SCOTUS declines to block Maine COVID vaccine mandate from going into effect

The U.S. Supreme Court has handed down a ruling that left many Americans dismayed.

According to reports, justices decided to uphold a COVID-19 vaccine mandate without a religious exemption.

Background on the case

As for the case at hand, the nation’s highest court was called on to consider a mandate implemented earlier this year by Democratic Maine Gov. Janet Mills.

The vaccine requirement impacts the state’s health care workers and requires them to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 by Friday. Notably, the mandate does not include a religious exemption.

Most of the affected workforce has already complied with the rule, though a number of workers across the state opted to quit their jobs instead of receiving a jab, resulting in staffing shortages.

The Liberty Council filed a lawsuit on behalf of those health care workers who do not want to receive a vaccine. The nonprofit organization argued that the mandate is a violation of their constitutionally protected freedom of religion, noting in part that some workers have rejected treatments that were developed through the use of fetal tissue.

While the lawsuit played out in court, the Liberty Council petitioned for an injunction that would prevent the state from enforcing its mandate. After losing in a lower court, the request made it all the way to the Supreme Court.

“Worthy of our attention”

On Friday, justices decided not to freeze the mandate. Since they were only considering an emergency appeal, a full decision on the matter was not rendered.

Nevertheless, several of the justices provided brief statements on the matter.

For their part, Justices Amy Coney Barrett and Brett Kavanaugh indicated that they sided with the majority because of the especially high threshold associated with the emergency request. Three other conservatives — Justices Neil Gorsuch, Clarence Thomas, and Samuel Alito — cast dissenting votes.

Gorsuch argued that Maine health care workers “who have served on the front line of a pandemic for the last 18 months are now being fired and their practices shuttered” for objecting to a vaccine based on religious grounds, adding that their “plight is worthy of our attention.”

In a statement addressing the ruling, the Liberty Council asserted that “this case is far from over” and vowed to continue its pursuit until the case is considered on its merits.

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