About johnbryanlaw

John H. Bryan is a West Virginia criminal defense and civil rights attorney practicing out of Union, and Lewisburg, West Virginia. For more information, visit his website at www.johnbryanlaw.com.

Update on the School Bus Drivers Suspended for Attending a Trump Rally

Join me live at 8pm ET tonight for an update on the Jefferson County, West Virginia school bus drivers who were suspended for attended the Trump rally on January 6, 2021. Despite being nowhere near what occurred at the Capitol, they found themselves suspended and accused of misconduct, and then later vindicated. We files suit for First Amendment retaliation. Here’s what’s happened so far in the litigation….. Freedom is Scary, Ep. No. 77. Also available on our Facebook page.

Lawsuit Filed Against Wood County Board of Education Challenging their School Mask Mandate

As I announced on the Tom Roton Show this morning, yesterday afternoon we filed a lawsuit in Wood County Circuit Court (Parkersburg, WV) against the Wood County Board of Education challenging their blanket school mask mandate, which is currently forcibly masking children for prolonged periods of time. The suit was filed on behalf of my clients, John Davis and Felsie Pierce, who have three children currently enrolled in Wood County Schools, who have suffered, and are continuing to suffer, due to the illegal mandate.

In a nutshell, our legal theory is this: Wood County BOE claims that the local health board, the Mid-Ohio Valley Board of Health, has issued the mandate, and they are merely following that requirement. However, the MOVBOH has denied that they issued the mandate. If the MOVBOH had indeed issued the mandate, they would be required to follow due process, which requires notice, a hearing, and so on, as well as oversight by the Wood County Commission, the local elected representatives of these schoolchildren and their parents. That’s the process in place – even before we get to the issue of science or constitutional rights. They didn’t follow the process, and therefore the mandate needs to be struck down immediately. Secondly, even if and when they follow that process, such a mandate still violates the WV Constitution because it violates the bodily autonomy of these children, just like a mandate requiring a medical procedure without the consent of the recipient.

It’s my understanding that other county boards of education in West Virginia have issued school mandates that are likewise illegal. We’ll see what the Wood County Circuit Court does with this case first before proceeding in other counties. We have requested the issuance of an immediate temporary restraining order, until such time as an expedited hearing can take place. Here is the complaint:

Update: it looks like a hearing is being scheduled for the afternoon of Monday, October 18…..

NY Federal Court Grants Thomas More Society Preliminary Injunction Blocking NYS Mandate

Breaking: I just checked the docket of the lawsuit filed in the Northern District of New York by the Thomas More Society, challenging NY State’s mandate of healthcare workers, which DID NOT allow for a religious exemption. The Court had previously issued a temporary restraining order, and today was the hearing on whether a preliminary injunction would be granted, continuing the Court’s injunction blocking the mandate. The Court ruled in favor of the healthcare workers, blocking the mandate. Here’s the ruling, just issued:

Defendants also argue that § 2.61’s elimination of the religious exemption language found in the August 18 Order brings it more in line with healthcare workplace immunization requirements for measles and rubella. Although fetal cell lines were used in the development of the rubella vaccine, there is no religious exemption in the State regulations that require workers to be immunized against this pathogen. Rausch-Phung Decl. ¶¶ 44, 47–48.

However, this argument conflates the merits of plaintiffs’ present constitutional claims with a hypothetical Title VII anti-discrimination claim for a religious accommodation. What matters here is not whether a religious practitioner would win or lose a future Title VII lawsuit. What matters is that plaintiffs’ current showing establishes that § 2.61 has effectively foreclosed the pathway to seeking a religious accommodation that is guaranteed under Title VII.

However, there is no adequate explanation from defendants about why the “reasonable accommodation” that must be extended to a medically exempt healthcare worker under § 2.61 could not similarly be extended to a healthcare worker with a sincere religious objection. Fulton, 141 S. Ct. at 1881 (cautioning courts to “scrutinize[ ] the asserted harm of granting specific exemptions to particular religious claimants”).

