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Religious Liberty at Stake: Fired Philadelphia Assistant DA Takes Case to Appeals Court

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A former Philadelphia assistant district attorney has asked the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit to reverse a lower court decision that allowed her to be terminated for refusing to receive a COVID-19 vaccine. 

Rachel Spivack served as an assistant district attorney in Philadelphia District Attorney Lawrence Krasner's office. 

When Krasner's office mandated the COVID-19 vaccine in 2021, Spivack requested a religious accommodation because her Orthodox Jewish religious beliefs prohibit her from receiving any vaccines. 

After waiting for almost seven months for a response to her accommodation request, her request was denied and she was fired.

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Meanwhile, ten unionized employees and one medically exempt non-unionized employee were permitted to continue working without being vaccinated. 

Krasner denied all religious exemption or accommodation requests because he believed he was not legally required to grant them, even though he allowed others to work in the office unvaccinated.

Spivack filed a complaint last April claiming Krasner violated her First Amendment rights by refusing to allow religious accommodations to the vaccine mandate.

In January, a federal judge ruled in favor of the Philadelphia District Attorney's Office.

"[Krasner] eliminated the religious exemption only after he was convinced that it was not required legally, and that mandating vaccination was essential to the health of his staff and the many people who came into contact with his staff. This was permissible," wrote Judge Paul S. Diamond.

He continued, "In sum, Spivack offers no evidence that Krasner's exemption changes 'stemmed from religious intolerance, rather than an intent to more fully ensure that employees at [the DAO] receive the vaccine in furtherance the State's public health goal.'"

Attorneys for First Liberty Institute, a non-profit public interest law firm, urged the appeals court to reverse the lower court's decision. 

"Religious liberty should not depend on union membership," said Lea Patterson, Senior Counsel for First Liberty, who argued the case Wednesday. 

"The District Attorney disregarded the law by treating those like Rachel who requested religious accommodation less favorably than those who requested accommodation for other reasons. As the Supreme Court has already made clear, the government is not free to disregard the First Amendment's protection of religious liberty in times of crisis."

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About The Author


Talia Wise has served as a multi-media producer for, CBN Newswatch, The Prayer Link, and CBN News social media outlets. Prior to joining CBN News she worked for Fox Sports Florida producing and reporting. Talia earned a master’s degree in journalism from Regent University and a bachelor's degree from the University of Virginia.