Supreme Court rejects appeal by Maine healthcare workers challenging vaccine mandate

Maine is one of three states including New York and Rhode Island that have vaccine mandates that lack religious exemptions for healthcare workers.
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Members of the Supreme Court.
Members of the Supreme Court, Washington, DC, April 23, 2021.
(Erin Schaff-Pool/Getty Images)

The Supreme Court on Friday rejected an emergency appeal from Maine healthcare workers attempting to block the state's vaccine mandate.

The group of unvaccinated workers argued that the law violated their First Amendment rights because the law doesn't have a religious exemption.

According to the Associated Press, Maine is one of three states including New York and Rhode Island that have vaccine mandates that lack religious exemptions for healthcare workers.

Justices Amy Coney Barret and Brett Kavanaugh wrote the ruling which denied the appeal because the case is unlikely to "succeed on its merits." 

Justices Neil Gorsuch, Samuel Alito, and Clarence Thomas dissented, saying they would have blocked the state's vaccine mandate pending further litigation.

"Where many other States have adopted religious exemptions, Maine has charted a different course," Gorsuch wrote in his dissent. "There, healthcare workers who have served on the front line of a pandemic for the last 18 months are now being fired and their practices shuttered. All for adhering to their constitutionally protected religious beliefs. Their plight is worthy of our attention."

Democratic Gov. Janet Mills said she was grateful the court upheld her mandate, saying hospital workers are required to "take every precaution to protect their workers and patients against this deadly virus."

"This rule protects health care workers, their patients, and the stability of our health care system in the face of this dangerous virus," Mills said in a statement. "Just as vaccination defeated smallpox and vaccination defeated polio, vaccination is the way to defeat COVID-19."

Maine began enforcing its vaccine mandate this Friday, putting unvaccinated healthcare workers on administrative leave pending possible termination.

So far, 80% of Maine residents have been vaccinated against the virus.