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Muslim firefighter sues Boston for putting him on unpaid leave for refusing Covid-19 shots

Michael Browder, Jr. today sued Boston for a minimum of $8,342,068 in damages for putting him on unpaid leave in October, 2021 after denying his request for a religious exemption from the city's requirement that employees get Covid-19 shots.

In a suit filed in Suffolk Superior Court, Browder is also seeking additional damages for the "emotional distress, embarrassment, humiliation, anxiety, sleeplessness and emotional trauma" he has suffered over the past year.

He says this includes being unable to get unemployment and being turned down for fire-related jobs outside Boston. Browder, who is Black, charges White firefighters got exemptions and that both the department and his own union humiliated him - he alleges the firefighters union president at the time "openly ridiculed" him for his religious beliefs in e-mail to city personnel officials, who, he says, did nothing.

Browder's complaint does not specify the nature of his beliefs against vaccination, but said he offered a way he could still perform his job while staying away from shots: While on a shift, he would do a twice-daily health self-assessments and temperature checks and wear face masks and other PPE. BFD required all firefighters to follow these steps before Covid-19 vaccines were released.

Browder is represented by Richard Chambers of Lynnfield, who a number of people suing Boston over Covid-19-related matters, including several people seeking $6 million apiece over the city's former vaccination requirement for public spaces and a Jehovah's Witness who is both part of that suit and a separate suit against Boston Police for the way he was fired for not getting his shots.

PDF icon Complete Browder complaint307.22 KB


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Were Muslim's actually not getting the shots for religious purposes or is this guy just trying to be slick. I haven't heard of any anti-vax movements in the Muslim community, so I'm thinking this guy is just a liar.

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Mainstream Muslims have been encouraging people to get vaccinated and are usually very pro-public-health, so dude is relying on some fringe nuttiness.

But I also don't doubt at all that this guy received mocking of his faith and belief system in general, because, well, people.

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What’s wrong with mocking people’s belief systems if they believe things that you consider ridiculous? Isn’t that pretty core to the idea of the public space being a marketplace of ideas?

Are we morally enjoined to stop mocking Qanon?

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The part of the lawsuit alleging discrimination by administrative leave is bunk, but the part of the suit regarding what he describes as harassment from co-workers and supervisors, might have merit. The marketplace of public ideas does not allow for a hostile workplace.

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I'm sure you can grasp the distinction.

It's protected to, in an appropriate context, state factual information that a particular group or belief system causes specific harms.

It is not protected, and often constitutes harassment, to say things that just dismiss someone's entire faith.

There is also case law making the distinction between systems of belief that are primarily social beliefs with a particular motive vs. those that are tied in with broader cultural practices. QAnon would likely be completely fair game to criticize. While there is some degree of culture around it, it doesn't have the sort of cultural aura around it where the beliefs that are hateful and/or factually inaccurate can be separated out from cultural aspects that can be practiced without the hatred. In contrast, there are fundamentalist sects of most every major religion that hold similar views regarding sexism, racism, factually inaccurate sexuality information, and so forth, whereby it would be fine to state how those things are problematic, but would be considered harassment to make fun of these people for their other practices (holidays, prayers, their deity, etc.) that are also practiced by many others who aren't engaging in bigoted versions of the faith.

In the specific case in the OP, it would be protected speech to say, "yeah, um, vaccines are safe, effective, and most mainstream Muslims are in favor." It isn't protected speech, and is harassment, to do things like making fun of the person for saying Muslim prayers and observing the holidays.

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Even Sharia Law thinks the Covid-19 vaccine is a good thing. I wonder what offshoot of Islam represents his religious beliefs?


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Even Sharia Law thinks....

I don't think laws have the capacity to think. But in general I think religions have a hierarchy of what they consider important, and keeping a tax free business going is at the very top of that list.

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The Nation of Islam (NOI) is against Covid-19 vaccinations for Black people.

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...does NOI have to do with sharia?

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They are both parts of Islamic faith.

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From city data, Michael Browder, Jr. earned $146k last year as a firefighter.

An $8 million lawsuit is the kind of gratitude we get from someone who works in public safety without a proper understanding of vaccination. That's frustrating.

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There is perverse comfort when it is demonstrated that no religious belief stops a person from exercising raw greed.

As the holies of holy justice give carte blanche to bigotry based on abused and tattered claims of right, it is weirdly comforting to see banal evils fly out of the Pandoras Box opened and kept gaping wide by the princes of justicial piety.

Between the God of Strife worshipped by the orange haired would be king and his minions, the Pandora's Box opened by the Supremes, and the hubris of so-called pious Evangelicals, a person could mistake the present day as a tragic play of Ancient Greece.

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I am neither a religious scholar nor a fan of religion, but I'm sure there are belief systems that practice poverty. Not this one, no.

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There is no religion which someone will not claim as justification for their actions, irrespective of how disconnected their actions are to the basis of that religion.

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This guy built a ~$400,000 home on an empty lot in NH in 2016/2017 even though he claimed residency in Boston to keep working as a Boston firefighter until Oct 2021. He even sold his Mattapan condo and house in Hyde Park years before.

I'd love to know what he submitted for his residency requirement for the past 5 years. If the city wanted to start digging, I wonder if they could sue him for fraud and get his paycheck back from the last half century.

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