Caroline Pinto, 27, had just begun her second semester of the nursing program at the university’s Anschutz Medical Campus when administrators began implementing new COVID-19 protocols for students who returned to campus.
Over the summer, “we were all remote, so there wasn’t much talk about COVID or anything like that, or what going back would be like,” Pinto explained, after she began the program in June.
On July 7, the school chancellor issued a statement demanding that all students be vaccinated by Sept. 1. Several days prior, the university had assured Pinto, who had been proactive in seeking forms for an exemption, that “CU’s process allows exemptions to anyone who requests one for any reason; religious, medical or personal.”
“There is no formal documentation or proof necessary,” the school initially wrote in a July 2 email reviewed by The Federalist. “We trust our students and employees.”
Chancellor Don Elliman’s statement rolling out the vaccine mandate made clear “medical and religious exemptions are available” through a simple form, which students would need to formally file the request.
Two months later, Pinto came to campus as a second-class citizen, forced to follow a regimen that included a daily questionnaire and weekly testing in order to maintain enrollment. Pinto was also asked to socially distance at all times both indoors and outdoors, while wearing a mask except for when outside more than 10 feet from others. Pinto complied, and followed up with the school to ensure she remained in good standing with the university.
“I heard I was in compliance,” she told The Federalist, having followed the protocols in place for the unvaccinated. Indeed, in another chain of emails shared with The Federalist, Pinto was assured by the College of Nursing “your religious exemption from the COVID vaccination has been received and you are compliant.”
On Aug. 27 however, Pinto received another email from Fara Bowler, the director of the Clinical Education Center and Simulation for the College of Nursing, that the university’s requirements for a religious exemption had been updated. Bowler sent Pinto a more comprehensive form requiring a detailed explanation of her faith and the reasons behind her refusal to vaccinate against the novel coronavirus. Pinto had three days to submit it, which she did, outlining in more than 800 words her moral and ethical objections to taking the vaccine.
Pinto ended her submission with a list of 14 questions about the coronavirus vaccine. None were answered in the school’s response 10 days later, stating that her request for exemption was denied and alerting her that she had five days to get vaccinated. The school did not offer any reason for the denial beyond citing the American Nurses Association’s absence of endorsement for “philosophical or religious exemptions.”
On Sept. 16, Pinto was dismissed from the nursing program.