Today, The Bopp Law Firm, on behalf of The IU Family for Choice, not Mandates, filed a public records request with Indiana University to learn how and why IU came to the decision to require all faculty, staff, and students to receive a COVID-19 vaccine before the fall 2021 semester begins. This request for official documents will allow Hoosiers to get a clear picture of how the IU administration decided and will implement a vaccine mandate for all of their campuses.
On May 21, 2021 IU sent out an email to all faculty, staff, and students announcing that all of them will be required to receive a COVID-19 vaccine by August 15 or upon return to any IU campus after August 1, whichever happens to be later. Any employee of IU who refuses to take the vaccine will be terminated, there are no exemptions to this policy. The mandate gives a few stringent exemptions to students who can refuse the vaccine only on legally protected religious grounds or if they have a documented medical exemption. Those who have already been infected with the COVID-19 virus are not exempt, even though they are now naturally immune to the virus.
Any student who chooses to refuse the vaccine under either the religious or medical exemption will be subject to “class registration cancelled, CrimsonCard access terminated, access to IU systems (Canvas, email, etc.) terminated, and [they] will not be allowed to participate in any on campus activity.”
Essentially, this is a different standard of treatment for students who choose not to take the COVID-19 vaccine. In doing so, IU is discriminating against students' religious beliefs in a thinly-veiled violation of a person's First Amendment right to freedom of religion. Indiana University is a public university and is barred by the Constitution and the Bill of Rights from discriminating on the basis of religion.
James Bopp, Jr. of The Bopp Law Firm, P.C. and counsel for The IU Family for Choice, not Mandates, stated that it is “completely unconstitutional for any governmental body to inquire into anyone's religious beliefs . . . . The only thing the government can do when someone asserts a religious belief is to honor it. They don't have a choice. It's unconstitutional for the government to judge whether or not a particular religious belief is suitable, appropriate, quote legitimate unquote.”*
Furthermore, the public records will allow The Bopp Law Firm to evaluate whether the vaccination mandate is justified. Currently, the rate of survival for those infected with COVID-19 is 99.8% globally and 99.97% under age 70.** IU is therefore treating its students much more harshly than the general public, even though students have a very low risk of death from COVID-19 infection and one much lower that the general public. The public records will help The Bopp Law Firm evaluate if this harsh treatment is justified.
Furthermore, there are known risks with taking the COVID-19 vaccinations that need to be balanced with the risks of COVID-19 infections to students. The public records will help The Bopp Law Firm evaluate whether these risks were adequately taken into account.
IU's mandate has already drawn criticism from state officials such as Indiana's Attorney General Todd Rokita. Attorney General Rokita noted that IU's mandate is in violation of a new law that bans vaccine passports and similar proof of vaccination requirements. This mandate “unquestionably violates the new law by requiring its students, faculty, and staff to show proof of immunization as a condition of continued attendance or employment,” said Rokita in an official opinion requested by two state legislators.***
View the public records request here.
View the IU mandate email to students here