President Biden's COVID-19 vaccine mandate for federal employees has been blocked by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit in New Orleans. The court's decision reverses a ruling by a three-judge panel of the same court that had previously upheld the vaccination requirement. At a rare en banc rehearing, the full court rejected the government's argument that courts don't have jurisdiction over pre-enforcement challenges to Biden's vaccine mandate. The effect of the court's decision is to uphold a preliminary injunction issued by a federal judge in January 2022 that blocked the mandate. At the time, the Biden administration had stated that almost 98% of covered employees had already been vaccinated. A panel of the 5th Circuit had briefly reinstated the mandate, arguing that federal employees should have taken their complaint to administrative agencies dealing with employment issues, such as the Merit Systems Protection Board or Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, instead of suing in court. However, the full court agreed to hear the matter en banc, which again paused the mandate's enforcement. [tweet_embed]March 25, 2023[/tweet_embed] Judge Andrew Oldham, a Trump appointee, wrote the majority opinion, and the entire 5th Circuit concluded that federal employees could take their case to court because they were challenging Biden's authority on constitutional grounds. The court upheld the preliminary injunction blocking the vaccine mandate, and now the federal employees' case will proceed in District court. The court clarified that the case only involves a preliminary injunction, which aims to maintain the status quo until the parties can adjudicate the merits. When the parties proceed to the merits in the district court, the plaintiffs will have to prove that whatever injunction they request is broad enough to protect against their proven injuries and no broader. The government will also have another chance to show that any permanent injunction should be narrower than the preliminary one. Both sides must grapple with the White House’s announcement that the COVID emergency will finally end on May 11, 2023. The Biden administration issued the Vaccine mandate in September 2021, requiring all federal employees to get vaccinated against COVID-19 or face disciplinary action, including losing their jobs. Some religious or medical exemptions were allowed. However, such individuals had to deal with an unpleasant work environment and career advancement issues. Feds for Medical Freedom, the group that challenged Biden's authority to mandate vaccination on constitutional grounds, has filed another lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for Eastern Virginia, alleging that the Department of State violated Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act by denying religious accommodations and allowing discrimination to take place. In its complaint, the group claimed that "the department has burdened the exercise of religion by forcing religious believers to accept invasive and painful testing, stigmatizing masking, loss of professional opportunities, unequal accommodation procedures, and a culture of harassment and ridicule because of their disfavored religious beliefs." The lawsuit alleges that the Department of State has taken an uneven, lackadaisical approach to issuing religious accommodations while simultaneously increasing pressure on those who have expressed religious beliefs to vaccinate, despite their convictions. The Department of State did not immediately respond to a request for comment.