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ABC is asking an L.A. judge to toss Ingo Rademacher’s lawsuit over his firing from General Hospital for refusing the COVID-19 vaccine, arguing that the actor’s beliefs aren’t religious in nature and he was likely going to be written off anyway.
Rademacher was fired from the long-running soap in November 2021 after refusing to comply with the network’s vaccine mandate. The following month, he sued the network. His claims include religious and disability discrimination, invasion of privacy, and political retaliation, all of which ABC argues don’t survive legal scrutiny.
In a motion for summary judgment filed Dec. 28, ABC’s lawyer Steven Marenberg says the vaccine policy was the result of “an extensive deliberative process at Disney,” which included a process for evaluating religious and medical exemptions on a case-by-case basis.
Rademacher submitted a vaccine exemption request because of his “deeply and sincerely held moral belief that my body is endowed by my creator with natural processes to protect me and that its natural integrity cannot ethically be violated by the administration of artificially created copies of genetic material, foreign to nature and experimental.”
The network says the actor stonewalled the employee relations department during the review process and refused to give details about his religious views, claiming the questioning was discriminatory and a violation of his civil rights.
“Although Rademacher provided little information to ABC in the interactive process, what limited information he did provide revealed that his opposition to vaccination was rooted in secular, philosophical/moral beliefs,” writes Marenberg in the filing, which is embedded below. “To summarize succinctly, at no point did Rademacher mention that his beliefs are based on, related to, or even loosely connected to any religious text or teaching.”
The network also argues his statements reflected objections that were “rooted in health or efficacy concerns, not religion” and the beliefs he did cite during his deposition were merely “lifestyle choices.”
“Rademacher’s testimony confirms his ‘religion’ is not comprehensive in nature, but focused instead on the issue of not altering one’s/his immune system and ‘do[ing] the right thing’ or simply being a ‘good person.’ Nor does it contain most (if any) formal signs of traditional religions,” states the filing. “Rademacher further testified that no one else can join his religion — which has no name — for one, simple reason: ‘There’s no religion to join.'”
ABC also says Rademacher did reference one book, The Revelation of Ramala, during his deposition, but the actor also said he hadn’t read it since he was a teenager and didn’t own a copy at the time of his religious accommodation request.
“Importantly, even momentarily assuming Ramala somehow supports a contention that Rademacher subscribes to a bona fide religion (it does not), it is undisputed that Rademacher never provided anything about Ramala to ABC during the accommodation process,” writes Marenberg. “He cannot dispute ABC did not have access to this information when it considered his exemption request.”
Even if he could establish grounds for an exemption, ABC says it could not have provided an accommodation without undue hardship given the nature of Rademacher’s job “as an unmasked and non-distancing actor.”
With regard to his invasion of privacy claim, ABC argues that fails because he can’t show the policy forced him to disclose private medical information or receive unwanted medical treatment.
“Rademacher’s ‘forced vaccination’ theory fails because the Vaccine Policy does not force him to consent to vaccination. Rather, the Vaccine Policy conditions Rademacher’s continued employment on vaccination. He can choose not to be vaccinated, and work elsewhere. Thus, the ‘right’ that is burdened by the policy is not Rademacher’s ‘right to object to compulsory medical treatment’ but rather, his ‘right’ to employment at ABC — a private employer — which is not a legally protected privacy interest,” argues Marenberg. “Rademacher’s ‘forced disclosure’ theory independently fails because he cannot demonstrate a reasonable expectation of privacy as to his vaccination status. Here, the uncontroverted evidence shows that Rademacher voluntarily and repeatedly disclosed his vaccination status to others (and did not keep his status secret) and also discussed his opposition to the vaccine on social media both prior to requesting an accommodation and after his termination. Rademacher did not conduct himself ‘in a manner consistent with’ an actual expectation of privacy.”
The network argues that his disability discrimination claim fails because the actor admitted he does not have a disability and he failed to raise the issue with the Department of Fair Employment and Housing as required, and the political retaliation claim fails because the person who denied his exemption request had no information about his political beliefs — but, even if it had been a factor, casting decisions are protected by the First Amendment.
ABC also notes that Rademacher’s character Jasper “Jax” Jacks was not featured on the series for several long stretches — including a three-year period beginning in 2013 and, most recently, a two-year absence from March 2017-2019 — which is common in soap operas.
At the time he was terminated, Rademacher was under a three-year deal, which Marenberg argues was not “assured” since ABC had the right to cancel the contract in six-month increments as long as it gave the actor six weeks’ notice. It also required him to comply with ABC’s policies.
“ABC picked up Rademacher’s taping cycles in September 2019, March 2020, December 2020, and then again in June 2021. However, by July 2021, as Chris Van Etten, the Co-Head Writer, was preparing to lay out long-term story plans (a process that is usually done every six months or so), he identified Jax as among several characters who would be or might possibly be written off the show,” writes Marenberg in the filing. “At that time, Jax’s role in the ongoing storyline was negligible and Van Etten did not see a role for Jax going forward.”
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