of their clinical partners and their program’s random assignment of clinical rotations. U.S. District Judge Steven Logan rejected that rationale based on the arguments of Thoms and Moreno: their lawyer pointed out that MCCCD gave similar accommodations to other students for both religious and non-religious reasons.

Logan asserted that Arizona’s Free Exercise of Religion Act (FERA) was enacted to prevent the very choice that MCCCD was forcing Thoms and Moreno to make.

The burden imposed here by denying Plaintiffs their nursing degrees […] cannot be characterized as ‘trivial, technical, or de minimis.’ […] By denying Plaintiffs their nursing degrees, Defendant prevents them from becoming licensed and employed as nurses. They will be unable to join the profession to which they have devoted themselves for the past two years. Given the time and money that Plaintiffs have invested in their nursing education, Defendant’s Policy undoubtedly places substantial pressure on them to modify their behavior in violation of their beliefs. Plaintiffs are faced with the choice of, on the one hand, compromising their religious beliefs to complete their clinicals and graduate as expected […] or, on the other, adhering to their beliefs and giving up the nursing degrees to which they are otherwise entitled and all their associated benefits for the indefinite future.

Another argument MCCCD presented was the claim that Thoms and Moreno were only facing a temporary delay, not complete removal from the program. However, they couldn’t guarantee when, if ever, Thoms and Moreno could complete the program. The ability for Thoms and Moreno to finish relied on clinical placement with a partner that didn’t require vaccination: a future contingency which MCCCD couldn’t guarantee completely. Logan asserted that MCCCD’s inability to decisively ensure completion of the program wasn’t a “mere delay.”

“It is difficult to characterize these circumstances as a mere delay when there is no clear end date when the Plaintiffs will be able to graduate,” ruled Logan.

MCCCD’s prompt compliance with the court order was likely influenced in part by the language of Logan’s ruling. The judge asserted that the harm Thoms and Kamaleilani would’ve experienced under MCCCD would constitute “an injury of the highest order” pertaining to the Constitution’s religious freedoms.

“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.”

Logan heard the case last month, and issued a preliminary injunction against MCCCD that same week. Logan’s order is reproduced below:

The Court enters a preliminary injunction as follows: 1. Defendant is preliminarily enjoined from enforcing against Plaintiffs its requirements that nursing students satisfy the vaccination policies of their assigned clinical partners and that nursing students must complete their assigned in-person clinical rotations in order to complete their academic programs. 2. Defendants shall make available to Plaintiffs a suitable accommodation that will allow Plaintiffs to satisfy the clinical components of their coursework and complete their academic programs as scheduled in December 2021. IT IS FURTHER ORDERED that the Court exercises its discretion and waives the requirement of a security bond accompanying this preliminary injunction.

Corinne Murdock is a reporter for AZ Free News. Follow her latest on Twitter, or email tips to corinne@azfreenews.com.

Maricopa Community Colleges Must Honor Nursing Students’ Religious Exemption For COVID-19 Vaccine

Maricopa Community Colleges Must Honor Nursing Students’ Religious Exemption For COVID-19 Vaccine

By Corinne Murdock |

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!

https://www.facebook.com/kathleen.winn.3/posts/10221348773895842

Corinne Murdock is a reporter for AZ Free News. Follow her latest on Twitter, or email tips to corinne@azfreenews.com.

Phoenix Nursing Students Say Vaccine Mandate Violates Faith in Ongoing Lawsuit

Phoenix Nursing Students Say Vaccine Mandate Violates Faith in Ongoing Lawsuit

By Corinne Murdock |

Two nursing students, Emily Thoms and Kamaleilani Moreno, are fighting for their religious freedom in the face of Maricopa County Community College District’s (MCCCD) vaccine mandate. The district is mandating vaccines to accommodate the requirements of those health care providers per their partnership agreements. Both Thoms and Moreno were denied religious exemptions – an objection to the use of fetal cell lines to either test or produce the COVID-19 vaccines in the market currently – because doing so would place “an undue hardship” on MCCCD. Thoms and Moreno must either get vaccinated and violate their religious beliefs, or effectively never complete their nursing program with MCCCD.

“The pressure the District has placed on [the plaintiffs] to forfeit their religious convictions or their academic programs is unreal and unprecedented and more than some of them could withstand, as the District fully expected. They have figuratively walked through fire and wait just beyond the flames to see if everything they have worked for will go up in smoke because they refuse to sacrifice their sincerely held religious beliefs to mollify an uncompromising District,” asserted the complaint. “[The plaintiffs] oppose abortion and believe it is the sinful killing of innocents and strictly prohibited by their Christian faith, as is the use of abortion-derived fetal cell lines for medical or research purposes. It would be an unthinkable and complicit act in abortion and a violation of their deeply held religious beliefs and moral consciences to take any of the COVID-19 vaccines, given their use of testing.”

In a separate explanation of their vaccine mandate, MCCCD said their decision was supported previously by an executive order issued by Governor Doug Ducey last year. The district did promise that it would review all religious and disability accommodations, noting that each partnered health care provider had their own procedures for religious and disability accommodations. However, even with an approved exemption, MCCCD disclosed that it couldn’t guarantee clinical placement that may result in removal from the course.

