The Upper Midwest Law Center, on behalf of Tina Goede, appealed to the Supreme Court of the United States, seeking to reverse the denial of unemployment benefits to Ms. Goede by Minnesota’s Department of Employment and Economic Development.
Ms. Goede’s former employer, Astra Zeneca Pharmaceuticals LP, fired her under its vaccination policy because Goede refused to compromise her religious beliefs by taking a COVID-19 vaccine. After termination, Goede applied for unemployment benefits. Goede testified that she would not take the vaccine because she believes taking it would violate her pro-life Catholic views and make her complicit in abortion. She also testified that she believes it would be harmful to her body, which she believes is the “temple of the Holy Spirit.”
Despite her testimony, the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development denied her claim for benefits, and the Minnesota Court of Appeals affirmed the denial of benefits. The Court of Appeals did so even though it reversed the Department in other cases, awarding other unemployment applicants benefits based on similar religious objections. The Minnesota Supreme Court declined to take the case.
“Judges have a narrow role in deciding if someone’s religious beliefs are sincere. This case is particularly egregious because the unemployment law judge even ‘googled’ the Catholic Church’s statements during Ms. Goede’s hearing to argue with her about her religious views of the vaccine,” said James Dickey, Senior Counsel for UMLC. “We are asking the U.S. Supreme Court to take this case to put a stop to such anti-religious hostility.”
Tina Goede said: “I’m appealing this case to the U.S. Supreme Court because I never want someone else to go through what I had to when I was fired and then denied benefits. It’s bad enough to be fired for my religious beliefs, but then to have the unemployment judge argue with me about my beliefs and then say I don’t really believe what I believe is beyond the pale.”
UMLC expects the Supreme Court to decide whether to take the case within the next few months.