Supreme Court refuses to block Maine's COVID-19 vaccine mandate for health care workers

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The U.S. Supreme Court has rejected an emergency appeal from Maine health care workers to halt a COVID-19 vaccine mandate that took effect Friday.

Health care workers at hospitals and nursing homes throughout the state risk losing their jobs if they are not vaccinated and religious exemptions are not being offered.

Supreme Court Justice nominee Neil Gorsuch listens as he is asked a question by Sen. Mazie Hirono, D-Hawaii, on Capitol Hill in Washington, Wednesday, March 22, 2017, during his confirmation hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)
(AP)

Three justices  – Neil Gorsuch, Clarence Thomas and Samuel Alito – signed on to a dissent written by Gorsuch, who suggested they would have adhered to the request from Maine health care workers.

“This case presents an important constitutional question, a serious error, and an irreparable injury,” Gorsuch wrote. “Where many other States have adopted religious exemptions, Maine has charted a different course. 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 for adhering to their constitutionally protected religious beliefs.”

Seated from left to right: Justices Samuel A. Alito, Jr. and Clarence Thomas, Chief Justice John G. Roberts, Jr. and Justices Stephen G. Breyer and Sonia Sotomayor. Standing from left to right: Justices Brett M. Kavanaugh, Elena Kagan, Neil M. Gorsuch,and Amy Coney Barrett.  (Photograph by Fred Schilling, Collection of the Supreme Court of the United States)
(Supreme Court of the United States)

“Their plight is worthy of our attention,” Gorsuch added. “I would grant relief.”

In a statement agreeing with the court’s unwillingness to involve itself in the matter, Justice Amy Coney Barrett, who was joined by Justice Brett Kavanaugh, said the court has “discretionary judgment” on whether to take emergency appeals like this and claimed the court was being asked to “grant extraordinary relief.”

Supreme Court nominee Amy Coney Barrett is sworn in during a confirmation hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee, Monday, Oct. 12, 2020, on Capitol Hill. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky, Pool)
(AP)

Democratic Gov. Janet Mills ordered Maine’s vaccine requirement. A federal judge in Maine declined to stop the mandate, concluding that a lawsuit was unlikely to succeed. The Oct. 13 decision prompted a flurry of appeals that landed, for a second time, in 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 forcibly vaccinated.

In August, Barrett denied an appeal from students at Indiana University to block the school’s vaccine mandate.

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