Oral surgeon who fought vaccine order continues battle in RI

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An oral and maxillofacial surgeon who filed a complaint against Rhode Island after he was forced to stop practicing for refusing to comply with a COVID-19 vaccine compliance order is fighting to keep his legal battle alive.

Though Dr. Stephen Skoly Jr. has been back to work since March 2022, when the state lifted its vaccine mandate, he is asking the U.S. District Court for the District of Rhode Island not to dismiss his First Amendment claim. On January 30, the New Civil Liberties Alliance (NCLA), on behalf of Skoly, filed a response to the state's recent request to have the case dismissed.

Skoly claims that Gov. Daniel McKee retaliated against him for exercising his First Amendment rights by speaking out against the vaccine mandate, according to a press release from the NCLA. Additionally, the NCLA states the court should award declaratory and injunctive relief inhibiting Rhode Island from repeating what it claims is unlawful conduct in the future.

"While unlawfully prohibiting Dr. Skoly from seeing patients, the State of Rhode Island permitted individuals with active, ongoing Covid infections to work in hospitals and other healthcare facilities," Dr. Greg Dolin, senior litigation counsel at the NCLA, stated in the release. "This disparate treatment and the fact that no other healthcare provider, vaccinated or not, was treated similarly to Dr. Skoly shows that the actions taken against him were not done for any public health reasons, but purely in retaliation for Dr. Skoly's speech."

In October 2021, the state health department ordered Skoly to stop treating patients until he complied with Rhode Island's COVID-19 vaccine mandate. In February 2022, Skoly filed the complaint seeking relief against the state saying he has a history of Bell's palsy paralysis and that was why he did not get vaccinated for COVID-19. He further alleged that he wasn't being treated fairly because he was denied a medical exemption. However, the state did not recognize the risk of Bell's palsy recurrence as an acceptable exemption.

Furthermore, Skoly claimed to have natural immunity due to having COVID-19 in December 2020. As one of the few oral surgeons in the state, Skoly said shuttering his practice had a negative effect on his patients.

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