Court rejects vaccine religious exemption for Maine health care workers


By Carol Zimmermann, Catholic Information Service

WASHINGTON (CNS) — The Supreme Court docket is permitting a COVID-19 vaccine mandate for well being care employees in Maine to stay in impact, rejecting an emergency attraction from a gaggle of the state’s well being care employees searching for a non secular exemption.

Though the one-sentence order issued Oct. 29 didn’t give an evidence, justices expressed their views in separate writings.

Justice Neil Gorsuch, in an eight-page dissent joined by Justices Clarence Thomas and Samuel Alito, stated that he would have agreed to the request of the state’s well being care employees, noting that many different states have non secular exemptions in place for well being care employees.

He stated the firing of employees and shutting down of well being care practices for noncompliance with the vaccine mandate is “worthy of our consideration” as a result of these searching for a non secular exemption are “adhering to their constitutionally protected non secular beliefs.”

He additionally stated the state’s refusal to grant non secular exemptions “borders on the irrational.”

Justice Amy Coney Barrett, in a brief assertion of concurrence, joined by Justice Brett Kavanaugh, stated the court docket’s emergency docket was not an appropriate place to resolve the employees’ claims.

New York and Rhode Island are the one different states with vaccine mandates for well being care employees that shouldn’t have non secular exemptions and each of those mandates are at the moment being fought in decrease courts.

On Oct. 29, a federal appeals court docket panel upheld New York’s vaccine mandate for well being care employees, rejecting an attraction that the mandate ought to have a non secular exemption.

The COVID-19 vaccine mandate for Maine’s well being care employees was introduced by the governor Aug. 12 and officers stated they’d start imposing it Oct. 29.

Two decrease courts dominated in opposition to a gaggle of well being care employees who sued the state arguing that they need to be granted non secular exemptions so the case got here to the Supreme Court docket searching for emergency reduction for these employees.

The nation’s excessive court docket has turned away different challenges searching for emergency reduction from COVID-19 vaccine mandates together with a problem by college students from Indiana College and from public faculty workers in New York Metropolis. Each of those mandates had non secular exemptions.

Maine’s well being care employees searching for reduction from the mandate are represented by Liberty Counsel, a non secular liberty legislation agency based mostly in Florida.

Mat Staver, the agency’s founder and chairman, stated in an Oct. 29 assertion: “This case is much from over. We’ll file a petition with the Supreme Court docket to evaluate the deserves of the case after full briefing and argument.”

“Whereas we should always in the end prevail on the deserves, the tragedy is that at the moment many well being care heroes are being terminated. Since 2019, Maine has suffered from a scarcity of well being care employees and that scarcity will enhance as of at the moment. The individuals who will undergo will not be solely the well being care employees however sufferers who want care,” he stated.

This summer season, Mercy Sister Mary Haddad, president of the Catholic Well being Affiliation, issued an announcement encouraging all well being care employees to get vaccinated, saying they’d be doing their half to “shield themselves, their co-workers, their sufferers, their family members, and their neighbors.”

She additionally stated the affiliation which helps greater than 2,200 Catholic hospitals, well being care methods, nursing properties and long-term care services throughout the nation, “strongly helps member well being methods as they take crucial steps towards making certain as many well being care employees as doable obtain the vaccines.”

She advised Catholic Information Service that some Catholic well being methods are actually mandating that their workers be vaccinated for COVID-19, whereas others have stated they’re awaiting the U.S. Meals and Drug Administration’s full approval of the vaccines. Presently the Pfizer vaccine is the one one with full FDA approval for adults.

Most Catholic well being methods, on the very least, have inspired workers to get vaccinated and a few are providing incentives for them to take action. Main Catholic well being methods — together with Ascension, Trinity, Mercy and SSM Well being — have been requiring workers to be vaccinated for COVID-19 with numerous begin dates which were in impact from late August to early November.

The coverage applies to employees and volunteers and in some circumstances, distributors. Different main well being methods within the U.S., together with Kaiser Permanente, Banner Well being, Atrium Well being and the Veterans Well being Administration, equally introduced necessary COVID-19 vaccination insurance policies.

These insurance policies, in addition to these for Catholic well being methods, embody exemptions for medical or non secular causes.

Sister Haddad stated Catholic well being employees “should set the instance” and needs to be vaccinated as a result of they’re “serving folks at a susceptible time of illness; the thought that they may infect somebody is unconscionable.”