An Ontario arbitrator ruled that a Catholic nurse fired by Public Health Sudbury for not getting vaccinated had the right to an exemption.

The ruling was one of the first legal pronouncements on the issue of religious exemptions to Covid-19 vaccines, as reported by the National Post.

The nurse is a member of the Latin Mass Catholic community and had requested to be exempted from the city’s vaccine mandate, alleging that the vaccine had links to aborted preborn children.

She was, however, denied that exemption by Public Health Sudbury and was placed on unpaid leave.

It should be noted that Pope Francis previously said that Catholics should get Covid vaccines, even if they were developed using fetal cell lines.

Covid vaccines do not contain fetal cells and abortions were not performed to make the shots, according to ImmunizeBC. However, some vaccines are created using fetal cells, including Johnson & Johnson and AstraZeneca.

Meanwhile, fetal cells were used in the early stages of research and development for the Moderna and Pfizer-BioNTech vaccines.

The Latin Mass segment of the Catholic Church adheres to strict religious beliefs that include opposing abortion and contraception. The church doesn’t forbid its members from taking the Covid vaccine, but also does not require it. 

Arbitrator Robert Herman stated that given the unnamed nurse holds a sincere belief that has a sufficient connection to her creed, “to get vaccinated would interfere with the exercise of her faith and her relationship with the divine.”

The arbitrator cited the 2004 Syndicat Northcrest c. Amselem Supreme Court decision, where it had ruled that in order for something to be considered religious discrimination, there has to be a connection or “nexus” to the person’s religious faith as well as a sincerity in that person’s beliefs.

Herman did say there were inconsistencies in the nurse’s testimony, but he found it was “unlikely” that she “fabricated or simply ‘latched’ on to a creed-based claim for an exemption in order to avoid getting vaccinated.”

Hence, Herman ruled that the nurse was entitled to receive an exemption based on the provisions in the Ontario Human Rights Code.

He also said that the nurse had been “prima facie discriminated” when her employer denied the requested exemption.

Herman did not, however, provide a judgement on whether the nurse should be allowed to return to work or provided with compensation.

While many workplace vaccine mandates have ended, a number of those impacted by the policies missed multiple months’ worth of pay. 

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