Western Michigan University has reached a settlement with 16 student athletes who filed a lawsuit against the university for preventing them from competing in sports without getting the COVID-19 vaccine, the Detroit News reported.
The agreement would allow U.S. District Judge Paul Maloney to block the university’s vaccination requirement for the athletes and allow them to compete in games, according to a statement from the athletes’ attorney. However, the students would have to continue complying with COVID-19 testing and masking requirements. The athletes filed the lawsuit after unsuccessfully seeking a religious exemption from the COVID-19 vaccine mandate on the grounds that they are “devoted Christian people” who believe that the Bible and their faith preclude them from getting the shot, Detroit News reported. Previously, Maloney placed a temporary injunction on the vaccine mandate for student athletes in August, which was upheld unanimously by the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals.
The university also agreed to pay the athletes’ legal fees, worth over $34,000, according to the agreement filed in court Monday. And the students can keep any athletic scholarships; Western Michigan University policy holds that athletes seeking a religious exemption from the vaccine may be barred from competing, but they’re still members of the team.
“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,” read a joint statement from the university and the Great Lakes Justice Center, which represented the athletes, Detroit News reported.