A Catholic university is refusing to issue its own students religious exemptions for the Covid vaccine. Creighton University in Nebraska is now being sued for violations of religious freedoms.
The lawsuit was brought against Creighton by four female students who report that they received “arbitrary and disparate treatment” because of their religious objections to COVID-19 vaccination. Specifically, the women argued that the vaccines were developed or tested using abortion-derived fetal cell lines, which went against their Christian beliefs.
Among the four students, which the Associated Press labeled as “anti-abortion”, is Lauren Ramaekers, the president of campus group Creighton Students for Life. The senior student stated that as part of her Catholic faith, she believes that abortion is an “intrinsic evil” and that even “remote cooperation” with abortion would violate her conscience.
“The use of fetal tissue, fetal cells, or any product of abortion in the development or testing of a vaccine or any medical treatment, is abhorrent to me,” Ramaekers wrote. “This is a sincerely held religious belief, which impacts my moral and ethical views of the world.”
Creighton announced in July that all students must receive COVID-19 vaccines in order to register for and attend classes, warning that it would unenroll anyone who failed to show proof of vaccination by a Sept. 7 deadline. According to a report by student newspaper The Creightonian, more than 93 percent of the university’s 9,000 students had already been vaccinated by the end of August.
The university initially offered a medical exemption and a temporary exemption while the vaccines were under emergency use authorization from the federal government. Ramaekers was given a temporary exemption, which expired on Aug. 23, when the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine received a formal federal approval. No religious exemptions have been offered to students.
Ramaekers, who planned to graduate this December, said as of Sept. 10, she has been banned from entering the campus or registering for fall classes. She and the other three students are seeking a court order that would have them re-enrolled or reinstated.
The student plaintiffs are represented by attorney Robert M. Sullivan, who sent a letter to Creighton President Rev. Daniel S. Hendrickson on Sept. 2, asking the university to allow his clients to continue their education without having to violate their own consciences. Sullivan said he didn’t receive a response to that letter.
According to Sullivan, the Jesuit university’s “rigid and intolerant approach” to unvaccinated students “came as a great surprise to many.”
“The hope is that educational institutions and others in positions of authority will come to appreciate the fact that it is better to educate and encourage than to force compliance,” Sullivan said. “This is especially true when those who are not in a position of authority have serious and deeply held conscientious objections, and when those in authority refuse to listen and consider alternative approaches.”