WMU loses appeal over athletes and virus vaccine requirement

Kalamazoo County

KALAMAZOO, Mich. (AP) — A federal appeals court has ruled in favor of athletes at Western Michigan University.

They sued to be able to play sports without getting a COVID-19 vaccination, citing religious reasons.

The appeals court declined to freeze a decision by a judge, who said the vaccine policy at WMU likely violates a constitutional right to follow a religion. The appeals court says at least 16 athletes sought a vaccine exemption on religious grounds but were ignored or denied.

The university’s athletic department released a statement:

“We remain steadfast in our commitment to protect our student athletes and our athletic program. Our vaccine policy plays a critical role in keeping athletes safe and ensuring they are able to compete throughout the season without disruption. We will continue to abide by the court’s decision and allow the student athletes in the matter to fully participate in their sport while we also consider our next steps in the case.”

Jon Turner, assistant athletic director at Western Michigan University

WMU can require them to wear a mask or be regularly tested for COVID-19.

— News 8 contributed to this report.

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