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WMU and soccer players fighting vaccine rule reach agreement that will allow them to play

The four women filed a lawsuit in August challenging the school's COVID-19 vaccine requirement, citing their religious beliefs
WMU soccer judgement reached
Posted at 4:44 PM, Nov 16, 2021
and last updated 2021-11-16 19:08:10-05

KALAMAZOO, Mich. — Western Michigan University has reached an agreement with the attorneys of four student-athletes who sued the school after having their requests for religious exemptions from their COVID-19 vaccine rule denied.

The four student-athletes— Emily Dahl, Hannah Redoute, Bailey Korhorn, and Morgan Otterson, are all part of the university's soccer team.

In mid-August, WMU required them to get a shot by August 31 or be removed from the team. The women all submitted requests for religious exemptions from the requirement, but all were denied at the time.

They would end up suing the school, asking that they be allowed to continue playing on the soccer team without being vaccinated.

Only this week has the case come to a close, with all of the women now allowed to continue playing on their team without being vaccinated. WMU says they will take part in COVID testing and masking requirements.

U.S. District Judge Paul Maloney in Grand Rapids issued a temporary restraining order against WMU in late August, saying they could not enforce their vaccine requirement.

The case eventually went to the State Court of Appeals, where a judge declined to rescind Judge Maloney's previous restraining order.

The court said at the time that at least 16 student-athletes had sought exemptions from WMU's vaccine rule, but were either denied or ignored.

"Other attempts by the University to combat COVID-19, even those targeted at intercollegiate athletics, may pass constitutional muster," the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals wrote in an opinion in the case.

"But having announced a system under which student-athletes can seek individualized exemptions, the University must explain why it chose not to grant any to plaintiffs. And it did not fairly do so here."

On Tuesday, attorneys for the women and WMU entered into a consent judgment that will allow the women to continue playing on their soccer team without being vaccinated, with the university covering $34,000 in legal fees.

“Obviously, our clients are ecstatic over this. I mean, now this cloud is off... from hanging over their heads. It's gone,” said attorney for the women, David Kallman.

“We're just glad that some common sense has prevailed at this point. And Western is on board with this decision, as well as our clients and so everybody can move on from here.”

Western Michigan University sent FOX 17 the following statement Tuesday in regards to the closing of the suit:

“The student-athletes involved in the vaccine lawsuit and Western Michigan University have reached a settlement of the pending litigation, allowing both parties to move forward. The settlement entails the students in the suit being awarded permanent relief from the athletics vaccine mandate, although they will continue to abide by testing and masking requirements. The University will pay their legal fees in the amount of $34,000. The Court of Appeals acknowledged that all parties were acting in good faith. 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.”

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