Oklahoma court blocks hospital system from firing workers seeking religious exemption from vaccine

The Oklahoma attorney general said employees requesting religious exemptions from the COVID-19 vaccine mandate were unlawfully denied.

Updated: November 14, 2021 - 8:34pm

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A Tulsa, Okla., judge granted the state attorney general's request for a temporary restraining order blocking Ascension Healthcare from firing employees who had been denied religious exemptions from the hospital system's COVID-19 mandate.

The restraining order was granted late Friday, Oklahoma Attorney General John O'Connor's office said, according to The Epoch Times.

"This evening, the Tulsa District Court granted the State's Application for Temporary Restraining Order in our case to keep Ascension Healthcare from carrying out its plan to fire employees who were unfairly denied religious exemptions from their nationwide COVID-19 vaccination mandate," the Republican state attorney general said in a statement. "This is a win for religious freedom and our office will continue to fight against unlawful religious discrimination."

"Healthcare heroes who sought a religious exemption on this and other sincerely held religious belief grounds have been flatly rejected by Ascension," O'Connor continued. "In so doing, Ascension committed religious discrimination against Oklahoma healthcare heroes who oppose abortion."

The healthcare system operates in 19 states and Washington, D.C., and is based in St. Louis, Mo. In July, it announced that its employees must be vaccinated by Nov. 12 or be fired, The Times reported.

Ascension released a statement to media outlets saying that it mandated the COVID-19 vaccine because "we want patients to be assured and comforted with the knowledge that our doctors and nurses, other clinicians and associates, working in one of our hospitals or other sites of care, will either be vaccinated against both COVID-19 and influenza."

Employees at Ascension protested outside Ascension St. John's last week over the vaccine mandate.

"I applied for a religious exemption, I was denied," Lisa Johnson, who has been a nurse at St. John's for 13 years, told local ABC affiliate KTUL. "I appealed the religious exemption denial and was denied a second time. We were pretty much told that if we were not compliant by the end of our work shift today we would be suspended."

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