on Oct 29, 2021
at 9:23 pm
The Supreme Courtroom on Friday allowed a vaccine mandate for Maine well being care employees to stay in impact, rejecting an emergency request from employees who argued that they need to obtain non secular exemptions.
The transient order was a uncommon occasion of the court docket deferring to a state COVID-19 coverage within the face of religious-rights claims, and the choice cut up the court docket’s conservatives. The three most conservative justices — Clarence Thomas, Samuel Alito, and Neil Gorsuch — argued in dissent that Maine’s mandate unconstitutionally discriminates towards well being care employees with non secular objections to the coronavirus vaccines. Two different conservatives — Justices Brett Kavanaugh and Amy Coney Barrett — agreed with the choice to not intervene, saying the court docket’s emergency docket is just not the fitting place to resolve the deserves of the employees’ claims.
On Aug. 12, Maine well being officers added COVID-19 to a longstanding listing of illnesses towards which well being care employees have to be vaccinated. The mandate exempts individuals for whom a vaccine could be “medically inadvisable,” nevertheless it doesn’t enable exemptions for individuals with non secular objections to a vaccine. Officers pledged to start implementing the COVID-19 vaccine mandate on Oct. 29.
A small group of well being care employees sued, arguing that they’re entitled to non secular exemptions beneath the First Modification’s free train clause and federal employment regulation. Two decrease courts dominated towards them, prompting the employees to hunt emergency reduction on the Supreme Courtroom final week. They requested the justices to subject an order stopping the state from implementing the mandate with out non secular exemptions.
The court docket’s single-sentence order declining to intervene didn’t clarify the bulk’s reasoning. However Barrett wrote a brief concurrence, joined by Kavanaugh, mentioning that the emergency posture of the case meant that the court docket had not acquired full briefing or heard oral argument. These limitations, Barrett wrote, weigh towards granting the “extraordinary reduction” that the employees had been requesting.
Gorsuch, joined by Thomas and Alio, wrote an eight-page dissent through which he argued that Maine’s mandate has compelled the well being care employees to decide on between following their non secular convictions or dropping their jobs. Refusing to grant non secular exemptions, he wrote, “borders on the irrational.”
The court docket has turned away different emergency challenges to COVID vaccine mandates not too long ago. In August, Barrett rejected a problem to Indiana College’s mandate, and earlier this month, Justice Sonia Sotomayor rejected a problem to New York Metropolis’s mandate for public-school workers. However the Maine case was the primary vaccine problem involving claims of spiritual liberty.
In different COVID contexts, significantly social-distancing insurance policies, the court docket has repeatedly held that state and native governments should present exemptions for worshippers if the insurance policies enable for non-religious exemptions.