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Woman sues Nationwide Children's Hospital, claims she was fired for not getting COVID-19 vaccine

A Pickerington woman is suing her former employer, Nationwide Children's Hospital, claiming she was illegally fired because she wouldn't take the COVID-19 vaccination. She claims the hospital should have accepted a religious exemption she filed as a Christian.

Tina Moore filed the federal civil complaint in U.S. District Court in Columbus claiming her civil rights were violated.

In the suit, she states she worked for the hospital for 24 years as a surgical scheduler.

The hospital required employees to get fully vaccinated by mid-March 2022. Moore states in the suit that because the vaccine goes against her "sincerely held" Christian religious beliefs, she applied for a religious exemption.

According to Moore's suit, her request was denied, though other religious exemptions were granted.

Moore received an email from hospital staff in March stating she "failed to provide sufficient information showing that her religious belief, practice or observance prohibited her from receiving a COVID-19 vaccination," according to the suit.

Moore said she offered to provide more explanation, and asked for the request to be reconsidered.

"Moore offered to provide additional clarification, details, scripture, and additional information to support her sincerely held religious beliefs," the suit stated.

But she wasn't given that opportunity, according to her complaint. She was placed on leave and then fired in April of 2022.

Moore stated in the suit that she should have been given reasonable accommodations instead of being fired, such as masking up and taking regular COVID tests, as staff did before the vaccine was available or required.

The suit claims that more than 90% of hospital staff were vaccinated by then, meaning it would be harder for the virus to spread, so the hospital shouldn't have required her to get the shot.

WOSU reached out to the hospital for comment, but have not heard back.

The suit cites case law, claiming a religious belief doesn't have to be part of a main tenet of a religion to be protected by federal law. "The Supreme Court has made it clear that it is not a court’s role to determine the reasonableness of an individual’s religious beliefs, and that 'religious beliefs need not be acceptable, logical, consistent or comprehensible to others in order to merit First Amendment protection.”

And, "a person’s religious beliefs 'need not be confined in either source or content to traditional or parochial concepts of religion,'” the suit states.

Moore claims the hospital discriminated against her because they fired her "due to her religion" and that law "prohibits an employer from eliciting or attempting to elicit any information concerning the religion as a condition of employment."

Moore is asking for lost past and future income and benefits, compensatory damages for "physical pain, emotional distress (and) humiliation," along with punitive damages "to ensure the conduct of (the hospital), as demonstrated herein, does not continue, and to punish (the hospital) for inflicting the harm (Moore) has suffered and making her choose between her faith and her job."

Nationwide Children's Hospital has not yet responded to the suit.

Renee Fox is a reporter for 89.7 NPR News.