Jon Levy, the chief judge of the U.S. District Court for the District of Maine, said that the Pine Tree State’s COVID-19 vaccine mandate is “rationally based.”
“Reducing the number of unvaccinated health care workers at designated health care facilities in Maine is rationally related to the Government’s interests in limiting the spread of COVID-19, safeguarding Maine’s health care capacity, and protecting the lives and health of Maine people. Thus, the COVID-19 vaccine mandate is rationally related to the asserted legitimate governmental interests,” he elaborated in his ruling on Thursday (pdf).
Liberty Counsel, a law firm representing the seven Maine health care workers, said the dismissal order is “critically flawed” and the plaintiffs will appeal to the First Circuit Court of Appeals.
Northern Light Health, one of the five health care networks listed as defendants in this case, applauded the ruling.
“Our health care organization continues to strive always to act in the best interests of our patients and our staff in these challenging times, and we’re gratified that the court completely validated our conduct in this matter,” the organization said in a statement.
Judge: Maine Has No Religious Exemption
The plaintiffs argued that the vaccine mandate violated their First Amendment rights to free exercise of religion because it did not provide an exemption for religious beliefs.
Maine Gov. Janet Mills, the director of the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention, the commissioner of the Maine Department of Health and Human Services, and five health care providers are listed as defendants in the lawsuit.
The seven health care workers had remained anonymous since filing the suit until July 2022 when a federal appeals court in Boston said they must reveal their identities.
Levy said in his ruling that mandatory vaccination requirements for health care workers in Maine were established long before the COVID-19 pandemic.
Maine removed religious exemptions from mandated vaccines in 2019 and voters overwhelmingly rejected a referendum challenging the law in 2020. As a result, the COVID-19 vaccine mandate is consistent with state law and does not single out religion, he said.
The Associated Press contributed to the report.