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Montgomery County schools administrator drops COVID-19 vaccine mandate lawsuit

A Montgomery County Public Schools administrator has dropped his lawsuit over the system’s COVID-19 vaccine mandate for employees after receiving a religious exemption, according to the latest filing in the case.

The administrator filed a stipulation of dismissal Friday in U.S. District Court in Maryland.

An attorney for the anonymous employee said Monday that further litigation was not necessary because the employee, identified in court documents as “John Doe,” received the religious exemption he sought after bringing the lawsuit.

Doe, according to the complaint, is a Christian who “holds the sincere belief that obtaining a COVID-19 vaccination would conflict with the edicts of his religion and, therefore, that obtaining a COVID-19 vaccine would constitute a sin in the eyes of God.”

The Montgomery County Board of Education passed a COVID-19 vaccine mandate for employees on Sept. 9.

Doe claimed in his lawsuit that when he sought a religious exemption later in September he was told religious exemptions were not being offered, though MCPS later said its commitment to accommodating employees’ religious beliefs did not change with the vaccine mandate.

On Sept. 30, two days after Doe filed his lawsuit, MCPS sent out a staff bulletin that provided links to forms that employees could use to request religious or medical exemptions to the COVID-19 vaccine.

Doe received his religious exemption on Oct. 11, MCPS said in its response to his complaint. The school system in that filing asked U.S. District Judge Theodore D. Chuang to deny Doe’s request for an injunction against the vaccine mandate.

Doe had asked for an injunction and declaratory judgment that the mandate violates the Free Exercise Clause of the First Amendment.

Josh Dixon, an attorney who represented Doe in the lawsuit, said the school system “changed its position to allow religious exemptions” in response to the lawsuit.

“Based on MCPS’s reversal of its prior positions, we determined that further litigation was not necessary,” said Dixon, who serves as senior litigation counsel for the Pittsburgh-based Center for American Liberty.

A spokesperson for MCPS did not immediately reply to an email requesting comment Monday.

The deadline for employees to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 and report their vaccine status is now Nov. 15.

Instead of receiving a vaccine, Doe will be required to receive weekly COVID-19 testing and follow other health measures, according to court filings. He works in an administrative building, according to the complaint, and rarely interacts with students.

The MCPS spokesperson, Chris Cram, previously told The Daily Record that about 100 employees had requested religious exemptions to the vaccine mandate as of early October.

The federal lawsuit is docketed as Doe v. The Board of Education of Montgomery County et al, 8:21-cv-02481.