Western Michigan Settles With Athletes Over Vaccine Mandate

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In an agreement filed in court Monday, Western Michigan University and 16 WSU athletes allowed U.S. District Judge Paul Maloney to enter a permanent injunction against Western's vaccination requirements for the athletes, according to a statement from the athlete's attorney as reported by The Detroit News.

The athletes had sought a vaccine exemption on religious grounds but were ignored or denied their requests, prompting the lawsuit. The athletes had argued they are “devoted Christian people” who believe that the Bible and their faith preclude them from getting a COVID-19 shot.

Western Michigan had argued that its vaccination policy is neutral toward religion. The school said athletes who seek a religious exemption are barred from competing but still are members of a team and can keep their scholarship.

Maloney previously entered a preliminary or temporary injunction on behalf of the athletes that was upheld unanimously by the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals. Under the agreement, the students would have to continue complying with testing and masking requirements. The university also agreed to pay the athletes' $34,617 in legal fees.

"The university wishes the student athletes well in their academic and athletic careers, and the student athletes are excited to continue their academic and athletic careers at WMU," a joint statement said from the university and the Great Lakes Justice Center, which represented the athletes. David Kallman, senior counsel for the Great Lakes Justice Center, added in a written statement, "We are pleased that WMU has agreed to resolve this matter, that our clients’ religious convictions were vindicated, and that they can continue to be part of their teams, be with their teammates, and compete for WMU at the highest level in a safe manner."

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