Supreme Court won't review religious challenge to Maine vaccination mandate

The U.S. Supreme Court denied a request to review a lawsuit filed by a group of Maine healthcare workers that sought to block enforcement of the state's vaccination mandate based on their religious objections, the Portland Press Herald reported.

The nation's highest court denied the request Feb. 22 without explanation, according to the report. It is the latest instance of the court denying the request.

Maine's vaccination mandate for healthcare workers, which took effect in October, does not allow for religious objections but does allow for medical exemptions.

The workers, who originally filed their lawsuit in August, contest the mandate's lack of religious exemptions. They allege the mandate violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act and various constitutional provisions, according to Bloomberg Law.

"Maine is required to abide by federal law and provide protections to employees who have sincerely held religious objections to the COVID-19 vaccines. And, here, the federal law is clear: There can be no dispute that Title VII of the Civil Rights Act prohibits defendants from discriminating against plaintiffs on the basis of their sincerely held religious beliefs," according to the workers' emergency petition to the Supreme Court last year.

Justice Stephen Breyer did not refer the workers' application to the full Supreme Court in October and declined to immediately halt enforcement of the mandate. Lower courts have also refused to block the mandate.

Liberty Counsel, a conservative group that represents the healthcare workers, filed a new petition seeking full briefing and oral argument, which the Supreme Court denied Feb. 22, according to the Press Herald.

In a statement shared with the newspaper, Maine Attorney General Aaron Frey said that the state's vaccination rule remains in place and that the state will continue to defend it, "which is critical for the protection of patients, healthcare workers and Maine's healthcare system against COVID-19."

According to the Press Herald, the lawsuit is still pending at the U.S. District Court in Portland, Maine.

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