On May 21, 2021, Indiana University adopted a policy requiring all students, faculty, and staff to be fully vaccinated before returning to campus for the Fall 2021 semester. The policy includes a number of exemptions for those with objections to receiving the vaccine, including religious and medical objections. Individuals who receive an exemption must abide by additional safety measures, including more frequent testing, quarantine if exposed to COVID-19, and wearing a mask in public places.
In response to the policy, eight students filed a lawsuit in the United States District Court for the Northern District of Indiana claiming that the vaccine requirement violates their due process rights under the Fourteenth Amendment. The students also sought a preliminary injunction to enjoin enforcement of the vaccine requirement.
Following extensive briefing, evidence, and the presentation of expert testimony, on Sunday, the court entered a 101-page order denying the plaintiffs’ request for a preliminary injunction. Notwithstanding the plaintiffs’ arguments, the court found that “the Fourteenth Amendment permits Indiana University to pursue a reasonable and due process of vaccination in the legitimate interest of public health for its students, faculty, and staff. Today, on this preliminary record, the university has done so for its campus. That leaves the students with multiple choices, not just forced vaccination.”
While the opinion neither disposes of the plaintiffs’ case, nor binds courts outside of Indiana, it provides powerful support for educational institutions interested in adopting a vaccine requirement. Likewise, the opinion provides persuasive justification for public and private employers. While creative plaintiffs and their attorneys will surely adopt new lines of attack against vaccine requirements, this opinion and others that we have covered, continue to recognize the right of educational institutions and employers to require (subject to religious and medical exemptions) vaccination to protect their communities.