Three students suing the Edward Via College of Osteopathic Medicine (VCOM) in Monroe over the medical school’s mandatory COVID-19 vaccination policy recently misled the federal court by claiming the school ignored a court order.
That was the thrust of a Sept. 14 opposition VCOM filed in U.S. District Court for the Western District of Louisiana in response to the three students’ recent motion for contempt. Last month, the three students—Rachel Magliulo, of Ouachita Parish, as well as Matthew Willis and Kirsten Hall, of Lincoln Parish—asked U.S. District Court Judge Terry Doughty to find VCOM in contempt of a temporary restraining order.
Doughty’s temporary restraining order prohibited VCOM from retaliating against the students or from discriminating against them because of their decision to seek an exemption from mandatory vaccination on religious grounds.
The students specifically claimed Nathan Kinnard, VCOM’s Associate Dean of Student Affairs and Development, sent a “passive aggressive” email on Aug. 20 that violated the court’s order by publicly diminishing the three students’ religious beliefs.
In its opposition, VCOM argued the three students’ interpretation of Kinnard’s email would not stand as clear and convincing evidence of any violation of the court’s restraining order.
“Plaintiffs’ subjective interpretation of Kinnard’s intent in the email falls woefully short of meeting the strict standard of ‘clear and convincing’ evidence, and, thus, cannot serve as the basis for holding defendant in civil contempt,” stated VCOM’s opposition.
The students’ interpretation of Kinnard’s email depended on their interpretation of Kinnard’s intent, such as viewing his statement, “there are those who wish to make this a political issue,” referred only to the three students and nobody else.
“Because the discourse on vaccination mandates is a transcending international topic of mass proportion, to assume ‘those’ refers to plaintiffs is a very self-absorbed, self-serving and limited interpretation, never mind that it is not “clear and convincing evidence,” stated VCOM’s opposition.
In further response to VCOM, the students filed a Sept. 21 reply defending their position that VCOM violated the court order, though the students acknowledged Kinnard’s email did not identify them by name. In one instance, the students also appeared to concede Kinnard’s email targeted certain laws, not the students themselves.
“VCOM easily could have communicated to its student body without disparaging the laws underpinning the Students’ case or by framing their motivations as being political rather than the products of genuine, sincerely held religious beliefs,” stated the students’ reply.
In another brief filed with the court on Sept. 19, the three students argued that VCOM’s new travel policy “shockingly” prohibited unvaccinated students from traveling.
“Thus, VCOM seeks not only to restrict the Students’ access to education, it also now seeks to extend its reach into the Students’ personal lives to restrict their very liberty and movement,” stated the students’ reply. “While the above provisions seem contradictory, as they prescribe both an outright ban on travel for the unvaccinated while simultaneously permitting unvaccinated students to travel if they self-quarantine afterwards, any reading of the provision shows that VCOM once again seeks to implement a discriminatory policy which specifically places undue burdens upon the Students.”