A federal appeals court is siding with Indiana University over its requirement that all students next semester be vaccinated against COVID-19 or wear masks if they cannot get the shots for religious or medical reasons.
A group of eight students at Indiana University had sued the school over the policy, but in court documents filed on Monday, the panel of three of Republican-nominated judges pointed to a 1905 case that held that the state was permitted to require all members of the public to be vaccinated against smallpox.
"There can't be a constitutional problem with vaccinations against SARS-CoV-2," they wrote.
The judges ruled that the case for Indiana University's rule was in fact easier to argue than the 1905 smallpox one for two reasons.
First, the 1905 case did not include exceptions for adults, which Indiana University has done. The court added that the testing and masking requirements that the school has in place for those who are exempted from vaccinations are "not constitutionally problematic."
And second, the judges said, the college's rule is only applicable to those wishing to attend the school, and does not apply to the entire state as the 1905 case did.
"Many universities require vaccination against SARS-CoV-2, but many others do not. Plaintiffs have ample educational opportunities," the judges wrote. "Other conditions of enrollment are normal and proper. The First Amendment means that a state cannot tell anyone what to read or write, but a state university may demand that students read things they prefer not to read and write things they prefer not to write."
As Reuters reports, the lawyer representing the eight students, James Bopp of the Bopp Law Firm, said he planned on filing an appeal of this ruling with the Supreme Court. Reuters notes that more than 500 colleges and universities have enacted COVID-19 vaccine requirements for their students.