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Courts and Crime

The Supreme Court declined to halt Maine's vaccine mandate. It went into effect on Friday

Supreme Court Vaccine Mandate Maine
J. Scott Applewhite
/
AP
FILE - The Supreme Court is seen at dusk in Washington, Friday, Oct. 22, 2021. The Supreme Court has rejected an emergency appeal from health care workers in Maine to block a vaccine mandate that went into effect Friday, Oct. 29.

The U.S. Supreme Court on Friday rejected an emergency appeal from health care workers in Maine to block a vaccine mandate that went into effect on Friday, Oct. 29. The mandate requires all health care workers in the state to be vaccinated against COVID-19, or risk losing their jobs.

The court upheld an Oct. 15 ruling by the 1st U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Boston that agreed with a federal judge in Maine.

Liberty Counsel, the organization representing more than 2,000 health care workers across the state, argued there was not a religious exemption to Maine's mandate. The court gave no reason for the its decision, which is common in emergency applications. Justices Neil Gorsuch, Samuel Alito and Clarence Thomas dissented.

“Where many other states have adopted religious exemptions, Maine has charted a different course,” Gorsuch wrote. “There, health care workers who have served on the front line of a pandemic for the last 18 months are now being fired and their practices shuttered. All for adhering to their constitutionally protected religious beliefs. Their plight is worthy of our attention.”

Gov. Janet Mills and Attorney General Aaron Frey issued a joint statement on Friday night praising the decision.

“Vaccinations are the best tool we have to protect the lives and livelihoods of Maine people and to curb this pandemic. Health care workers perform a critical role in protecting the health of Maine people, and it is imperative that hospitals and other settings take every precaution to protect workers and their patients against this dangerous virus, especially in view of the highly transmissible Delta variant. Anyone who is placed in the care of a health care worker has the right to expect – as do their families – that they will receive high-quality, safe care from fully vaccinated staff,” Mills said in a statement.

In 2019, Maine eliminated religious and philosophical exemptions for all vaccinations for school children and health care workers, and has applied that law to the COVID-19 vaccine.