NY Judge Rules City Must Grant Cop Religious Exemption From Vaccine Mandate

By Matis Glenn

A New York judge has ruled in favor of an NYPD officer who was set to be fired over refusing to get a COVID vaccine due to his religious beliefs. Officer Alexander Deletto, who has served over 9 years on the force, faced losing his job in August, despite filing for a religious exemption. The decision, first reported by the New York Post, is the first of its kind in New York.

Deletto’s attorney, James Mermigis – who has undertaken many COVID-related lawsuits – was successful in securing a temporary injunction against the city last month, arguing that the city must substantiate its refusal. On Tuesday, New York State Judge Arlene Bluth issued the final ruling in favor of Deletto.

When denied his exemption, Deletto received a letter saying that his application “does not meet criteria,” which Mermigis argued was “arbitrary and capricious” – a legal term cited in related cases.

 Religious exemptions for vaccine mandates are very rarely given to city workers, according to Mermigis. “They grant one in a thousand,” Mermigis told Hamodia.

Judge Bluth forcefully decried the terms used in denying Deletto’s exemption.

“The hollow and generic phrase “does not meet criteria” cannot be rational because not a single item particular to petitioner was discussed and not a single reason for the decision was given,” Judge Bluth wrote in the ruling. “There is no indication that anybody even read petitioner’s arguments.”

Judge Bluth went on to say that, absent any reason given to deny the request, it is “just as likely that the Citywide panel flipped a coin to make the challenged decision.”

“We didn’t even get into his religious beliefs,” Mermigis said. “The judge had a problem with the process, basically stating that it’s arbitrary…There was no process whereby in their decision, they say we deny Him because of this reason, because of that reason, the judge felt that it was arbitrary and capricious.“

Mermigis isn’t sure if the city will appeal the decision, but says that it’s likely. However, he notes that the country and state are seeing a decline of COVID-related restrictions, notably President Biden lifting vaccine mandates on federal workers, and New York Gov. Kathy Hochul not renewing her emergency COVID response powers.

“Now the ball is in Mayor Adams’ court,” Mermigis said.  “There’s consensus that we need to move on with life, and it’s up to Mayor Adams if he’s going to continue to violate the city employees’ civil rights, or if he’s going to let it go and rehire all the workers that he fired…he should rehire all these loyal employees that worked during COVID that put their own lives at risk to work during COVID to help their fellow New Yorkers.”

In the lawsuit, Deletto and Mermigis challenged the city’s ability to mandate vaccines in general, saying that such requirements are a violation of constitutional rights. Judge Bluth did not accept their arguments.

Mermigis says that once the CDC released data showing that COVID vaccines no longer prevent transmission, the mandates should have been rescinded.

“Over a year ago, CDC Director Rochelle Walensky stated that being vaccinated no longer prevents transmission. That should have been the end of the mandates…if the science states that there is no longer a transmission issue with the unvaccinated people, there’s no need for people to be losing their jobs, or not being allowed to go to school, or to attend classes in person.”

“It’s gotten to a point where it’s ridiculous.”

In early September, the Common Sense Caucus of the New York City Council met with Mayor Eric Adams to discuss the easing of vaccine mandates. The group released a statement on September 8 saying that “We are optimistic that some positive changes to these policies may be forthcoming,” while acknowledging that “there is more work to do.”

City Councilwoman Inna Vernikov(R), a member of that group and an outspoken critic of vaccine mandates, was instrumental in arranging that meeting.  

“I applaud the decision of the Supreme Court of New York,” Vernikov told Hamodia.

Vernikov has held rallies opposing the mandates, and has, at a committee hearing, questioned the city’s Derpartment of Citywide Administrative Services on the issue.

“Coercing individuals to make medical decisions which they may not want to make…I firmly believe that it is inherently un-American for the government to shove medical decisions down our throats.”

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