The U.S. Supreme Court has declined to take up a challenge to Maine’s COVID-19 vaccine mandate for health care workers.
The lawsuit, filed in August by the Florida-based Liberty Council on behalf of more than 2,000 Maine health care workers, alleges that the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention is violating federal law by requiring vaccinations for health care workers without allowing a religious exemption for those who object.
“Maine is required to abide by federal law and provide protections to employees who have sincerely held religious objections to the COVID-19 vaccines,” the plaintiffs wrote in the 59-page complaint.
But, on Tuesday, Justice Stephen Breyer rejected the group’s motion for an injunction without comment, per the high court’s practice.
The high court’s rejection came on the same day that a federal appeals court rejected a request from the same litigants for a preliminary injunction.
Wednesday’s 1st U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruling upholds a previous U.S. District Court ruling that turned down a similar request by the Liberty Council to block the vaccine mandate.
The three-judge panel rejected the request for an injunction, saying the legal challenge by opponents was “unlikely to succeed.”
Mills praised the decision by the appeals court, saying the rule “protects health care workers, their patients and our health care capacity in the face of this deadly virus.”
“Just as vaccination defeated smallpox and vaccination defeated polio, vaccination is the way to defeat COVID-19,” she said in a statement.
Under Mills’ executive order, health care workers in the state have until Oct. 29 to be fully vaccinated against the virus.
The requirement includes health care workers in nursing homes and other long term care facilities, firefighters, emergency medical service organizations and dental workers.
Only medical exemptions will be allowed, not religious or philosophical.
Mills said the new rules are needed to prevent further outbreaks as the state battles a resurgence of the virus that has contributed to a rise in new infections and hospitalizations.
The new vaccine mandate is backed by the Maine Medical Association and Maine Hospital Association and several other health care groups, which say it will improve public health.
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services is requiring COVID-19 vaccines for all health care employees who work for the federal government.
But the Liberty Counsel argues that religious objections to the vaccines must be allowed under the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the First Amendment.
“Many people hold sincere religious beliefs against taking any vaccines, or taking those derived from aborted fetal cell lines, or taking those sold by companies that profit from the sale of vaccines and other products derived from abortion,” the group’s lawyers wrote in court filings.
Vaccine mandates have been challenged across the country over the pandemic, but the Maine case is the first time the Supreme Court has rejected a statewide requirement.
The high court has previously rejected a challenge to a vaccine mandate for New York City teachers.
This article was originally posted on U.S. Supreme Court declines to block Maine’s COVID-19 vaccine mandate