New York health care workers will be able to seek religious exemptions from a statewide COVID-19 vaccine mandate as a lawsuit challenging the requirement proceeds, a federal judge ruled Tuesday.

Judge David Hurd in Utica had issued a temporary restraining order a month ago after 17 doctors, nurses and other health professionals claimed in a lawsuit that their rights would be violated with a vaccine mandate that disallowed religious exemptions.

Hurd’s preliminary injunction Tuesday means New York will continue to be barred from enforcing any requirement that employers deny religious exemptions. And the state cannot revoke exemptions already granted.

Gov. Kathy Hochul said she will fight the decision in court “to keep New Yorkers safe.”

“My responsibility as governor is to protect the people of this state, and requiring health care workers to get vaccinated accomplishes that,” she said in a statement.

State health officials said as of Tuesday, facilities reported 7,070 hospital workers, or 1.4% of total employees, had claimed a non-medical exemption, as did 2,636 nursing home workers, or 1.8% of employees.

Hurd wrote that the health care workers suing the state were likely to succeed on the merits of their constitutional claim. The question presented in this case, Hurd wrote, is whether the mandate “conflicts with plaintiffs’ and other individuals’ federally protected right to seek a religious accommodation from their individual employers. The answer to this question is clearly yes.”

“This is clearly just a ridiculous government overreach,” said Christopher Ferrara, the Thomas More Society special counsel who represented the plaintiffs. “You can’t do this to people. You can’t call them heroes one day and then throw them out on the sidewalk the next day.”

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The family of a slain journalist is asking the Federal Trade Commission to take action against Facebook for failing to remove online footage of her shooting death.

Andy Parker said Tuesday the company is violating its own terms of service in hosting videos on Facebook and its sibling service, Instagram, that glorify violence.

His daughter, TV news reporter Alison Parker, and cameraman Adam Ward were killed by a former co-worker while reporting for Virginia’s WDBJ-TV in 2015. Video footage of the shooting — some of which was taken by the gunman — repeatedly resurfaces on Facebook and Instagram despite assurances from top executives that it will be removed, says a complaint filed Tuesday by Parker and attorneys with the Georgetown Law Civil Rights Clinic.

“The reality is Facebook and Instagram put the onus on victims and their families to do the policing of graphic content — requiring them to relive their worst moments over and over to curb the proliferation of these videos,” says the complaint.

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