The legal team seeking an emergency injunction to prevent Maine from enforcing a new CCP virus vaccine mandate that requires healthcare workers to get the jab or lose their jobs is optimistic that a federal judge will rule against the state because the mandate does not allow religious exemptions.
The case comes after a federal judge on Sept. 14 granted an emergency injunction blocking the state of New York from enforcing a new virus vaccine mandate for healthcare workers, as The Epoch Times previously reported.
Seventeen medical health professionals had asked the court to enjoin enforcement of New York’s mandate that then-Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced on Aug. 16. The mandate required staff at hospitals and long-term care facilities such as nursing homes, adult care facilities, and other congregate care settings, be vaccinated for COVID-19 to continue to be employed.
The plaintiffs in the New York case, including doctors, nurses, a medical technician, and a physician’s liaison, were facing termination, loss of hospital admitting privileges, and the destruction of their careers unless they consented to receive vaccines in contradiction of their religious beliefs, the lawsuit argued.
“We are confident that the law is on our side,” Roger Gannam of the public interest law firm Liberty Counsel told The Epoch Times in an interview after a court hearing in the Maine case late Sept. 20. The plaintiffs are arguing that the mandate violates the First Amendment and federal civil rights laws.
If the plaintiffs lose, they will appeal the ruling “all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court.”
The judge who heard arguments Monday, Obama appointee Jon D. Levy of the U.S. District Court in Maine, previously denied a request for a temporary restraining order against the mandate Aug. 26, finding the plaintiffs had not met the notice requirements of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure.
During the roughly two-hour telephonic hearing Sept. 20, the judge “in a very methodical way, went through all of the issues, gave everyone time to speak on the issues, and then told us at the end that he would endeavor to issue a decision quickly so that the employees who were waiting to find out whether they can get an exemption before they’re fired, will be able to do so,” Gannam said.
“We’re also asking the court to enjoin private employers from continuing to deny any process at all for seeking a religious accommodation from this vaccine mandate,” he added.
At the hearing, Levy heard arguments against a mandate Maine Gov. Janet Mills, a Democrat, announced Aug. 12 that will force healthcare workers to receive one of the three currently available COVID-19 shots in order to keep their jobs in the healthcare sector. The mandate allows medical exemptions but provides no exemption for sincerely held religious objections to taking the vaccines.
The governor originally said the healthcare workers must receive a COVID-19 injection by Oct. 1 but she later extended the deadline for compliance to Oct. 29.
Mills defended the mandate in a Sept. 15 brief filed with the court.
“Most healthcare facility outbreaks are the result of healthcare workers who bring COVID-19 into the facility,” the brief stated, adding that “5,723 self-identified healthcare workers in Maine” had contracted the disease as of Sept. 9.
The plaintiffs’ “arguments on their Free Exercise claim are a hodgepodge of constitutional and statutory claims,” the document continued, relying heavily on a 116-year-old Supreme Court precedent known as Jacobson v. Massachusetts. Mandatory vaccination laws that provide only medical exemptions—not religious exemptions— are “constitutional under Jacobson and its progeny.”
In the case, after Cambridge, Massachusetts, experienced an outbreak of smallpox, it enacted a regulation in 1902 requiring that all inhabitants, including adults and children, be vaccinated under threat of criminal penalties. “Numerous courts subsequently have affirmed the principle that mandatory vaccination laws do not violate free exercise rights,” the brief argues.
As the mandate’s effective date draws nearer, Gannam said healthcare employees in Maine “are facing a terrible decision of either upholding their religious beliefs or feeding their families.”
“And it’s not like there’s just one employer involved because all of the healthcare employers in the state are subject to this rule,” he told The Epoch Times.
“The employees have nowhere else to go if they can’t keep their current jobs,” he said.
“So this is really a situation where First Amendment, Free Exercise rights and Title VII [of the Civil Rights Act of 1964] rights are being burdened in an unprecedented way. And we surely hope that the judge will see that and issue an order that will keep these employees at work, even if it’s only temporary, to allow us to complete the litigation.”
Maine Attorney General Aaron Frey, a Democrat who represents the state in the lawsuit, did not immediately respond to requests from The Epoch Times for comment.