Sr. Deirdre Byrne, POSC, M.D. v. Muriel Bowser in her capacity as Mayor of the District of Columbia

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Thomas More Society attorneys filed suit on March 9, 2022, in the federal United States District Court for the District of Columbia on behalf of Sister Deirdre Byrne against the district’s mayor, Muriel Bowser, LaQuandra Nesbitt, Director the district’s health department, and the District of Columbia itself for their refusal to grant Byrne a religious exemption from vaccination.

The complaint against Bowser and DC|Health (the district’s health department) is based upon the Religious Freedom Restoration Act of 1993 and the First Amendment to the United States Constitution, both of which protect Sister Deirdre’s fundamental right to the free exercise of her religion. Sr. Byrne explained that some of the clinicians she knew in the Washington DC area refused the vaccination because of their deeply held religious and moral beliefs. She and others did not want to receive a vaccine that was either made, or prepared, or or tested by the use of aborted fetal tissue.

In August of last year, the D.C. government asked for her religious exemption letter, which she sent in. Then they asked her for a renewal in January of 2022. She complied. Then Sr. Deirdre received an email on February 26, stating she had five days to be vaccinated or she would lose her license. The Thomas More Society filed a complaint on March 9, 2022 against the District of Columbia’s mayor, Muriel Bowser, and the director of the Department of Health, LaQuandra Nesbitt, for their refusal to grant Sr. Deirdre a religious exemption from the mandatory Covid-19 vaccine for D.C. health workers.

The only stated basis for the denial of Byrne’s religious exemption was that it would pose an “undue hardship” to D.C. Health.  The exemption denial was made despite the fact that Sr. Deirdre has a sincere religious objection, and medically confirmed natural immunity to Covid-19. She is also not employed by D.C. Health. The DC government responded to Sr. Deirdre’s lawsuit by immediately granting her the requested religious accommodation.

Case Timeline

View documents related to the case

July 4, 2023
Press Release
August 1, 2023
Legal Document