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Western Michigan University settles lawsuit filed by student-athletes over COVID vaccine mandate

(Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio

Western Michigan University has reached an agreement with 16 student-athletes who sued after the university told them to get the COVID vaccine or risk being benched.

The athletes sued, claiming the university’s vaccine mandate violated their religious rights. Last month, a federal appeals court sided with the athletes.

Under the Proposed Consent Judgment filed with the federal court this week, Western Michigan University agreed to let the student-athletes compete without being vaccinated. The university may require non-vaccinated athletes to be tested weekly for the virus and wear a mask during team activities.

WMU also agrees to pay the student-athletes’ attorneys’ fees and costs totaling $34,617.

In a written statement, the WMU says the settlement will allow both sides to “move forward.”

“The University wishes the student-athletes well in their academic and athletic careers, and the student-athletes are excited to continue their academic and athletic careers at WMU,” concludes the WMU statement.

Attorney David Kallman represented the student-athletes. He says businesses, governments and other institutions should pay attention to the WMU case.

“They should understand that everybody has a constitutional right to their religious beliefs and to not be forced to violate those beliefs,” said Kallman.

Kallman expects to file similar lawsuits against west Michigan businesses later this week.

Steve Carmody has been a reporter for Michigan Public since 2005. Steve previously worked at public radio and television stations in Florida, Oklahoma and Kentucky, and also has extensive experience in commercial broadcasting.
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