Supreme Court will not block Maine’s vaccination mandate for healthcare workers
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The state included a coronavirus vaccine among the required vaccinations in a regulation released in August, setting a deadline for October 29. Several health workers continued, claiming the requirement violated their constitutional right to the free exercise of religion.
Judge Jon D. Levy of the Federal District Court of Maine has ruled against the plaintiffs.
“The severe risk of illness and death associated with the spread of the Covid-19 virus and the efforts of state and local governments to reduce this risk have weighed on most aspects of modern life,” he wrote.
The “refusal of the complainants to be vaccinated on the basis of their religious beliefs has caused or will cause real hardship with regard to their work,” Judge Levy wrote. “They have not, however, been prevented from remaining true to their professed religious beliefs which they believe compel them to refuse to be vaccinated against Covid-19.”
A three-judge unanimous panel of the United States Court of Appeals for the First Circuit, in Boston, upheld Judge Levy’s ruling.
Judge Sandra L. Lynch, writing for the panel, said the regulation did not choose religion for unfavorable treatment. In a 1990 ruling, the Supreme Court ruled that neutral laws of general application that incidentally impose burdens on religion generally do not violate the First Amendment protection of religious freedom. This decision, Employment Division v. Smith, has come under heavy criticism from the more conservative members of the Supreme Court.
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Plaintiffs in the Maine case said the state was an outlier in refusing to grant religious exemptions.
“Almost every other state,” they told judges, “have found a way to protect themselves from the same virus without trampling on religious freedom – including states that have a smaller population and a much larger territory than that. Maine. While Vermont, New Hampshire, Alaska, the Dakotas, Montana, Wyoming, California, and the District of Columbia can all find ways to protect themselves from Covid-19 and respect individual liberty, Maine does. can also. “
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