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Amid Flu Shot Debate, Court Says Veganism Could Qualify as Religious Belief

Court refuses to dismiss hospital worker's religious discrimination case after she was fired for refusing a flu shot.

Recent headlines have noted the number of health workers refusing to get flu shots this year due to religious convictions. But in Ohio, chicken eggs–a little-known ingredient in manufactured flu vaccines–are causing a stir after a federal district court ruled that one vegan's refusal to ingest animal by-products–including eggs–could qualify as a religious belief.

Sakile Chenzira filed suit against her former employer, Cinncinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center, after the hospital fired her in 2010. Chenzira had refused to comply with a policy that requires employees to receive a flu vaccination on the basis of her vegan lifestyle.

According to the court, Chenzira argued that "such discharge violated her religious and philosophical convictions because she is a vegan, a person who does not ingest any animal or animal by-products, and that prior to 2010, Defendant accommodated her request to forgo the vaccine."

The hospital attempted to dismiss Chenzira's claim, but the court denied the motion. The judge allowed the religious claims to proceed, finding that the "plaintiff could subscribe to veganism with a sincerity equating that of traditional religious views."

CT has regularly reported on courts, discrimination, religious freedom, philosophy and health and medicine, and recently did a cover story on food ethics and "a feast fit for the King."

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