As plaintiffs point out, defendants have not shown that granting the same benefit to religious practitioners that was originally included in the August 18 Order “would impose any more harm—especially when Plaintiffs have been on the front lines of stopping COVID for the past 18 months while donning PPE and exercising other proper protocols in effectively slowing the spread of the disease.”

Zoom Discussion: Legal Options for Healthcare Personnel Against Mandates

Former State Delegate and gubernatorial candidate S. Marshall Wilson set up a Zoom discussion for Wednesday, October 13 at 9:00 p.m. with myself and another attorney to discuss the legal options for healthcare personnel in response to the pending mandates across West Virginia. Here’s the log-in information:

Topic: Legal Options for Healthcare Personnel Against Mandates
Time: Oct 13, 2021 09:00 PM Eastern Time (US and Canada)

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Meeting ID: 352 646 8683
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Employers Do Not Get to Define Religion in Exemption Applications

Lately I’ve been helping quite a few people with their religious exemption applications, particularly in regards to one particular hospital in West Virginia. Since I’ve talked with numerous employees, I’ve seen the identical boilerplate form email denials from the hospital – whether the employee is a physician, nurse or remote IT worker. From what I’ve been told the only religious exemptions they’ve granted have been to Jehovah’s Witnesses. Otherwise, they’ve been arguing with employees that mainstream Christianity doesn’t oppose the COVID vaccines.

Since these employers are private employers, rather than agencies of the government, the Bill of Rights doesn’t apply to them. Generally they can just fire employees at-will in West Virginia. However, there are state and federal statutes which provide they can’t do so pursuant to religious discrimination. This hospital appears to be discriminating between Jehovah’s Witnesses and other belief systems. In fact, it’s really not the employer’s right to tell the employee what they believe, but rather only to determine whether the belief is sincerely-held, and to accommodate it, if doing so wouldn’t be an undue hardship to the company.

Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (“Title VII”) “makes it an unlawful employment practice ‘to discharge any individual because of such individual’s religion.’” EEOC v. Consol Energy, Inc., 860 F.3d 131, 141 (4th Cir. 2017). In other words, the law provides potentially significant protections to West Virginians who might seek a religious exemption from an employer-imposed vaccine requirement. To make out a prima facie case of that type of discrimination, an employee must show that “(1) he or she has a bona fide religious belief that conflicts with an employment requirement; (2) he or she informed the employer of this belief, and, (3) he or she was not hired or promoted, fired, or otherwise discriminated against for failure to comply with the conflicting employment requirement.” Henegar v. Sears, Roebuck & Co., 965 F. Supp. 833, 836 (N.D.W. Va. 1997). “[A]n employer must make reasonable accommodation for the religious observances of its employees, short of incurring an undue hardship.” Consol Energy, 860 F.3d at 141. An accommodation becomes an “undue hardship” when it imposes “more than a de minimis cost” on the employer. Trans World Airlines, Inc. v. Hardison, 432 U.S. 63, 84, 97 S. Ct. 2264 2277, 53 L. Ed. 2d 113 (1977).

West Virginia lies within the jurisdiction of the U.S. Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals. The Fourth Circuit specifically has warned employers that it’s not their place to question the correctness or plausibility of an employee’s religious understandings:

It is not Consol’s place as an employer, nor ours as a court, to question the correctness or even the plausibility of Butcher’s religious understandings. See Emp’t Div., Dep’t of Human Res. of Or. v. Smith, 494 U.S. 872, 887, 110 S.Ct. 1595, 108 L.Ed.2d 876 (1990) (“Repeatedly and in many different contexts, we have warned that courts must not presume to determine … the plausibility of a religious claim.”). Butcher’s religious beliefs are protected whether or not his pastor agrees with them, cf. Thomas v. Review Bd. of Ind. Emp’t Sec. Div. , 450 U.S. 707, 715–16, 101 S.Ct. 1425, 67 L.Ed.2d 624 (1981) (protection of religious beliefs not limited to beliefs shared by religious sect), and whether or not Butcher’s pastor—or Consol, or the manufacturer of Consol’s scanning system—thinks that Butcher, in seeking to protect his religious conscience, has drawn the line in the right place, see id. at 715, 101 S.Ct. 1425 (“[I]t is not for us to say that the line [the religious objector] drew was an unreasonable one.”). So long as there is sufficient evidence that Butcher’s beliefs are sincerely held—which the jury specifically found, and Consol does not dispute—and conflict with Consol’s employment requirement, that is the end of the matter.


