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New lawsuit: Creighton University discriminated against Catholics who oppose COVID shot

On Sept. 10, Creighton expelled the brothers Nikodije and Aleksandar Kozic and banned them from campus for their refusal to take the genetic serum shots against COVID-19.

A quote from St. Ignatius of Loyola, founder of the Society of Jesus, on a monument at Creighton University in Omaha. (Photo: Creighton University / YouTube)

Jesuit-run Creighton University, a 9,000-student university based in Omaha, engaged in religious discrimination against two Catholic students who wished to claim religious exemption to the university’s mandatory COVID-19 shot policy, a lawsuit filed Oct. 5 alleges. It is the second recent lawsuit against Creighton over its refusal to grant faith-based exceptions to its shot mandate.

Brothers Nikodije and Aleksandar Kozic filed suit in District Court of Douglas County, Neb., against Creighton and its president, Rev. Daniel S. Hendrickson, S.J. The suit alleges that Creighton is a “place of public accommodation” and thus under Nebraska statute cannot discriminate based on religion. It also alleges Creighton’s COVID shot policy infringes on rights of conscience guaranteed by the Nebraska Constitution.

On Sept. 10, Creighton expelled the Kozic brothers and banned them from campus for their refusal to take the genetic serum shots against COVID-19, an illness caused by the Wuhan coronavirus. Niko Kozic, a dean’s list student, was set to start his junior year studying economics and psychology. Aleks Kozic was starting his freshman year intending to major in chemistry and classical studies. The Kozics cited their Catholic faith and its opposition to abortion in foregoing COVID inoculation with shots developed from abortion-derived cell lines.

It was the second COVID lawsuit filed against Creighton since the start of fall classes. The Kozics are represented by attorneys from We the Patriots USA, a nonprofit group dedicated to religious freedom and First Amendment rights. A previous suit against Creighton claimed the university’s coercive shot policy violated its educational contract with the 10 plaintiffs, a group that included the Kozic brothers. A Douglas County judge rejected that lawsuit’s call for a restraining order, saying the case was not likely to succeed on the merits.

Creighton enacted a policy on July 7 requiring students to be “fully vaccinated” against COVID-19 for the fall semester that began Aug. 18. No religious exemptions were offered. Students could sign a temporary exemption that said they would get COVID-19 shots once the U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA) gave the shots final approval. The Kozics each signed a temporary waiver. The FDA on Aug. 23 approved a shot developed by Pfizer for BioNTech. The approval letter covers the branded version of the Pfizer-BioNTech shot, which will be marketed under the trade name Comirnaty. Comirnaty is not yet available in the United States.

The new lawsuit claims that Creighton, although a private Catholic school, qualifies as a “place of public accommodation” under Nebraska law, which prohibits discrimination on the basis of race, creed, color, sex, religion, national origin, disability or ancestry. The university qualifies as a place of public accommodation, the suit said, in part because it “holds itself open to the public” and because “it accepts both state and federal funds in the form of financial aid, loans, grants, etc.”

“Creighton University is therefore guilty of discriminatory practice as defined by statute in that the university is directly withholding from the Kozics its services on the basis of their sincerely held religious convictions regarding the use of COVID-19 vaccines that were developed and/or manufactured through the use of aborted fetal cell lines,” the lawsuit reads. Article I of the Nebraska Constitution also guarantees “a natural and indefeasible right to worship Almighty God according to the dictates of their own consciences” and that no “interference with the rights of conscience be permitted,” the suit said.

“We are aware of the filing but have not had an opportunity to review it thoroughly,” said Cindy R. Workman, Creighton’s director of public relations. “However, it remains our policy not to comment on pending litigation.”

On its web site under the headline “COVID-19 Vaccination as a Moral Responsibility,” the university states it has historically not allowed religious exemptions from vaccines. The statement downplays the role that abortion-derived cell lines played in development of the current group of COVID vaccines, noting it “is common practice” to use cell lines from aborted babies to “test the effectiveness and safety of medications.”

