Few things have divided New Jersey and the nation more than COVID restrictions in general, and more specifically vaccination.

A group of Rutgers students who are suing the university over its vaccine mandate in federal court is now asking the judge if they can remain anonymous saying they fear "social ostracism and retaliation" if their names become public.

In a brief filed with the court, the students claimed the climate surrounding vaccination issues is "bitterly hostile, divisive and dangerous" and the "risks of retaliation, ridicule and ostracism" is great.

Rutgers is actually seeking to force the court to reveal the names of the students who brought the original suit challenging the mandate, claiming it was in the public interest to know who they are.

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The issues over vaccine mandates raised in the challenge are "part of an ongoing national discussion regarding vaccine efficacy and safety," Rutgers lawyers argued, and "there is a greater than usual public interest in knowing the identities of the litigants."

The climate in which the Doe Plaintiffs bring this action is bitterly hostile, divisive and dangerous. This court should not expose these Doe Plaintiffs to the risks of retaliation, ridicule and ostracism when public resentment (against the unvaccinated) is so great. - Rutgers students in court brief

In September, the federal court refused to issue a temporary restraining order preventing Rutgers from enforcing it's vaccine mandate, but did allow the lawsuit to proceed.

Similar lawsuits against other colleges and universities have been unsuccessful.

The website Law360.com reports two of the anonymous students have agreed to reveal who they are, but four others are withdrawing from the case to avoid the risk of disclosure.

The petition underscores just how deeply the vaccination issue is dividing almost every aspect of life in New Jersey and beyond.

The students wrote to the court that government officials are "publicly blaming the unvaccinated and condoning coercion and discrimination against the unvaccinated." "It is easy to understand," they said, "How students who have barely embarked on their careers are concerned about the ramifications of participating in legal action to challenge disparate treatment."

The court has yet to make a ruling in the matter.

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