U.S. Equal Emp’t Opportunity Comm’n v. Consol Energy, Inc., 860 F.3d 131 (4th Cir. 2017) (emphasis added). 

Certainly, for employees who are now working remotely, it would be difficult for the employer to claim that further accommodation during a pandemic is an undue hardship. The Fourth Circuit addressed this in the Consol Energy case:

Indeed, once we take out of this case any suggestion that Butcher may have misunderstood the Book of Revelation or the significance of the Mark of the Beast, there is very little left. This case does not present, for instance, the complicated questions that sometimes arise when an employer asserts as a defense to a religious accommodation claim that the requested accommodation would not be feasible, and would instead impose an “undue hardship” on its operations. See Firestone Fibers , 515 F.3d at 311–12 ; TransWorld Airlines , 432 U.S. at 79–85, 97 S.Ct. 2264 (considering whether requested religious accommodation was feasible). Quite the contrary: Consol expressly conceded that allowing Butcher to bypass the scan by entering his identification number into a keypad would impose no additional burdens or costs on the company. And Consol knew this, of course, because it had provided precisely that accommodation to two other employees who needed it for non-religious reasons—and then, in the very same email, refused to give equal regard to Butcher’s request for a religious accommodation. In light of all of this evidence, we have no reason to question the jury’s determination that Consol should be held liable for its response to a conflict between Butcher’s sincere religious beliefs and its scanner-system requirements.

U.S. Equal Emp’t Opportunity Comm’n v. Consol Energy, Inc., 860 F.3d 131 (4th Cir. 2017) (emphasis added). 

Another thing this hospital has been doing is informing employees that they aren’t being disciplined or terminated, but instead are choosing to “voluntarily” resign. The Fourth Circuit rejected that claim already in the same case I’ve already cited:

“According to Consol, Butcher was not disciplined or terminated but instead voluntarily retired, and the jury’s contrary finding of constructive discharge cannot be sustained on the evidence introduced at trial.”…. 

We agree with the district court that there exists substantial evidence that Butcher was put in an intolerable position when Consol refused to accommodate his religious objection, requiring him to use a scanner system that Butcher sincerely believed would render him a follower of the Antichrist, “tormented with fire and brimstone.” J.A. 683–84. This goes well beyond the kind of run-of-the-mill “dissatisfaction with work assignments, [ ] feeling of being unfairly criticized, or difficult or unpleasant working conditions” that we have viewed as falling short of objective intolerability. Cf. Carter v. Ball , 33 F.3d 450, 459 (4th Cir. 1994) (internal quotation marks omitted). And like the district court, we do not think that the future prospect of a successful grievance under a collective bargaining agreement—even assuming, contrary to the union’s determination, that the collective bargaining agreement at issue here allowed for a grievance based on a right to religious accommodation—would do anything to alleviate the immediate intolerability of Butcher’s circumstances.

U.S. Equal Emp’t Opportunity Comm’n v. Consol Energy, Inc., 860 F.3d 131 (4th Cir. 2017) (emphasis added). 

Thus, despite this hospital’s attempts at mislabeling the termination of their employees as “voluntary” resignations, they will still remain potentially liable because their intention is to force the employee out – to give them no choice of staying. That’s either a termination, or a constructive termination. The remedy here is to file a charge with the EEOC, after which the charge will run its course with the EEOC and then litigation for religious discrimination can ensue – hopefully to a jury for a large award of damages.