MCCCD’s characterization of having its hands tied when it comes to vaccine requirements for clinical placements may not be entirely accurate. According to the complaint, MCCCD did confirm with Thoms and Moreno that at least three health care centers do allow for unvaccinated students without exemptions to participate in clinical rotations, at least two health care centers allow unvaccinated students based on religious or other exemptions to participate in clinical rotations, at least one health care center allows MCCCD to determine whether or not students must be vaccinated, and at least one health care center hasn’t issued an official vaccination requirement for clinical rotations. In total, the complaint alleged that MCCCD didn’t know the vaccination requirements for 28 of its 36 major clinical partners – not including their affiliates.

According to the complaint, MCCCD alleged that their sweeping vaccine mandate was necessary because they randomly assign clinical placements and a student might end up at a partnering health care center that requires universal COVID-19 vaccination. Thoms and Moreno’s attorney, Colleen Auer, asserted in the complaint that this was false. She noted that students may pick their top three clinical site preferences and MCCCD assigns based on those selections.

Noncompliance with the mandate will cost Thoms and Moreno several years of time, money, and sacrifices they’ve invested into the program. In several weeks, they will be dropped from their clinical rotations and prevented from receiving their associate’s degree in nursing in December.

U.S. District Judge Steven Paul Logan is scheduled to hear the case on Monday: a week before MCCCD’s fall clinical rotations begin and the deadline for showing proof of vaccination, November 8. That’s also the date that the Biden Administration suggested for compliance with their vaccine mandate.

The Office of Personnel Management informed federal employees and companies with over 100 workers that the second dosage of either the Pfizer or Moderna vaccines, or the first dosage of the Johnson & Johnson/Janssen vaccine, must occur on or before November 8 for full compliance.

Corinne Murdock is a reporter for AZ Free News. Follow her latest on Twitter, or email tips to corinne@azfreenews.com.

Maricopa Community Colleges Defying State Law Pushing CRT

Maricopa Community Colleges Defying State Law Pushing CRT

By the Free Enterprise Club |

They went from denying Critical Race Theory exists, to denying it is taught in schools and universities, then claiming it is exclusively researched in law schools, suing parents requesting access to their child’s curriculum, to now just openly defying new laws prohibiting CRT to continue indoctrinating and propagandizing students with anti-white bigotry.

But around the country, citizens have stepped up to push against schools, school boards, universities, and government agencies pushing CRT. State legislatures have stepped up too. In Arizona, Republicans successfully passed, and the Governor signed, two bills prohibiting this ideology.

HB2906, sponsored by Representative Jake Hoffman, prohibits any government agency or political subdivision of the state from expending public monies for or requiring as training anything that presents any blame or judgement on the basis of race, sex or ethnicity. Additionally, in the K-12 budget, HB2898, are provisions to prohibit the same CRT tenets in K-12 schools and comes with teeth for enforcement: $5,000 fines for schools in violation and up to the suspension or revocation of teaching licenses.

Nevertheless, Maricopa Community Colleges has decided to openly defy these new laws and push forward with “Cultural Humility and Equity Office Hours” that reportedly run through the end of 2022. While advertised as optional, board member Kathleen Winn expressed that it is essentially a requirement…

>> READ MORE >>>

Maricopa College District’s Academic Freedom Pledge And Payout Settles Professor’s Claims

Maricopa College District’s Academic Freedom Pledge And Payout Settles Professor’s Claims

By Terri Jo Neff |

The Maricopa County Community College District’s (MCCCD) decision last month to approve a $155,000 settlement to a Scottsdale Community College professor ensures the district, the college, and staff members will not be sued for how they handled an Islamic student’s complaint against the professor.

Nicholas Damask received the payout in response to an October 2020 notice of claim against college officials who publicly criticized the longtime professor’s curriculum in a World Politics course. A notice of claim is mandated by state law before a lawsuit can be initiated against the state or any political subdivision, including boards, commissions, committees, and districts.

Damask has agreed to not make negative statements about District employees nor how they handled the student’s April 2020 complaint about quiz questions related to terrorism and Islam. His attorney was to receive $30,000 of the settlement, public records show.

In a related matter, a federal lawsuit filed by the student in June 2020 against Damask and the District in an effort to stop the professor from teaching about negative aspects of Islam was dismissed by Judge Susan Brnovich of the U.S. District Court. The lawsuit alleged the professor required students to express agreement with anti-Islam views in order to receive a passing grade.

An appeal of the dismissal is pending at the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit. The District has until April 23 to file its response and Damask has a May 21 deadline.

Damask’s initial claim against MCCCD sought $500,000 based on his contention that Scottsdale Community College officials placed the professor’s reputation in question by not doing enough to defend him against the student’s allegations. The claim also cited concerns for the safety of Damask and his family stemming from threats stoked by the controversy.

Within days of the student’s complaint -which was fueled by social media attention- the college president publicly apologized for the professor’s conduct, disparaged the quiz questions, and said Damask would issue an apology.  However, MCCCD Interim Chancellor Steven Gonzales contradicted the college president by issuing an apology to Damask.

Gonzales also bemoaned Scottsdale Community College’s “rush to judgment” undertaken without “full consideration for our professor’s right of academic freedom.”

In response to the student’s complaint, Damask argued that the disputed questions dealt specifically with a section of the coursework about terroristic sects within Islam. Similar sects in other religions were also covered in the class, he said.

One outcome of Damask pushing back on how the student’s complaint was handled is that district officials undertook a review of policies and training for how to respond to such matters. That review led to plans to establish a Committee on Academic Freedom.

The settlement also restates that faculty members will have the freedom to choose the materials they use with a course curriculum.