As  Epoch Times explained, The treatment of United Airlines employee religious objections to covid vaccination triggered a lawsuit, which asked a court to block the mandate for them. But a District judge in November 2021 declined to do so, asserting plaintiffs didn’t prove they would suffer irreparably.

In the new ruling, dated Feb. 17, 2022, two judges on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit overturned the District judge’s opinion. The Appeals Court found that United’s treatment of religious objectors amounted to “coercion” in its opinion.

The court’s ruling was admittedly narrow, with the 5th Circuit Federal Appeals Court specifically  noting the following:

[Emphasis my own] “Plaintiffs are United Airlines employees. United has given them a choice: receive the COVID-19 vaccine or be placed on unpaid leave indefinitely. The question we address here is narrow. If United’s policy is not preliminarily enjoined, are plaintiffs likely to suffer irreparable harm? For the two plaintiffs who received religious exemptions and remain on unpaid leave, we hold that they are. We, therefore, REVERSE the decision of the district court and REMAND for consideration of the other factors courts must evaluate when deciding whether to issue a preliminary injunction  Critically, we do not decide whether United or any other entity may impose a vaccine mandate. Nor do we decide whether plaintiffs are ultimately entitled to a preliminary injunction. The district court denied such an injunction on one narrow ground; we reverse on that one narrow ground and remand for further consideration.”

AP Photo

The Court specifically noted that “United has presented plaintiffs with two options: violate their religious convictions or lose all pay and benefits indefinitely. That is an impossible choice for plaintiffs who want to remain faithful but must put food on the table. In other words, United is actively coercing employees to abandon their convictions,” Circuit Judges Jennifer Walker Elrod, a George W. Bush appointee, and Andy Oldham, a Trump appointee, wrote in the unsigned majority opinion.

As Epoch Times noted, “the judges noted that United CEO Scott Kirby told workers at a town hall that “very few” religious exemption applications would be accepted and that United has asked workers seeking an exemption a number of questions, such as whether they received vaccines in the past created with the help of stem cells.  United’s decision “to coerce the plaintiffs into violating their religious convictions” brings about a harm that “is irreparable and supports a preliminary injunction,” or a ruling that would block the mandate for them while the case is ongoing, the judges said.”

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United Airlines made a statement, according to AP News, that it will keep defending the mandate.  United also indicated that employees who don’t face customers and who can’t or won’t take the vaccine for medical or religious reasons continue to work with masking and testing requirements. Pilots and flight attendants can opt for paid positions that don’t require contact with the public, the statement said.

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