Fourteen employees of Evanston-based NorthShore University HealthSystem have asked an appeals court to block their termination for refusing to get COVID-19 vaccinations.

NorthShore has a mandatory vaccination policy for its workers, but the plaintiffs say they have sincerely held religious reasons for opposing the shots, and claim requiring COVID vaccination illegally tramples on their religious rights.

Last month, a lower court judge refused to stop the dismissals.

That judge said the proper remedy is monetary damages, which the plaintiffs could get if they win their overall case, even if they lose their jobs.

The 14 employees are represented by a conservative organization called Liberty Counsel.

Liberty Counsel is asking the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals to put any dismissals on hold while the workers’ lawsuit against NorthShore moves forward.

The group’s filing says “once plaintiffs accept an irreversible injection that violates the core of their being – their conscience will be forever seared.”

The plaintiffs say the vaccines are linked to an aborted fetal cell line.

Fetal tissue is not used in the manufacture of those vaccines, nor is there any fetal tissue in them.

However, according to the Associated Press, a fetal cell line which originated in the 1970s was used to test the effectiveness of the shots. AP says cell lines are “cloned copies of cells from the same source that had been adapted to grow continuously in labs.”

The employees are asking the appeals court to rule by Dec. 16.

They say to meet NorthShore’s rule of being fully vaccinated by Dec. 31, “the last day they can trade their conscience for their livelihood is Dec. 17.”

After the lower court refused to block terminations, NorthShore said it supported that decision.

Jeff Hirsh joined the Evanston Now reporting team in 2020 after a 40-year award-winning career as a broadcast journalist in Cincinnati, Ohio.