The Supreme Court on Tuesday declined to stop a COVID-19 vaccine mandate for Maine healthcare workers, continuing a trend where the high court has declined to hear challenges in other regions.
Justice Stephen Breyer, who rejected the emergency appeal, left the door open for opponents of vaccine mandates to try again. Maine will now start enforcing its vaccine mandate on Oct. 29.
Maine Gov. Janet Mills, a Democrat, implemented the order requiring healthcare workers and nursing home staff to get the vaccine or risk losing their employment.
Breyer wrote that the Liberty Counsel, the organization that sued Mills over her mandate, can seek another emergency injunction if the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals rules in the state’s favor or doesn’t make a decision by Oct. 29.
Unlike other states, Mills’s order does not allow for religious exemptions, only medical exemptions. The Liberty Council filed a lawsuit on behalf of nurses with religious objections to the vaccine.
Two years ago, the state removed religious exemptions from mandated vaccines after voters rejected a referendum challenging the law last year.
“We are pleased with the decision and will continue to vigorously defend the requirement that health care workers in Maine be vaccinated against COVID-19,” Maine Attorney General Aaron Frey said in a statement last week after the ruling.
Dozens of health care workers have opted to quit over the mandate, and Central Maine Medical Center in Lewiston already curtailed some procedures due to an “acute shortage” of nurses. State agencies have vowed to work with individual hospitals and nursing homes to address individual workforce issues.
In recent weeks, Supreme Court Justice Amy Coney Barrett refused to give an injunction to Indiana University students and employees who challenged the school’s mandate. And earlier this month, Justice Sonia Sotomayor earlier this month rejected a request to block a vaccine requirement in New York.
The Epoch Times has contacted Liberty Council, which is representing some 2,000 Maine healthcare workers, for comment.
Mat Staver, the founder of Liberty Counsel, said that Maine healthcare workers have a legal right to request a reasonable accommodation from the shot.
“Forcing COVID shots without exemptions is unlawful,” he told The Washington Times. “The governor cannot override federal law and force health care workers to violate their sincerely held religious beliefs by forcing them to inject an experimental substance.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report.