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Judge calls Michigan State University’s COVID-19 vaccine mandate ‘rational’

Michigan State University
A Western District of Michigan judge dismissed a lawsuit against Michigan State University’s vaccine mandate, calling it ‘plainly rational.’

LANSING — A federal judge on Wednesday dismissed a lawsuit seeking to overturn Michigan State University’s COVID-19 vaccine mandate.

Judge Paul Maloney of the United States District Court for the Western District of Michigan said in his ruling that the university’s goal of requiring the vaccine to protect its students and staff from the pandemic was “plainly rational.”

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“Since the implementation of COVID vaccine mandates at colleges and universities across the United States, courts in numerous jurisdictions have heard challenges to these mandates,” the ruling states.

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The courts have “overwhelmingly … denied the plaintiffs’ injunctive relief requests and have upheld the generally applicable policies,” it said.

MSU, the largest college in Michigan with an enrollment of about 38,000,  requires all its faculty, staff and students to be fully vaccinated or obtain an approved exemption, adding that already having COVID-19 does not count as an exemption. 

The vaccine ruling, along with a mask mandate, “created a safer community for our students, faculty and staff to live, work and learn with fewer cases than the communities around us,” MSU said in an email to students and staff in December. 

MSU did not immediately respond to Bridge Michigan’s request for comment on the ruling. 

Over 1,000 colleges and universities in the U.S. require their staff, faculty and students to be fully vaccinated in order to be on campus. Medical exemptions to the vaccines are allowed by law and some universities also allow for religious exemptions. 

According to Paul’s ruling, the burden was on the plaintiff to prove the mandate was not tied to a legitimate government concern. 

The lawsuit was filed in August 2021 by former MSU faculty members who did not want to get the COVID-19 vaccine. According to the lawsuit, some plaintiffs claim the university’s policy harmed them because they were fired for refusing to get the vaccine. 

Plaintiffs in the case believe the mandate is unnecessary for those who already got COVID 19 and are “naturally immune.”

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New Civil Liberties Alliance, a Washington, D.C.-based nonprofit civil rights group that is known for challenging COVID regulations and is representing the plaintiffs in the case, said it will appeal the ruling in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit. 

“NCLA is disappointed that the district court granted MSU’s motion to dismiss,” said NCLA attorney Jenin Younes. “We understand that the court believed it had no choice given the prevailing case law. 

“However, contrary to the judge’s opinion, a higher level of review is warranted.”

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