WASHINGTON — The Supreme Court has rejected an emergency appeal from health care workers in Maine to block a vaccine mandate that went into effect Friday.
Three conservative justices have noted that they disagree with their views. It is clear that the state does not offer a religious exemption for nurses and hospital workers, who could lose their jobs if not vaccinated.
New York, Rhode Island and Rhode Island have mandated vaccines for healthcare workers. These exemptions are not religious. The courts are arguing over both. On Friday, a federal appeals court panel upheld New York state’s vaccine mandate for health care workers, rejecting arguments by lawyers for doctors, nurses and other professionals that it did not adequately protect those with religious objections.
The Supreme Court didn’t explain their decision, as is the case in emergency appeals. But Justice Neil Gorsuch said in a dissent for himself and two fellow conservatives that he would have agreed to the health care workers’ request.
“Where many other States have adopted religious exemptions, Maine has charted a different course,” Gorsuch wrote. “There, healthcare 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 because of their religious convictions, which are constitutionally protected. Their plight is worthy of our attention.”
Justice Clarence Thomas, Samuel Alito and Samuel Alito joined him.
Justice Amy Coney Barrett noted in a short statement agreeing with the court’s decision not to intervene that the justices were being asked to “grant extraordinary relief” in a case that is the first of its kind. Justice Brett Kavanaugh, a conservative colleague, joined her.
In an attempt to stop the mandate, lawyers from the Liberty Counsel vowed that they would return to the Supreme Court and demand a thorough review. “This case is far from over,” said Mat Staver, founder and chair of the Liberty Counsel.
Democratic governor. Janet Mills said she was gratified that the mandate was upheld, saying it’s imperative for hospitals to “take every precaution to protect their workers and patients against this deadly virus.”
“This rule protects health care workers, their patients, and the stability of our health care system in the face of this dangerous virus,” she said in a statement. “Just as vaccination defeated smallpox and vaccination defeated polio, vaccination is the way to defeat COVID-19.”
In the past, students from Indiana University were turned down by the High Court. Teachers in New York City also objected to vaccinations. The university as well as the city both allow religious exemptions to be sought. All justices are vaccinated.
Maine’s requirement was put in place by the governor. Maine’s federal judge refused to block the mandate and concluded that the lawsuit would not succeed. A flurry of appeals followed the October 13 decision. This led to another trip to the Supreme Court.
The Liberty Counsel, which filed the lawsuit, claimed to be representing more than 2,000 health care workers who don’t want to be forced to be vaccinated.
Dozens of health care workers have opted to quit, and a hospital in Maine’s second-largest city already curtailed some admissions because of an “acute shortage” of nurses.
However, most of Maine’s health professionals have accepted the requirement and have supported the vaccination in their entirety. Maine Hospital Association and all other health care organizations support the requirement.
On the same day that the governor declared that all eligible Mainers had been vaccinated, enforcement of the mandate was initiated.
Mills said she applauds those who “rolled up their sleeves to do what’s right for themselves, their neighbors, and their communities.”
Sharp was based in Portland, Maine. This report was contributed by Mark Sherman, an Associated Press journalist.