Here’s a link to the EEOC website where you go through their online portal in order to file an EEOC charge for religious discrimination against an employer:

https://www.eeoc.gov/how-file-charge-employment-discrimination

Religious Exemptions for Vaccines under Title 7 and Private Employers in the Health Care Field

It’s heartbreaking what’s currently happening to health care workers across the country. I’ve talked to dozens here in West Virginia who are currently facing losing their careers due to their health care employer – usually hospitals – mandating the current vaccines. Ironically, one can’t just choose to refrain from taking these vaccines because they’ve undertaken a common sense rational risk vs. reward analysis based on their own circumstances and health care situation, but rather only for religious reasons, which may, nor may not have any basis in rationality. But as with much of civil rights law, the only realistic way of stopping government tyranny is to somehow connect their actions to religious restrictions, because doing so triggers statutory and constitutional protections.

Almost all of the religious exemption applications I’ve seen thus-far have been denied by the large healthcare employers. Outrageously, what I’ve mostly seen is that these HR departments have been essentially arguing theology with these employees. They no doubt assume that the employees are lying, or being un-sincere about their beliefs. They’ve been arguing to the employees that they actually DON’T have a religious exception. They cite the fact that the pope is encouraging people to be vaccinate, etc.

Fortunately, however, the law generally provides that employees aren’t required to follow any particular religion or theology. The requirements are subjective to the employee. The only requirement is that the beliefs, which could just be strongly held moral beliefs, must be sincerely held by the employee. Thus, it doesn’t matter what the Pope said, or even what the pastor of an employee’s church said. What matters is subjective sincerity.

I’ve posted about the New York lawsuit which has currently obtained a temporary restraining order protecting New York health care employees from being fired pursuant to the NY state mandate currently in place. Whenever the ultimate ruling comes in that case, employees will have some legal guidance on what their legal rights may be in the current situation. Until that happens, it makes sense to pay attention to the claims being made by the physicians and other health care workers who are plaintiffs in the case.

The religious exemptions in the NY case surround the fact that the vaccines at issue either utilize, or did utilize in their development stages, fetal cell lines derived from abortions. Here are the details on the three separate vaccines:

  • Johnson & Johnson/Janssen: Fetal cell cultures are used to produce and manufacture the J&J COVID-19 vaccine and the final formulation of this vaccine includes residual amounts of the fetal host cell proteins (≤0.15 mcg) and/or host cell DNA (≤3 ng).
  • Pfizer/BioNTech: The HEK-293 abortion-related cell line was used in research related to the development of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine.
  • Moderna/NIAID: Aborted fetal cell lines were used in both the development and testing of Moderna’s COVID-19 vaccine.

Based on those indisputable facts, these are the grounds upon which the physicians in the New York lawsuit filed by the Thomas More Society base their religious exemptions. I highly suggest that health care workers who are pursuing religious exemptions utilize these points in countering the theological exemptions currently being presented by tyrannical health care employers:

  • They oppose abortion under any circumstances, as they believe that abortion is the intrinsically evil killing of an innocent, and thus they also oppose the use of abortion-derived fetal cell lines for medical purposes and abortion- derived fetal stem cell research.
  • It would be a violation of their deeply held religious beliefs and moral consciences to take any of the available COVID-19 vaccines given their use of abortion-derived fetal cell lines in testing, development, or production.
  • By receiving one of the COVID vaccines currently available, all of which are abortion-connected, they believe they would be cooperating with the evil of abortion in a manner that violates their consciences and that they would sin gravely if they acted against their consciences by taking any of these vaccines.
  • They agree with the teaching of spiritual leaders, including certain Catholic bishops, who urge Christians to refuse said vaccines to avoid cooperation in abortion and to bear witness against it without compromise, and who defend the right to a religious exemption from vaccination with such vaccines.
  • They do not accept the opinion—expressed by certain other Catholic bishops, the Pope included—that there is a therapeutically proportional reason to resort to abortion-connected vaccines which can justify “remote” cooperation in abortion. They reject as a matter of religious conviction any medical cooperation in abortion, no matter how “remote.”
  • They believe in the primacy of conscience in this matter. While one may personally conclude that recourse to abortion-connected vaccines can be justified in his or her case, vaccination is not morally obligatory and must be voluntary, and those who in conscience refuse vaccination need only take other protective measures to avoid spreading the virus.
  • Although they are not “anti-vaxxers” who oppose all vaccines, they believe as a matter of religious conviction that the ensouled human person, made in the image and likeness of God, is inviolable as a temple of the Holy Ghost and that civil authorities have no right to force anyone to be medicated or vaccinated against his or her will, whether or not the medication or vaccine is abortion-connected.
  • A risk-benefit analysis factors into each person’s formulation of a conscientious religious position on the morality of vaccinations. Plaintiffs are all aware of the vaccines’ side effects, which can be quite serious, their fading efficacy, requiring “booster shots,” their evident inability to prevent transmission or infection, and the fact that natural immunity is likely more protective than injections with the available COVID-19 vaccines. These medical facts inform Plaintiffs’ religious conviction against involuntary or coerced vaccination as an invasion of bodily autonomy contrary to their religious beliefs. Given that the Vaccine Mandate requires that employers insure that employees are “continuously” “fully vaccinated”— as many times as the government advises—Plaintiffs now reasonably fear that “booster shots” of the same vaccines they consider immoral will soon be demanded by the government as a condition of employment and even normal life in society, as is already the case with the original vaccines.

