Bruce Castor, an impeachment lawyer for former President Trump, takes legal action arguing that the vaccine’s status is so politically divisive it should be considered a protected freedom of expression

Federal unions are suing the Biden administration for its vaccine tenure, saying the issue has become so politically controversial that disclosure of his vaccination status should be protected by free speech. Federal employees shouldn’t be forced to disclose if they have a vaccine card, the lawsuit says.

Bruce Castor, a former Montgomery County District Attorney who defended Donald Trump in his second Senate impeachment trial in February, represents American Federation of Government Employees locals seeking to ban the U.S. government from enforcing a executive order requiring federal employees to be vaccinated. The lawsuit was filed in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania.

“If I were to win it would affect all federal union workers,” Castor said. “They are a very influential group.”

Union members who fail to show they are vaccinated could be publicly branded as “‘right-wing extremists’ or worse,” the lawsuit says. The unions named in the lawsuit are the National Council of Prison Locals 33 and the American Federation of Government Employees Local 2018, at a US Navy base in Twentynine Palms, California.

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Catherine J. Ross, law professor and First Amendment expert at George Washington University, said she did not think the federal union lawsuit was “frivolous.” It’s creative enough to be plausible. But she added that the lawsuit seems unlikely to succeed as a judge would need to develop “a lot of new laws” for Castor’s clients to win.

To support the protected speech argument, Castor would first have to convince a judge that failure to present a vaccination card is a form of speech known as “token speech,” Ross said. Symbolic speech would consist of wearing a black cross or armband that silently communicates an idea the viewer is likely to understand, she said.

Ross doubts a judge will go. The choice not to be vaccinated and “the resulting lack of a vaccination card have a tenuous connection to speech at best,” she said.

The lawsuit is part of a nationwide tsunami of litigation over COVID-19 workplace mandates for government and private sector workers. The Biden administration ordered federal workers to get vaccinated by November 22.

A Gallup poll and an analysis of voting patterns in blue and red states shows a clear difference between vaccination rates and political affiliation, with Democrats accepting more vaccinations and Republicans less. According to the Gallup survey released in September, while 92% of respondents who identified as Democrats said they had received at least one vaccine, only 56% of Republicans did.

“Partisanship and vaccine status continue to be prominent as factors in how the public perceives both the US vaccination effort and the government’s response to the pandemic in general,” according to the Kaiser Family COVID-19 Foundation Vaccine monitor in September.

And although vaccination rates have generally increased with the delta variant, there remains a core of Americans who do not want to be vaccinated.

READ MORE: White House: 92% of Mandate Fed Workers Vaccinated

Shane Fausey, chairman of the 33 National Council of Prison Locals, told union officials in a recent note that the 3,500 union members who face “potential dismissal” represent 10% of prison union members nationwide. He said the layoffs could exacerbate a staffing crisis in federal prisons.

Castor, a Republican, filed a similar complaint over vaccination warrants for private sector workers in early October against the University of Pennsylvania health care system, the US Secretary of Labor and the US Secretary of Health and Human Services. social.

Castor’s client in the Penn lawsuit is Pennsylvania Informed Consent Advocates, who represents the interests of current and former employees of the Philadelphia health care system. In September, the University of Pennsylvania Health System said 99% of its 38,000 employees were complying with its COVID-19 vaccination mandate, including 760 who were granted exemptions or deferrals for religious or medical reasons. .

Less than 1%, or around 380, were made redundant or resigned rather than being shot.

The Philadelphia-based health care system has filed a request to dismiss the lawsuit.

“We are proud to have come together as a group to protect each other and those we care for, and to set an example to our friends, families and neighbors that immunization is a key way out. pandemic, ”Penn Medicine said. a spokesperson said Thursday.

The judges have mainly spoke in favor of vaccination mandates for health workers, public employees, students of state universities and government contractors. “What we are seeing are the courts finding that mandates are legal and constitutional,” Jennifer Piatt, deputy director of the Network for Public Health Law, a national, Minnesota-based nonprofit group that promotes health care laws public and followed the litigation. , told the Wall Street Journal.

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