Getting the COVID shots “should be considered an act of love of our neighbor and part of our moral responsibility for the common good,” the Creighton statement reads. It makes no mention of individual conscience, or the recent guidance from the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF) that vaccination “must be voluntary.” The December 2020 CDF document said if no “ethically irreproachable” vaccines are available, it is morally acceptable to receive vaccines that used cells lines from aborted children in research or production. Receiving vaccines in this circumstance “does not constitute formal cooperation with the abortion…” 

Some bishops—including Auxiliary Bishop Athanasius Schneider of Astana, Kazakhstan—decried this position. “To argue that such vaccines can be morally licit if there is no alternative is in itself contradictory and cannot be acceptable for Catholics,” Bishop Schneider wrote in December 2020. Bishop Joseph Strickland of Tyler, Texas, announced that he would not take a COVID shot. He said Catholics must strive to have a well-formed conscience, but should not face coercive mandates. “Everyone should have the freedom to do that, to use their free will,” Strickland said. 

The suit cites a 2005 document from the Pontifical Academy for Life —“Moral Reflections on Vaccines Prepared from Cells Derived from Aborted Human Fetuses”—that warns abortion-tainted vaccines can contribute to normalization of the immoral actions of the pharmaceutical industry. “It is up to the faithful and citizens of upright consciences (fathers of families, doctors) to oppose, even by making an objection of conscience, the ever more widespread attacks against life and the ‘culture of death’ which underlies them,” the document said.

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About Joseph M. Hanneman 101 Articles
Joseph M. Hanneman writes from Madison, Wisconsin.


  1. The University claims that taking is “an act of love of our neighbor and part of our moral responsibility for the common good”. Arguably so if one is free to do so. If one acts under coercion it’s nothing of the sort. Besides which love of neighbor, if rooted in truth, includes the most helpless and innocent among us; the unborn. If the victims had been slave labor camp inmates and not aborted babies would “love of neighbor” and defense of the “common good” still compel us on moral grounds to accept these so-called vaccines? Doubtful. In fact they never would have been made in the first place. The general moral outrage would be so great, no pharmaceutical company would have dared to do so. The unborn are equally human and entitled to the same consideration. Their deliberate use as commodities in the making of these products warrants the same level of condemnation.

    • Well and beautifully said! How dare anyone force another human being to violate their conscience and call it love. Twisted reasoning. Just as twisted as the reasoning behind abortion. Ultrasound proves beyond any doubt the humanity of the developing child in the womb. In the words of my PhD anatomy professor way back in 1994, “if it isn’t there at 8 weeks it isn’t going to be.” The human child in the womb is entirely present at 8 weeks gestation. After that it is just time and nutrition. Abortion is a great evil. We cannot participate or benefit from this evil practice no matter how “remotely”. There is a vaccine which should be available very soon calked Novavax. There is zero connection to abortion at any stage of development or testing.

    • “ The University claims that taking is “an act of love of our neighbor and part of our moral responsibility for the common good”. Arguably so if one is free to do so. ”

      When I read what you wrote it occurred to me that an “act of love” which one is not free to refuse is rape.

    • If it had been a police officer murdered in the line of duty by a drug dealer, would it be morally licit to accept a kidney transplant or heart transplant from the dead police officer, or would that make the transplant recipient complicit in the murder?

      • What does their conscience tell them? I wouldn’t think it would make one complicit but it’s ultimately their decision. But they’re not being compelled to do anything. Unlike those being coerced into taking these shots. I think that’s the point. People are being compelled to do something that violates their conscience and/or which they don’t approve of for reasons of prudence.

      • IF killing police officers was societally and legally acceptable—government promoted and publicly funded—we would be no less obligated to refuse organs or other body matter.

      • The heart of a dead man cannot be used as a transplant. It must be a beating heart, which certainly raises questions as to when the heart “donor” really died…Usually a kidney donor is alive, and your question is moot.

  2. big brother government is using covid as a fear mongering scare tactic to force everybody to get jabbed…there is no covid now…it is gone…those of us who dont want the jab should be respected..we are not sheep and will not be forced…people need to wake up and reject it at all costs.

  3. The Catechism of the Catholic Church #1759 “An evil action cannot be justified by reference to a good intention” (cf. St. Thomas Aquinas, Dec. praec. 6). The end does not justify the means.
    Creighton Jesuits declare that getting the COVID shots “should be considered an act of love of our neighbor and part of our moral responsibility for the common good.” What about the act of love of our unborn neighbor and part of our moral responsibility to protect the innocent? The end does not justify the means. We cannot change the past, but we can affect the future. By insisting on a morally produced vaccine, we are stating that the use of fetal cells in research is neither acceptable in the future, nor in the past. Planned Unparenthood sells body parts of the aborted babies as part of its industry. Catholics should always oppose this. Pope Francis and the bishops owed it to Catholics to insist on a morally acceptable vaccine and, thus, protect the consciences of Catholics around the world. Unfortunately, they didn’t have the requisite spines.

