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New Yorkers Sue Again to Repeal the Key to NYC Mandate

A group of New Yorkers filed suit against New York Mayor Eric Adams and his Commissioner of Health, demanding a repeal of the “Key to NYC” mandate. They claim that the COVID-era policy is discriminatory and unconstitutional. Their attorneys filed a federal lawsuit on February 7 in New York’s United States District Court for the Eastern District of New York, alleging an “unprecedented abuse of power.” The complaint labels the “Key to NYC” as a “reckless, ill-conceived government policy that ignores sound medical science and the principle of informed consent to medical treatment.”

The “Key to NYC” executive order, issued by former mayor Bill de Blasio in September 2021, mandates that guests and workers must show proof of vaccination in order to enter indoor dining, exercise and fitness establishments. Staff at these facilities must deny indoor entry to any employee or customer who does not show proof of COVID vaccination.

The 18 plaintiffs, three of whom sue also on behalf of their minor children, decline on religious grounds to be injected, or to have their minor children injected, with any of the available COVID-19 vaccines. The plaintiffs, the majority of whom are Orthodox Jews, claim that the vaccines are connected to cell lines taken from aborted fetuses, among other objections.

The suit details violations of the First, Fifth, and Fourteenth Amendments to the United States Constitution by Adams, Health Commissioner Dr. Dave Chokshi and incoming Health Commissioner Dr. Ashwin Vasan. The 98-page Verified Complaint, Jane Doe 1, et al. v. Eric Adams, Mayor of the City of New York et al. can be reviewed here.

“The intention and effect of  ‘Key to NYC’ is to create a two-tiered society in the City of New York, in which those who decline to be vaccinated against COVID-19 will be reduced to the status of second-class citizens, deprived of normal social life until they consent to injection,” charged Christopher Ferrara, Special Counsel for the Thomas More Society. “Nothing like this has ever been seen in the history of country. Tyranny in the name of COVID here reaches a new level.”

The “Key to NYC” does not permit any medical or religious exemption to its exclusion of the unvaccinated and imposes escalating fines on “any person or entity who is determined to have violated the requirements of the Key to NYC program.” Ferrara noted that the ‘Key to NYC’ is riddled with exemptions for favored groups and activities, including visiting entertainers, professional athletes and their entourages. “After all, the privileged vaccinated class cannot be deprived of their entertainment” said Ferrara. “Yet these plaintiffs are deprived of basic human rights merely because they decline to be injected with vaccines that do not even prevent transmission of the virus.”

According to Ferrara, the “Key to NYC” undermines at every turn the stated government interest in limiting the spread of COVID-19. “The ‘Key to NYC’ regime is not only unconstitutional, but utterly senseless from a public health perspective” declared Ferrara. “Millions of the vaccinated are allowed to spread the virus, but a few religious objectors to vaccination are virtually ghettoized. The only purpose of this tyrannical regime is vindictive punishment of the unvaccinated by depriving them of numerous aspects of social life, which ‘Key to NYC’ calls ‘incentivizing.’”

“Never in the history of this country, nor in the history of pandemics generally, has any government declared an entire class of citizens personae non gratae based on refusal to be vaccinated,” said Ferrara, “much less with vaccines now known to be ineffective at preventing transmission of a communicable disease and to be unnecessary for children, who have an infinitesimal risk of death from COVID-19. What we see here is the sad corruption of public health policy by power politics.”

In a previous challenge, federal judge in October 2022 ruled against a lawsuit charging that then-Mayor Bill de Blasio’s Key to NYC vaccine mandate was racially biased. By doing so, he established a status quo for the mayor’s emergency executive order, promulgated in September.