A conservative Christian group says a federal judge has signed off on a class action lawsuit settlement, in which NorthShore University HealthSystem will pay $10.3 million dollars to more than 500 current and former employees who objected to the hospital’s policy of mandatory COVID-19 vaccinations.

Some of those employees lost their jobs after refusing to take the shots based on religious grounds.

Evanston Now has previously reported on the settlement. The organization that filed the suit, Florida-based Liberty Counsel, says Judge John Kness granted final verbal approval to the deal on Monday, and will enter written judgement next week.

Liberty Counsel called the settlement an “historic, first-of-a-kind class action suit against a private employer who unlawfully denied hundreds of religious exemption requests” to not be vaccinated.

The legal group says Evanston-based NorthShore will pay approximately $24,000 each to workers who were terminated or resigned over their refusal on religious grounds to take the vaccinations. Liberty Counsel also says employees who “were forced to accept a COVID shot against their religious beliefs” but kept working will receive $3,700 apiece.

The checks are supposed to go out within the next 60 days.

Those who were let go as part of the mandatory shot policy are eligible for reinstatement.

Liberty Counsel also says that religious accommodations will be possible for every hospital position on a case-by-case basis, as opposed to a blanket denial..

Earlier this year, when the deal was reached, NorthShore issued a statement saying, in part, that “The settlement reflects implementation of a new system-wide vaccine policy which will include accommodation for team members with approved exemptions, including former employees who were rehired.”

Besides Evanston Hospital, the NorthShore system has eight other hospitals, three of which are from a merger with Edward-Elmhust Health.

The original lawsuit was filed by 13 NorthShore employees who claimed that the COVID vaccinations were “associated with aborted fetal tissue,” according to Liberty Counsel.

While that claim is technically accurate, it is also controversial. National Geographic magazine has said that while it is true that such cells have been used in the testing, development and production of the vaccines, the cells are actually “grown in a laboratory and were derived from a few elective abortions more than three decades ago.”

The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops has also said that under the circumstances of the pandemic, use of the vaccines was acceptable.

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

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