  4. Your use of the words “genetic serum shots” and “Wuhan coronavirus” are inflammatory and undermine your legititmate point about respecting a religious exemption. On a related point are those following their consciences in refusing the COVID vaccine also refusing the vaccines against chickenpox, rubella (the “R” in the MMR vaccine) and hepatitis A, which were developed using fetal cells? To be morally consistent, one must refuse these vaccines as well.

    • Mr. Phillips,
      The COVID vaccines are not all morally equal. The J&J vaccine was created from aborted cell lines and, consequently, fails the Natural Law principle of Double Effect. This vaccine is immoral. The Pfizer and Moderna shots, on the other hand, become problematic only in regard to their proximity to the aborted cell lines. This can be more of a matter of debate as to whether these vaccines are morally permissible. In regard to your allegation against the chickenpox, rubella, and hepatitis vaccines, in which category do these vaccines fall under?

      The use of the term “Wuhan virus” is not inflammatory but does indicate that the writer’s thinking and reporting is of a more independent nature. Given the goose-stepping nature of the modern media, this is not necessarily a bad thing.

      • I suspect that the other vaccines I mentioned, fall into the same less objectionable category as the mRNA vaccines and did not involve fetal cell lines in production, rather than the more objectionable J&J vaccine. I think it adnmirable for us all to think about the moral implications of our decisions. But to press the point further, are those who object to the mRNA vaccines also willing to forgo other medications that were tested with fetal cell lines, reportedly including Motrin, Tylenol, Tums, Lipitor, Ex-Lax, Benadryl, Sudafed, Claritin, Prilosec, and Zoloft and others? One would think these medications are even more morally objectionable since they only benefit the individual who takes them as opposed to a COVID vaccine which helps to protect individuals around you.

    • Your point about other vaccines is a fair one. I think many, myself included, were utterly unaware until very recently how ubiquitous was the use of fetal cell line in the development of not only medical products but a number of consumer products such as cosmetics. I’ve read that the practice could date as far back as the 1930’s. It’s long past time for people to learn the facts and raise strong objections to this practice and insist upon ethical alternatives.

      I can well understand people under compulsion submitting to using a medicine when not alternatives are available. But why the silence? Using human beings as material in the making of any product is morally abhorrent. Continuing to use these products as a matter of course makes any such protest weak and ineffective.

      It’s time, in my opinion, for well grounded people of faith to speak with one voice and demand a stop to any compulsory taking of vaccines and to further demand that only ethical means be used henceforth. As I noted elsewhere, it’s highly doubtful that any company would use cell lines derived from the organs of murdered slave labor camp inmates. The moral outrage would be universal. Why not for the unborn? Are they not equally human and entitled to the same measure of respect?

  5. Okay, I’m gonna come right out and say it: why is it my obligation to protect others, while simultaneously taking a risk and/or suffering the side effects? Why is it my duty to alleviate the irrational fear that many have? I don’t think that makes me selfish, and I don’t believe I’m endangering others. Covid is nowhere near as bad as smallpox was anyway.

    Why can’t they invent an antibody/immunity test? Then we can all prove we have immunity whether, it’s from the vaccine or acquired naturally. Because I think we’ve all been exposed to covid and probably have immunity, whether we realize it or not.

  6. Conscientious Catholics weigh all the points raised in this article and comments and ongoing debate. They also continue to practice safety protocols. Yet, there remains grave concern over the clerical directive that submitting to this vax injection is an act of love. Foremost, vaxxes do not prevent transmission which would have been the most powerful inducer. Then, given all we know, it could be argued that any person who has serious doubts—religious or otherwise—about the prudence of submitting to the vax and suspects foul play—but does so to only protect material possessions—may be selfish. Moreover, as society is increasingly overtaken by what resembles vax vampirism, even young children are being subjected to this medical tsunami in the absence of sound scientific need, let alone clinical trials. We may not know irreversible damage for years. (See the recent warnings about the harm of puberty blockers from “trans” doctors no less.)
    Still, I have learned much that was previously hidden. I have written my Congressman to insist that all products produced by research using aborted fetal cells so state that on their labels.
    Praying for wisdom!

  7. I wonder why the 2005 document mentioned in the suit quotes only the “fathers of families and doctors” that are called to oppose the “widespread attacks” and the “culture of death”, what about the mothers of families and other women, why are they not encouraged to oppose it also?

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