4 Western Michigan Women's Soccer Players Sue School over COVID-19 Vaccine Mandate

Scott Polacek@@ScottPolacekFeatured Columnist IVAugust 31, 2021

A soccer ball is shown, Wednesday, June 23, 2021, during the first half of an MLS soccer match between the CF Montreal and the D.C. United in Fort Lauderdale, Fla. (AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee)
AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee

Four players on the Western Michigan women's soccer team filed a federal lawsuit Monday in an effort to fight the school's vaccine mandate for student-athletes.

Jeff Eisenberg of Yahoo Sports reported Emily Dahl, Hannah Redoute, Bailey Korhorn and Morgan Otteson argued the mandate violates their Christian beliefs. They each applied for religious exemptions in an effort to avoid being removed from the team but were denied, so they responded by reaching out to the Great Lakes Justice Center.

Per Eisenberg, the Great Lakes Justice Center has a reputation for "challenging the legality of public health restrictions" during the COVID-19 pandemic and filed this lawsuit in an effort to prevent the players from being removed from the team until the case is heard.

"Prohibiting unvaccinated members of the teams from engaging in practices and competition is the only effective manner of accomplishing this compelling interest," the school said in a statement, per David Eggert of the Associated Press.

Western Michigan does allow student-athletes who do not want to be vaccinated to remain enrolled in the school and on scholarship because the university as a whole does not have a vaccine mandate even though students who are not vaccinated are regularly tested.

According to Eisenberg, the players said they would wear masks and get tested regularly if they were allowed to remain with the team.

"When asked how getting vaccinated clashed with his clients’ Christian beliefs, [attorney David] Kallman cited the passage of the bible that states that human bodies are 'temples of the Holy Spirit' and should be treated as such," Eisenberg wrote.

Eggert noted that the pope has called vaccines safe and effective while encouraging religious people to get vaccinated.

Likewise, evidence has shown that getting vaccinated against COVID-19 is safe, effective and the best protection against severe disease and hospitalization. A recent study from the Centers for Disease and Control and Prevention (h/t CNN Medical Analyst Dr. Leana Wen) found that those who are not vaccinated are five times more likely to get COVID-19 and 29 times more likely to be hospitalized or killed as a result of contracting the virus.

Eisenberg highlighted the "massive blow" on the field losing these four players would be, as Korhorn is tied for the team lead in goals, Otteson is an all-conference forward, Dahl is a starting defender and Redoute is a key player off the bench.

Western Michigan is 2-2 to start the season with wins over Detroit Mercy and IUPUI and losses to Michigan and Louisville.