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Students at St. John’s University in New York are accusing the Catholic school of violating their religious freedom by trying to force them to take a COVID-19 vaccine in a new lawsuit.

The case against St. John’s is one of several religious freedom lawsuits challenging vaccine mandates by employers and schools across the country. For many plaintiffs, the problem is the connections between the vaccines and aborted babies.

The Hill reports the 17 students in the St. John’s case are pro-life Catholics and Jews who object to vaccines that were tested or developed using “aborted fetal tissue or human embryonic stem-cell derivation.”

They want a court to block the university’s vaccine mandate and award them $2.75 million in damages. However, a judge recently refused to temporarily block the mandate while the case moves forward, according to the report.

The university requires students to be vaccinated for COVID-19 to attend classes in person.

Kimberly Vineski, a sophomore at St. John’s, said she cannot take a vaccine developed with cells from aborted babies because she believes unborn babies are valuable human beings.

“As a devout Roman Catholic, I believe life is precious. In the Ten Commandments, it says,`Thou Shall Not Kill,’” she told the New York Post.

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James Callichio II, who is studying law at the university, said he was shocked that a Catholic university would refuse to grant pro-life students like him a religious exemption.

“This is between me and God,” Callichio said.

Matthew Margolefsky, a sophomore at St. John’s, said the university did not give them a chance to appeal its decision to reject their exemption requests either.

“The Torah teaches us that we should ‘guard thy soul scrupulously,’” Margolefsky told the Post. “I was quite upset that I was rejected for an exemption. It violates my beliefs to put this vaccine in my body.”

The university said it did grant some vaccine exemptions, but it rejected others after administrators questioned “the genuineness of their purported religious beliefs,” according to the reports.

“St. John’s University is confident our COVID-19 vaccination requirement, announced last April, will withstand this legal challenge,” university spokesman Brian Browne told the Post. “Courts have consistently upheld student vaccination requirements as necessary to promote health and safety.”

Pro-life students also filed lawsuits against Creighton University, a Catholic school in Nebraska, and Western Michigan University over their COVID-19 vaccine mandates.

Opinions about the ethics of the new COVID-19 vaccines vary even among many religious people and pro-life advocates.

The Vatican recently issued a statement declaring that it is morally acceptable for Catholics to take vaccines even if they use cell lines create from aborted babies because of the vaccines’ life-saving impact. But other Catholic and pro-life leaders have argued that any connection between the vaccines and the killing of unborn babies in abortions is immoral.

None of the vaccines contain cells from aborted babies, but they all have links to abortion, some more-so than others.

The companies Johnson & Johnson and AstraZeneca used cell lines created from babies who were aborted decades ago in the development and testing of their vaccines. These cell lines are clones of the aborted babies’ cells.

The connections between abortion and the Moderna and Pfizer vaccines are much more limited, with cell lines created from aborted babies used only in testing the products.

The Charlotte Lozier Institute has a list of the COVID-19 vaccines with information about whether cell lines created from aborted babies were used in testing and/or production. Find it here.

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