In April, our former staff wrote about how a vaccine mandate at Loyola could help us return to the “normal” college experience. The week after, the school announced a vaccine requirement that has allowed students to return to in-person learning and living this fall.
While the vaccine policy states that unvaccinated students won’t be able to attend in-person classes, live on campus or get access to campus buildings, Loyola approved exemptions to more than 40 students following legal threats.
The group of students said they were opposed to vaccines “produced or tested with fetal cell lines” and refused to get the shot citing it as a “grave sin” in a press release put out by their legal representation, Liberty Counsel.
The group argued with a flimsy legal backing. In August, the Supreme Court ruled in favor of Indiana University’s vaccine mandate — backing the Appeals Court for the Seventh Circuit’s citation of Jacobson v. Massachusetts, which allowed for Massachusetts’ smallpox vaccine mandate with no religious exemptions.
But these students’ legal counsel may also be familiar to some for other reasons.
This is likely because Liberty Counsel is designated as an anti-LGBTQ+ hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center, an anti-discrimination group.
“Homosexual conduct can result in significant damage to those involved who engage in such conduct,” Liberty Counsel wrote on their site in 2015, according to the Southern Poverty Law Center. “There is no evidence that a person is born homosexual. And there is evidence that people can change. Our culture is being pressured with demands that our homes welcome, our daycares embrace, our schools indoctrinate, our businesses promote, and our laws reward this harmful sexual behavior.”
They’ve since toned this down to making more passive strikes at the LGBTQ+ community.
“Children do best in a home with a mom and a dad,” their website currently reads under the “Marriage & Family” tab.
Founder Mat Staver has even published a book titled “Same Sex Marriage: Putting Every Household At Risk.”
Not to mention their legal aid to conversion therapy groups in Florida or when they “successfully challenged” a lower court decision in the Supreme Court to allow protesters to harass those seeking healthcare at a Florida pre-natal clinic.
When asked by The Phoenix, the university didn’t address whether it knew about Liberty Counsel’s status as a hate group or how much pressure from the group affected its decision making, among other things.
“The University cannot comment on individual student matters,” the statement from Loyola spokesperson Anna Shymanski-Zach said in an email. “Given the serious nature of the pandemic… we are rightly called to make reasonable efforts to protect one another through vaccination.”
While Loyola won’t answer whether or not Liberty Counsel had any bearing on their decision, the fact that Loyola changed their minds the same day Liberty Counsel demanded the switch makes us question who can influence the administration.
Groups like these — who fight and speak against the students who attend classes here every day — shouldn’t have a seat at the table.
Every death, every hospitalization and every “long-hauler” is one too many. The university needs to ensure it’s doing everything in its power to keep students and staff safe.
Make the vaccine mandate mandatory.