“We cannot help you. Christians take the vaccine.” Those were the words that the state of Missouri uttered to my client, Maria Burtch, when she sought to file a public accommodations complaint for religious discrimination against her medical school for forcing her into a leave of absence over her refusal to take a COVID-19 vaccine. It was precisely the type of perfunctory, paternalistic lecture that the First Amendment prohibits. Thus, it was my honor to say yes when We The Patriots USA, Inc. approached me and asked me if I could help Maria.
Maria is an outstanding medical student at A.T. Still University in Missouri. She is also a non-denominational Christian who has demonstrated that science and faith are not mutually exclusive.
Ms. Burtch refused to take a COVID-19 vaccine because the currently available vaccines either contain aborted fetal cells or use aborted fetal cells in the testing process. She believes that abortion is immoral and sinful because it is the intentional premeditated murder of a human being – a belief that I also share. Her faith compels her to avoid deriving any benefit or having any participation – no matter how remote – in a process involving an abortion. The Apostle Paul’s epistles support her position: “Lay hands suddenly on no man, neither be partaker of other men’s sins; keep thyself pure.” 1 Timothy 5:22, King James Version.
Thus, Maria requested a religious accommodation from A.T. Still University so she could continue her studies. In other words, she was not unreasonable. She did not refuse to wear a mask or take or precautions. All she desired was to have her faith respected.
A.T. Still, however, gave her three options: 1) Take the vaccine, 2) take a year long forced leave of absence, or 3) withdraw from the program. Maria elected the second option to buy herself time to explore her legal options. She will not give up on her dreams of a career in medicine or violate her conscience.
Maria then attempted to file a public accommodations religious discrimination complaint with the Missouri Commission on Human Rights (MCHR) – a necessary step before filing a lawsuit in Missouri. The day that she filed her complaint, an MCHR intake officer contacted her and asked if she identified with a specific religion. Maria told the intake officer that she is a non-denominational Christian and that her religious beliefs do not permit her to take COVID-19 vaccine. The intake officer responded by telling her that Christians take the vaccine and that the MCHR could not help her.
When Maria called the intake officer back to plead for help, the officer told her that the MCHR could not help her because she did not belong to a specific religion that opposes the use of aborted fetal cells in vaccines. The intake officer refused to process her complaint even though she was required to by law.
On June 24, 2021, I penned a letter (included below in full) on Maria’s behalf to the MCHR and the Missouri Attorney General to explain why their conduct violated the United States Constitution. By requiring Maria to identify with a specific religious denomination, the MCHR violated the Establishment Clause and numerous other protections of the First Amendment by requiring Maria to associate with a church in order to receive the protections of Missouri law.
Within an hour of receiving my letter, the MCHR reversed its position and accepted Maria’s complaint. Maria will face a long and uphill battle in her fight for respect for her religious beliefs.
Sadly, Maria’s story is becoming the norm in the United States. Governments are growing more and more hostile toward people of faith. To believe in a religious principle that does not align with whatever hysteria dominates society today is to be done at your own peril. You risk being shut out of legal processes and disfavored at every step of the way because of your religious beliefs.
I am proud to be Maria’s lawyer. I look forward to ensuring that she achieves an outcome in this dispute that respects her religious beliefs. She will need your prayers and your support. To support her and the other fights for religious, medical, and civil freedom that We The Patriots USA undertakes, please consider donating to them at https://wethepatriotsusa.org. If you wish to support Maria specifically, please leave a note with your donation entitled “For Maria Burtch.”
The letter sent to the MCHR is included below: