Nicholas George sued Kankakee Community College (KCC) and Presence Hospitals PRV (Presence) alleging violations of his constitutional rights to religious freedom, equal protection, and due process, among others after George (a student enrolled in KCC’s paramedic program) was prohibited from participating in the mandatory clinical portion of a paramedic course operated by Presence because he refused vaccinations against influenza, hepatitis B, measles, mumps, and rubella (MMR). The vaccinations were required by the Presence-operated hospital policy. Although George had informed the hospital that he was objecting to the vaccinations on religious grounds, he was placed on academic warning and his request for an exemption to the vaccination policy was denied. After George’s complaint was initially dismissed, he appealed to an Illinois appellate court.
With respect to George’s claim that his religious freedom rights were violated, the court found that Presence’s policy did not discriminate against religion since it required all persons interacting with patients receive the MMR vaccination. Although the Illinois constitution protects religious opinions, state actors are permitted to impose regulations that could restrict religious freedom if those restrictions promote the safety interests of the state, as was the case here.
George also alleged that his equal protection rights were violated because other individuals were allowed to work or take classes in the hospital without receiving vaccinations. The court found George’s complaint insufficient since he did not allege that other students in his paramedic course were allowed to participate in clinical rotations without receiving the proper vaccinations. Even if George could show he was treated differently than other students enrolled in a hospital course, students seeking entry into clinical rotations are not members of a protected class and therefore the court would apply the rational basis test.
George also claims that his procedural due process rights were violated because Defendants failed to give him with notice and a hearing before disqualifying him from the paramedic course. The court also rejected this claim based on its earlier determination that his free exercise rights were not violated.
In short, the appellate court affirmed the trial court’s dismissal of George’s complaint. George v. Kankakee Community College.
Post Authored by Katie O'Grady, Ancel Glink