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The latest on Sister Dede: D.C. has given her a religious exemption from vaccination mandate

Sr. Deirdre “Dede” Byrne, POSC./ EWTN News Nightly

Sister Deirdre Byrne, perhaps better known as “Sister Dede,” says that Washington, D.C. officials have accepted her religious exemption to the COVID-19 vaccination mandate for health care workers, allowing her to resume her work as a physician and surgeon until 2023. 

The Catholic sister learned the news through a letter from D.C. Health and D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser dated March 15.

“They basically said that because the hospital numbers have decreased and the numbers of COVID cases have decreased, they have now had a change of heart and have accepted my religious exemption until March of 2023,” she announced during an interview with Raymond Arroyo on “The World Over” March 17. You can watch the full interview in the video below.

A retired U.S. Army colonel, Byrne served as an Army doctor prior to joining the Sisters of the Little Workers of the Sacred Heart. In Washington, D.C., she leads her convent's free medical clinic as medical director, in addition to operating an abortion pill reversal ministry. Byrne grew in name recognition after addressing the Republican National Convention in 2020.

Byrne sued Washington, D.C. officials on March 9 for denying her an exemption. A previous letter that she received, on March 11, informed her that her medical license would remain active until September

Byrne objects to the D.C. mandate on moral and religious grounds, CNA previously reported, because the vaccines approved for use in the United States “have been tested, developed, or produced with cell lines derived from abortions,” according to a statement from her attorney, Christopher Ferrara, special counsel for the Thomas More Society, a nonprofit law firm focused on religious liberty cases.

In the March 15 letter, the D.C. officials “really didn’t mention anything about, ‘Oh, we embrace your religious exemption or the reason why we’re granting you an extension is because we appreciate your stance on the aborted-fetal tissue issue, we will give you that ability to be able to follow your conscience,” Byrne said. “They didn’t even mention any of that, they didn’t mention the suit.” 

The district first announced its requirement for health care workers to be vaccinated in August. Though the policy includes exemptions for medical or religious reasons, Byrne's application was originally denied.

The Thomas More Society filed the lawsuit on March 9 in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia. The defendants are listed as: D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser, D.C. Department of Health Director LaQuandra S. Nesbitt, and the District of Columbia.

“Next year, I’ll have to probably, depending on what’s going on in the world because COVID is really in our rearview mirror and maybe it won’t be any issue and maybe we won’t have to do this again, but I guess they kept their foot in the door to be able to have a little control over us in having to write another religious letter asking for an exemption.”

The Thomas More Society, DC Health, the Office of the Attorney General for the District of Columbia, and D.C. Mayor Murial Bowser’s office did not respond with a comment by time of publication.

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