You can review these arguments in more detail and access their exhibits in my original post, which included their complaint in its entirety. I’ve been encouraging people to use as much specificity as possible in their applications for a religious exemption.

But also remember, that even if the employer accepts your religious exemption – which it legally must so long as its sincerely-held, that doesn’t automatically exempt the employee from the vaccine, while also ensuring they can keep their job. That only entitles the employee to an accommodation, if an accommodation can be made by the employer. The employer isn’t required to provide an accommodation if they would incur more than a de minimis expense in doing so. What does this mean? Well, that could mean wearing masks, getting tested frequently, working remotely, plexiglass, etc., etc. These sorts of accommodations may, or may not be possible for any particular employee.

So it’s not a perfect option, even if an exemption is granted. But right now it’s the only option available to a ton of employees who are in jeopardy – many of whom were forced to work through the pandemic in direct contact with covid patients, at times when there were no vaccines invented yet. But now that they’ve survived that, they’re expendable. Because, politics and virtue-signaling.

Federal Judge in NY Blocks State Mandate

A federal judge today temporarily blocked New York state from enforcing a vaccine mandate on health care workers who seek or obtain a religious exemption. Here’s the Complaint, filed by the Thomas More Society on behalf of numerous physicians and other health care professionals who are acting under pseudonyms. The Court issued a Temporary Restraining Order pending the response of the defendants and a hearing on the matter. The basis of the Complaint is failure to provide a religious exception. There are tons of exhibits attached to the Complaint detailing the basis for the religious exception under Christianity.

WV Attorney General Opinion Arguing Mandates are Unconstitutional

On September 10, the West Virginia Attorney General issued an Opinion letter ultimately concluding that vaccine mandates in West Virginia would be unconstitutional in any blanket form – whether public or private employees.

In the end, a law requiring all state employees to be vaccinated or requiring all businesses to demand vaccine passports from all patrons would violate our State’s constitution (as it should be properly understood) and violate both state and federal law. The same finding would follow no matter what aspect of “state” government is implicated; mandates and passport requirements imposed by counties, municipalities, and other public actors would give rise to the same legal concerns as a mandate or passport requirement imposed at the statewide level. We therefore urge any public entities to comply with such guidance and come into accordance with this opinion.

Likewise, a private employer’s mandate or vaccine-passport requirement may violate federal and state anti-discrimination laws if it does not, at a minimum, provide for appropriate exceptions for those with religious- or disability-based objections.

He urges the Legislature to take action.

For reasons discussed further, the Legislature can undeniably act. In fact, “[t]he Constitution of West Virginia being a restriction of power rather than a grant thereof, the legislature has the authority to enact any measure not inhibited thereby.” Syl. pt. 5, State ex rel. Cooper v. Tennant, 229 W. Va. 585, 730 S.E.2d 368 (2012). Ultimately, “[i]t is the duty of the Legislature to consider facts, establish policy, and embody that policy in legislation.” Syl. pt. 3 (in part), State v. Dubuque, 239 W. Va. 660, 805 S.E.2d 421 (2017).

