Let me first inform you that the WMU athlete’s attorney from the Great Lakes Justice Center (GLJC) will be on my radio show today at 9:32 am est to discuss this latest ruling in their case.  If you are unable to hear him live you can always hear my show via Radio on Demand (podcast).

Last August I informed of the four Western Michigan University student-athletes who asked the Great Lakes Justice Center (GLJC) to bring a federal civil rights lawsuit against their University on their behalf.  These four athletes are all on scholarship on Western’s soccer team and they believe that WMU violated their religious rights.

Here is what was going on.  WMU is mandating that all of their student-athletes receive a Covid-19 vaccine.  If they refuse to get the jab, as they call it, they will be kicked off of their team.  A press release from the Great Lakes Justice Center states that the athletes were allowed to request a religious accommodation starting on August 24, 2021, which all four students did take advantage of.  Once they filed their request all four of them were denied that exemption two days later.  WMU gave them until Tuesday, August 31st to get the Covid-19 Vaccine or they will be thrown off their team.

After these initial four WMU athletes stepped up another 12 joined them.

Now let’s skip ahead to September 9th and another press release from Great Lakes Justice Center that informed us that:

“Federal District Court Judge Paul L. Maloney issued a ruling from the bench this afternoon granting sixteen WMU athletes the right to continue to compete and participate in intercollegiate athletics until further order of the Court. Judge Maloney extended the Temporary Restraining Order (TRO) effective today until he issues an opinion and order to convert the TRO into a Preliminary Injunction…  The Preliminary Injunction stops WMU from banning any of the sixteen athletes from participating in intercollegiate sports due to their religious conscience objections to the Covid-19 vaccine.”

Now we come to yesterday October 7th where we were informed once again via a press release from Great Lakes Justice Center that:

“Federal District Court Judge Paul L. Maloney’s Preliminary Injunction allowing sixteen athletes at Western Michigan University (WMU) to continue playing intercollegiate sports despite refusing a Covid-19 vaccine shot mandated by WMU was upheld today in a unanimous, published decision by the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals. Appellate Judges Ralph B. Guy, Jr., David W. McKeague, and Chad A. Readler, issued a published opinion that WMU violated the athletes’ First Amendment rights by denying their requests for a religious exemption from the mandate. This decision is now binding precedent in Michigan, Ohio, Kentucky, and Tennessee”

Did you catch that last line, this preliminary injunction is not just for WMU or Michigan is now binding also in Ohio, Kentucky, and Tennessee.  That is a big win for many athletes who feel their religious rights were being infringed upon.  Keep in mind we are told the Covid-19 vaccine works thus anyone who is concerned about catching Covid from an unvaccinated person only has to get vaccinated to address that concern.

In a 3-0 opinion the court stated:

“We do not doubt (WMU’s) good faith, nor do we fail to appreciate the burdens COVID-19 has placed on this nation’s universities. … But having announced a system under which student-athletes can seek individualized exemptions, the university must explain why it chose not to grant any to plaintiffs. And it did not fairly do so here”

The court said that they believe these athletes would likely prevail on their constitutional argument if WMU pursues a full-fledged appeal.  Western Michigan University has argued that their vaccination policy is what they considered neutral toward religion.

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