Eight Indiana University
students have filed a lawsuit
against the university over a mandatory coronavirus vaccine
policy, which they claim is unconstitutional and violates a state law prohibiting so-called vaccine passports.
The students claimed in a 55-page complaint filed on Monday that the public university's vaccination
mandate for all students, staff, and faculty is a form of coercion that puts their health
and safety at risk unnecessarily.
is virtually over,” they claim in their lawsuit, which was filed in the United States
District Court for the Northern District of Indiana. “Even if the pandemic were still ongoing, it is unreasonable for students to receive a risky, relatively untested vaccine.”
The coronavirus vaccines
approved for use in the United States have been extensively tested in clinical trials, but the students’ lawsuit objects to the fact that the vaccines have only received emergency use authorization from the Food and Drug Administration
, as well as concerns that not enough time has passed to determine the vaccines’ long-term safety.
The students contend that the vaccine mandate violates the Fourteenth Amendment, which includes the rights to personal autonomy and bodily integrity, as well as the right to refuse medical treatment, and that it also violates the state's vaccine passport law, which prohibits state and local entities from requiring or issuing so-called vaccine passports that indicate an individual's COVID-19 immunization status.
In a statement to Stardia on Wednesday, university spokesperson Chuck Carney said IU had dropped an earlier requirement that students, faculty, and staff show proof of vaccination, following the state's attorney general's call last month for such a request to be illegal under Indiana's "passport" law.
Carney went on to say that the vaccine mandate will remain in effect and that “the university is confident it will prevail in this case.”
“As part of IU’s ongoing pandemic response, the vaccine mandate is supporting a return to safe and more normal operations this fall,” he said.
Last month, the university notified all students, staff, and faculty that they would need to be fully vaccinated before returning to the Bloomington campus after Aug. 1 for the fall semester, and the university has threatened to impose severe penalties on anyone who refuses.
Unvaccinated students face having their class registration, student email, and student identification cards revoked, as well as being barred from participating in any on-campus activity.
“Faculty and staff who choose not to meet the requirement will no longer be able to work
at Indiana University; working remotely while not meeting the COVID-19 vaccine
requirement is not an option,” the university stated.
The school allows some exemptions, including religious and medical exemptions with documentation, as well as students enrolled in an online program with no on-campus component, although being enrolled in an online program does not imply only taking online classes, according to the school.
According to the lawsuit, six of the eight students have already been granted religious exemptions from vaccination — though they also object to having to wear a mask on campus and be tested for COVID-19, as is required of unvaccinated students at the university.
According to the lawsuit, one such student “objects to these additional requirements due to their unreasonableness and the extremely low risk of COVID to those in his age group.”
Butler University, an Indianapolis-based private liberal arts college, announced this week that all students, faculty, and staff returning to campus in the fall will be required to be vaccinated against the coronavirus, as does the University of Notre Dame, which is also private.