Mandate Litigation, Legislation and Political Posturing in West Virginia

While our telephones and email flood with messages from upset parents, angry about the forced masking of our children, an unlikely hero comes to the rescue. However, he completely messed up. He’s attempting to score for the opposing team. Democrat nominee for W. Va. Attorney General in the 2020 election, in the name of allegedly protecting civil rights for multiple children, filed a lawsuit against the Governor and various school entities to attempt to force a comprehensive statewide mask mandate for children. He is essentially suing to force the Governor to issue an emergency executive order.

Where do I begin? If the Supreme Court wouldn’t let me force the Governor to call the legislature into session last year, in lieu of just issuing incessant executive orders, I can’t imagine they would allow an anti-civil rights lawyer to force him to actually issuing an executive order. We can take issue with the scope of the Governor’s emergency powers, but the concept that the Governor gets to issue, or not issue, his own executive orders, seems pretty uncontroversial. Though I suppose it’s having the desired effect of convincing various county school boards to reverse their prior decisions on a local level, which several have apparently done in the past day or so.

At the same time, the Republican leadership in the W. Va. legislature sent a letter to the W. Va. Attorney General official asking him to give an opinion on whether employer vaccine mandates and vaccine passports are in violation of the West Virginia Constitution. First off, it’s the U.S. Constitution that stands any chance of going up against the mandates. Any analysis of the W. Va. Constitution is going to have to begin with the U.S. Supreme Court’s Jacobson case from 1905. Because that would be the first case cited by the W. Va. Supreme Court, should they hear the issue.

Proponents of governmental overreach in the COVID era have consistently pointed to Jacobson as justification for whatever measures the government is undertaking for the purported goals of protecting the health and safety of their citizens, which in turn is utilized by both public and private employers to attempt to mandate vaccines on their employees. Jacobson opined on the role of the U.S. Constitution in controlling state police powers, as understood in 1905, granting states and local governments an affirmative carte blanche to engage in state disease control efforts.

What that means, is that as it currently stands, SCOTUS has said that the U.S. Constitution allows vaccine mandates in the past. So if W. Va. has carte blanche to engage in disease control efforts, the ball is squarely in the State Legislature’s court. No federal court or caselaw is likely going to stop it. The only way to stop broad employer mandates right now, whether public or private, is through legislative action. That is a very real possibility right now in West Virginia, given the fact that numerous state legislators are currently calling for a special session to consider that very legislation.

Regarding Jacobson’s 1905 era values, let’s not forget that Jacobson’s legal rationale led to the case of Buck v. Bell, the infamous 1927 U.S. Supreme Court decision that found no restriction was placed on states’ police powers by the U.S. Constitution regarding a state’s public policy initiative to engage in involuntary sterilization of a woman who was purported to be of low intelligence. 274 U.S. 200 (1927). This decision by the SCOTUS gave the eugenics movement added legitimacy and considerable momentum. By 1931, 28 out of 48 states had adopted eugenic sterilization laws.

Jacobson left the door open for future refinement, conceding that state or local government could exercise police powers in an arbitrary or unreasonable manner. The ensuing future refinement came in the form of 20th century civil liberties which were recognized and developed by the courts. Since Jacobson, the Supreme Court has recognized numerous limits on health and safety regulations, including the right against involuntary restraint, decisions about marriage, contraception, procreation, family relationships, sexual relationships, child rearing and education, as well as the right to refuse life-saving treatment. Nobody is arguing that state police powers retain the ability to suppress any of these now-federally-recognized rights. But they want to leave the forced vaccine part in effect.

In addition to the rights itemized supra, the Supreme Court recognized, and continues to recognize, the right of bodily integrity, which was the category of freedom from government action, the higher order, under which the specific rights described in Roe, as well as Cruzan, fell. E.g., Planned Parenthood of Southeastern Pa. v. Casey, 505 U.S. 833, 915 (1992) (“One aspect of this liberty is a right to bodily integrity, a right to control one’s person.”). In Cruzan, Chief Justice Rehnquist reiterated in his majority opinion, “every human being of adult years and sound mind has a right to determine what shall e done with his own body….” Cruzan, 479 U.S. at 269.

