The Supreme Court Won’t Ban Maine Health Care Workers

The US Supreme Court announced Friday that it will not block Maine’s requirement that state health care workers be vaccinated against COVID-19 regardless of religious beliefs.

The court rejected the emergency appeal on the same day as the deadline for Maine’s vaccination of health care workers. Those who did not comply face dismissal, to be enforced immediately.

Three judges objected, and Neil Gorsuch wrote a lengthy opinion criticizing state policy. Judges Clarence Thomas and Samuel Alito joined Gorsuch.

“Where many other countries have adopted religious exemptions, Maine charts a different course,” Gorsuch wrote in his opinion.

“There, health care workers who have served on the front lines of the pandemic for the past 18 months are now being fired and their practices closed. All in order to uphold their constitutionally protected religious beliefs. Their plight deserves our attention.”

Judge Amy Connie Barrett agreed with the court’s decision not to intervene, writing in a short opinion that the court had been asked to “grant exceptional compensation in this case,” the first of its kind, she said.

Neil Gorsuch was among the dissenting judges.
Neil Gorsuch was among the dissenting judges.
Erin Schaaf/The New York Times via AP, Pool

She was joined by fellow judge Brett Kavanaugh.

Maine only joins New York and Rhode Island states that do not provide for religious exceptions in their vaccination states for health care workers, which has led to several lawsuits.

The case will continue to play out in the lower courts.

The lawsuit was filed by The Liberty Counsel on behalf of 2,000 state health care employees who he claimed did not wish to be compelled to be vaccinated.

The state’s mandate was announced by Democratic Governor Janet Mills on August 12 and required workers in hospitals and nursing homes to be vaccinated or face termination by September 29. And in September, Maine extended the deadline for health care workers to October 29.

Jennifer Konaré looks away as she receives a coronavirus vaccine, Wednesday, May 12, 2021
Maine made it mandatory for health care workers to get a COVID shot.
Robert F. Bukati / AFP

A federal judge in Maine had refused to stop the mandate in an October 13 ruling, leading to an emergency appeal.

On Friday, Mills touted the high vaccination rate in Pine Tree State. The Maine Hospital Association and other local health care systems have supported the state.

“I salute the 80 percent of Maine residents age 12 and older who have rolled up their sleeves to do what’s right for themselves, their neighbors, and their communities,” she said.

Andy Muller, CEO of MaineHealth, For the Associated Press He expects to lose 1.5 to 2 percent of employees because of his health system, the largest in the state.

Justin Payto, who works in a tin shop at Bath Iron Works, demonstrates against the mandate of a COVID-19 vaccine outside a shipyard on Friday, October 22, 2021, in Bath, Maine.
Justin Payto, who works in the tin shop at Bath Iron Works, demonstrates against the authorization of a COVID-19 vaccine outside a shipyard on October 22, 2021, in Bath, Maine.
Josh Reynolds/AFP

He said that despite the losses, he believes hospitals will ultimately be better served by cutting out COVID-19-related absences.

“We actually think we’re going to get more capacity and less shortage in a real way by ensuring our workforce is vaccinated,” Mueller said.

with wire

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