Over the last several weeks, courts across America have gradually and methodically reviewed — and ultimately rejected — federally imposed vaccine mandates. From President Biden’s attempted takeover of private businesses through OSHA to a requirement for federal employees to be vaccinated, courts are finally awakening from the COVID-induced fever dream that the God-given rights of mankind can be disregarded in an “emergency.”
Just last week, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit reiterated that religious Americans can’t be forced to abandon their consciences in order to preserve their livelihood.
After years of watching federal judges insert their personal political agendas into their decisions, we finally have judges with the acumen — and courage — to ignore political forces and adhere to the bedrock principle of America’s constitutional republic that government, including the judicial branch, exists solely for the protection of the liberty endowed to us by our Creator.
In last week’s decision in Sambrano v. United Airlines, two judges, Jennifer Elrod ad Andrew Oldham, added to their list of decisions that expound upon the once- obvious, now-revolutionary notion that the natural right of conscience is protected by federal law. The case surrounded a mandate where United Airlines gave their employees a “choice”: receive the COVID-19 vaccine or be placed on indefinite, unpaid leave. Several employees seeking a religious exemption from the vaccine sued. A lower court refused to issue a preliminary injunction, but the 5th Circuit came to a different conclusion.
Judges Elrod and Oldham determined that the “accommodation” offered by United, no pay for perhaps months, or years, was no accommodation at all, and actually placed the employees in a perpetual, purgatorial crisis of conscience.
In other words, the judges found that essentially losing your job because of your religious convictions is harmful — and illegal.
Cue the predictable left-wing hysterics. Since many on the left consider that history began with the election of Barak Obama, Donald Trump is therefore history’s most notorious villain. It follows then that referring to a judge as “Trump appointed, Trumpist, or Trumpy” is the ultimate insult. Throw in for good measure an illuminati-esque conspiracy theory pointed at the Federalist Society and one is justified in calling for “consequences” for judges whose rulings stand as a defensive bulwark for those who dissent from cultural orthodoxy and the forced march toward liberal utopia.
Of course, even among textualist, originalist or conservative jurists there should be room for the inevitable disagreement on the means and methodology of protecting the right of conscience. Tragically, Judge Jerry Smith, the third judge on the 5th Circuit’s panel, decided to rely as much on hyperbole in his dissent as the law. Safely ensconced in lifetime tenure, he demonstrated no empathy for those deprived of their means of providing for their families and contempt for those who do, namely Elrod and Oldham. Such a diatribe against his colleagues does not belong in the record of the case and calls into question whether he still possesses the oft-vaunted judicial temperament we hear so much about in judicial confirmation hearings.
Unfortunately, this isn’t the first time Smith has shown an aversion to protecting religious liberty. In 2015, he voted for another federal mandate that forced religiously affiliated organizations to provide abortion-inducing drugs under the Affordable Care Act. No accommodation. No protection. Four of Smith’s fellow judges disagreed, saying the case went to the “heart of religious liberty” and that the decision to discard that liberty was “tragic.”
Thankfully for the employees victimized by United Airlines, Smith’s unwillingness to protect a fundamental freedom when doing so becomes unpopular did not carry the day. Judges Elrod and Oldham did. These judges call to mind the exhortation found in The Bible According to Mark Twain:
“Let men label you as they may, if you alone of all the nation decide one way, and that way be the right way by your convictions of the right, you have done your duty by yourself and by your country, hold up your head for you have nothing to be ashamed of. It doesn’t matter what the press says. It doesn’t matter what the politicians or the mobs say. It doesn’t matter if the whole country decides that something wrong is something right. Republics are founded on one principle above all else: The requirement that we stand up for what we believe in no matter the odds or consequences. When the mob and the press and the whole world tell you to move, your job is to plant yourself like a tree beside the river of truth and tell the whole world: ‘No. You move’”