West Virginia has also recognized the right to bodily integrity as a fundamental right. In the recent decision in Kruse v. Farid, 835 S.E.2d 163 (W. Va. 2019), the West Virginia Supreme Court noted that “all competent patients have the right to refuse medical care,” and that such right “has been recognized by both the United States Supreme Court and by the Legislature of this State.” Id. at 168. The W. Va. Court cited the SCOTUS, at length:

[a]t common law, even the touching of one person by another without consent and without legal justification was a battery. See W. Keeton, D. Dobbs, R. Keeton, & D. Owen, Prosser and Keeton on Law of Torts § 9, pp. 39-42 (5th ed. 1984). Before the turn of the century, this Court observed that “[n]o right is held more sacred, or is more carefully guarded, by the common law, than the right of every individual to the possession and control of his own person, free from all restraint or interference of others, unless by clear and unquestionable authority of law.” Union Pacific R. Co. v. Botsford,

141 U.S. 250, 251[, 11 S. Ct. 1000, 1001, 35 L. Ed. 734] (1891). This notion of bodily integrity has been embodied in the requirement that informed consent is generally required for medical treatment. Justice Cardozo, while on the Court of Appeals of New York, aptly described this doctrine: “Every human being of adult years and sound mind has a right to determine what shall be done with his own body[.]” Schloendorff v. Society of New York Hospital, 211 N.Y. 125, 129-130, 105 N.E. 92, 93 (1914) [, superseded by statute on other grounds as stated in Retkwa v. Orentreich , 584 N.Y.S.2d 710, 154 Misc. 2d 164 (N.Y. Sup. Ct. 1992) ]. The informed consent doctrine has become firmly entrenched in American tort law. See Keeton, Dobbs, Keeton, & Owen, supra, § 32, pp. 189-192; F. Rozovsky, Consent to Treatment, A Practical Guide 1-98 (2d ed. 1990).…

[T]he common-law doctrine of informed consent is viewed as generally encompassing the right of a competent individual to refuse medical treatment. Cruzan by Cruzan v. Dir., Mo. Dep’t of Health , 497 U.S. 261, 269-70, 277, 110 S.Ct. 2841, 111 L.Ed.2d 224 (1990). Accord Collins , 517 S.W.3d at 92 (” ‘All competent adults have a fundamental right to bodily integrity. … Included in this right is the right of competent adult patients to accept or reject medical treatment.’ ” (quoting Church v. Perales , 39 S.W.3d 149, 158 (Tenn. Ct. App. 2000) ) (additional citations omitted)). Likewise, the West Virginia Legislature has recognized this personal right to make health care decisions: “Common law tradition and the medical profession in general have traditionally recognized the right of a capable adult to accept or reject medical or surgical intervention affecting one’s own medical condition[.]” W. Va. Code § 16-30-2(b)(1) (LexisNexis 2016).

Kruse v. Farid, 835 S.E.2d 163, 168-69 (W. Va. 2019).

Thus, there is some basis in West Virginia state law in which to oppose mandates. However, it’s still grounded in federal constitutional law. You would expect the legislative leadership to know and understand this. Perhaps it’s just political posturing, sending a hardball to the Attorney General, in order to force him give the ultimate opinion that there’s nothing in the West Virginia Constitution which applies the mandate issues presented. What benefit does that confer to we the people, who are opposed to mandates? I can take the liberty of answering for the Attorney General that what the West Virginia Constitution does say, is that sole legislative power is vested in the legislature. Since SCOTUS believes state police powers control mandate law at the state level, the legislature should have the final say. At least unless our anti-civil rights hero gets his way. But do they have the political will?

Employer Mandate Options? Live Webinar with Attorneys Chris Wiest and Andy Fox

What are the current best options in dealing with the flood of employer mandates? Lawsuit? Quit? Exemptions? Join me for a discussion / webinar with Kentucky Attorney Chris Wiest and Tennessee Attorney Andy Fox. Live at 5:30 p.m. ET

Here’s a sample religious exemption letter courtesy of Chris Wiest, as discussed in the video. It has some Kentucky-specific language in it, but you get the idea: