A group of students has filed a civil lawsuit against Creighton University in response to the university’s mandate of the COVID-19 vaccine.
The lawsuit filed by four students on Wednesday alleges that Creighton “refused to consider or grant religious exemptions” in mandating the vaccine for all students.
The university announced July 7 that the vaccine would be required for all students attending classes or events on campus. On Aug. 23, a waiver that allowed students to opt out of the vaccine was withdrawn after the Food and Drug Administration approval of the Pfizer vaccine.
Students were required to provide proof of vaccination by Sept. 7 to be allowed on campus.
Lauren Ramaekers, a Creighton student named as a plaintiff in the suit, is the president of Creighton’s anti-abortion group, Students For Life. In a press release, Ramaekers said she is opposed to taking the vaccine “because of the use of abortion-derived fetal cells in the research and development of the vaccines.”
In an affidavit filed with the court, Ramaekers said, “…the use of fetal tissue, fetal cells, or any ‘product’ of abortion in the development and/or testing of a vaccine or any other medical treatment, is abhorrent to me. This is a sincerely held religious belief, which impacts my moral and ethical views of the world.”
In addition to Ramaekers, students Patrice Quadrel, Sarah Sinsel and an unnamed “Jane Doe” are listed as plaintiffs in the suit.
Dr. James Lawler, co-executive director of the University of Nebraska Medical Center’s Global Center for Security, explained in a Q&A published in December how fetal cell lines were used in some of the testing of two vaccines but not in the manufacturing of the vaccines.
Fetal cell lines are not the same as fetal tissue. Instead, fetal cell lines are descended from cells obtained from elective abortions decades ago. In the case of the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines, the companies used a fetal cell line derived almost 50 years ago in the Netherlands. The cells, which continue to multiply in labs, are now thousands of generations removed from the original fetal cells.
The Vatican Congregation for the Doctrine of Faith has said it is “morally acceptable” to receive COVID-19 vaccines produced using cell lines from aborted fetuses in their research and production process when no alternative is available.
In a press release announcing the students’ lawsuit, their attorney Robert Sullivan said, “A Catholic university should never be placing its students in such a position where they may be required to violate the teachings of the Church.”
The lawsuit also points to tuition paid by students, alleging that the university has accepted tuition and other fees from students who enrolled before July 7 and that Creighton intends “to retain a large portion” of the money paid.
Creighton spokeswoman Cindy Workman said Friday that the university “is aware of a filing but have not had the opportunity to review it thoroughly.”
“As is our policy, we do not comment on legal action or pending litigation,” she said.
Interactive: 9 charts that show how Lincoln and Nebraska are coping with COVID-19
Lancaster county COVID-19 deaths
Lancaster county COVID-19 cases
Lincoln hospital bed occupancy
Nebraska ICU capacity, by county
Nebraska hospital capacity, by county
Nebraska COVID-19 vaccine distribution
COVID-19 vaccination rates: How Nebraska compares
Nebraska COVID-19 hospitalizations and ICU usage
Nebraska COVID-19 testing