Via America’s Lawyer: There’s a legal tug-of-war over vaccine mandates – especially for students preparing to return to school in the fall. RT correspondent Brigida Santos joins Mike Papantonio to explain how the Supreme Court is backing away from ruling on COVID-19 vaccination requirements. Meanwhile, the CDC has already mandated a wide array of vaccinations for public schools across the U.S.


*This transcript was generated by a third-party transcription software company, so please excuse any typos.

Mike Papantonio:             Supreme Court justice Amy Coney Barrett has refused to block a plan by Indiana University to require students and employees to get vaccinated against the Coronavirus, to attend classes or keep their job. Brigida Santos joins me now to talk about the details. Brigida, first off, break down justice Barrett’s decision for us if you would.

Brigida Santos:                   Associate justice Barrett handles emergency cases for the US court of appeals seventh circuit, which includes Indiana. Now she acted on her own in rejecting a plea from eight students seeking exemption from Indiana University’s COVID vaccine mandates. The students claimed they have a constitutional right to bodily autonomy and of medical treatment choice. Justice Barrett did not offer an explanation for her decision not to refer the case to the full nine justice court, but throughout history, state Supreme Courts and lower federal courts have consistently upheld vaccination mandates as a condition of school attendance or job employment. So far the US Supreme Court has declined to interfere with those decisions as we’ve just seen again here in the case of Indiana University.

Mike Papantonio:             Yeah. I don’t think there’s any earth shattering qualities about this opinion. She’s just relied on a lot of precedent for making this kind of decision. Vaccine mandates aren’t new. Where have they been implemented? We time after time, we’ve seen them implemented into, there’s some suggestion that she, she did something untoward here. No, she didn’t. She followed the precedent that’s been out there long time. What’s your take?

Brigida Santos:                   Absolutely. Today, all US states and territories have vaccination requirements for children to attend schools and childcare facilities. Most schools require vaccines for things like measles, polio, chicken pox, meningitis and whooping cough, and these requirements are legal. Nearly 100 years ago, the Supreme Court issued a landmark ruling in Jacobson versus Massachusetts upholding the right of states to compel vaccination as a reasonable exercise of police power to ensure public health. Back then the court rejected the idea of a personal choice exemption ruling that vaccine mandates do not violate the 14th amendment because the constitution doesn’t give every person the absolute right to be wholly free from restraint at all times, especially when it comes to the safety of society.

Mike Papantonio:             Yeah, you got that right on the head. I mean, it was just a perfect analysis of what the law, how it’s developed and where we are today. What did the courts say about religious exemptions from vaccination requirements?

Brigida Santos:                   The US Supreme Court has yet to directly address whether a person has a constitutional right to refuse vaccination on religious grounds, but rulings in other SCOTUS cases provide clues as to how it could rule in the future if it chooses to finally hear a relevant case. For example, in 1944, SCOTUS heard a case involving child labor under an asserted right of religious freedom. The court ruled that neither the rights of religion or parenthood are beyond limitation and that the state can restrict parents’ control by prohibiting child labor, requiring school attendance and other things. It gave the example that a parent cannot claim freedom from compulsory vaccination for a child on religious grounds, because the right to practice religion freely does not include liberty to expose the community or a child to communicable disease, ill health, or death. That being said, today 48 states do allow religious exemptions by statute, and the courts are mixed over whether states can actually do so.

Mike Papantonio:             Brigida, I get, as I listened to you, it’s as if you were in constitutional law classes with me, that was a perfect evaluation of where we are on vaccinations. Very nice recap there. Very nice job. Thank you for joining me. Okay.

Brigida Santos:                   Anytime, Mike.

Mike Papantonio is an American attorney and television and radio talk show host. He is past president of The National Trial Lawyers, the most prestigious trial lawyer association in America; and is one of the few living attorneys inducted into the Trial Lawyer Hall of Fame. He hosts the international television show "America's Lawyer"; and co-hosts Ring of Fire Radio, a nationally syndicated weekly radio program, with Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. and Sam Seder.