SCOTUS Ruling on Vaccine Mandate a Vindication for Religious Liberty, Mohler says

Communications Staff — January 13, 2022

Thursday’s decision by the Supreme Court of the United States to block the Biden administration’s COVID-19 vaccine mandate for businesses was a major victory for religious liberty and the rule of law, Southern Seminary President R. Albert Mohler said.

The nation’s highest court ruled that the Biden administration does not have the authority through the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) to force all employers with more than 100 employees to require vaccination or weekly testing of all employees.

“We are very thankful for this ruling by the United States Supreme Court,” Mohler said. “This is a vindication of our cause from the very beginning. The issue here is not the vaccine, but the attempt by the Biden administration to turn employers, including religious employers, into extensions of the administrative state. It was vital that the Supreme Court preclude a federal agency such as OSHA from coercing religious employers into violating their conscience and that of employees who may be divided over the question of vaccines on convictional grounds.

“This is a victory for the United States Constitution, for the rule of law, and for religious liberty, and for that I am very thankful. The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary entered into legal action against the Biden administration as an act of conscience, conviction, and constitutional concern, and we are very thankful for the court’s announcement today.”

Last fall, Southern Seminary—along with Asbury Theological Seminary—secured the services of Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) to sue OSHA and seek a stay from the court in order to block its enforcement. Southern’s board of trustees unanimously approved the seminary’s actions at the fall trustee meeting.

Southern Seminary has encouraged faculty, staff, and students to be vaccinated, but Mohler argued that Biden’s mandate is an intrusion into the life of a Christian institution — one that changes the relationship between employee and employer and that allows for no understanding of the religious conscience issues at stake.

“As soon as we saw how the vaccine mandate was constructed, we recognized that compliance would mean that Southern Seminary would be turned into an extension of the administrative state,” Mohler said. “A regulatory agency would be using Southern Seminary as an employer for its own purposes. Furthermore, the administration was clear that this was a ‘workaround’, and it was clearly unconstitutional in its structure and the process that brought it about.

“The most urgent issue was religious liberty, since we are a theological seminary. Within the churches we serve are millions of Southern Baptists who have various positions on the vaccines themselves. It is wrong for Southern Seminary to be put into the position of violating the conscience of some of our own church members and employees.

“The issue here was never the vaccine itself. Southern Seminary has encouraged our students, faculty, and administrators to get vaccinated, but a mandate is categorically different and morally wrong. Southern Seminary was determined to file this suit because basic constitutional liberties were at stake and our purpose was to guard the integrity of our own operation as a Christian institution and to respect the consciences of our own employees.”

The Court’s ruling was a stay to keep the mandate from going into effect right now. The disposition of the consolidated suits regarding the merits of the mandate has now been sent to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit.

Mohler said the seminary is in good hands with ADF.

“We turned to the Alliance Defending Freedom for assistance because I have long respected their stellar work defending religious liberty and I have worked with them for years seeking to preserve, protect, and defend religious liberty and the freedom of both Christians and Christian institutions to live and operate by conscience. I greatly appreciate the incredibly good work of the Alliance Defending Freedom in this case and in this cause.”

ADF senior counsel Ryan Bangert said the vaccine mandate is yet another illustration of dangerous government intrusion into the private lives of citizens.

“Sadly, mandating vaccines through an OSHA emergency rule is yet another example of government overreach,” Bangert said. “Now that the Supreme Court has stayed the mandate, we look forward to pressing forward with our substantive litigation on behalf of the clients we represent in the consolidated cases challenging the mandate at the Sixth Circuit.”

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