WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The U.S. Supreme Court on Tuesday turned away a challenge to Maine’s COVID-19 vaccine mandate for healthcare workers, rebuffing for the second time a group of plaintiffs who sought a religious exemption.
The justices rejected a request made on behalf of unnamed plaintiffs identifying themselves as Maine healthcare workers who objected to the vaccinations on religious grounds. The court in November rejected an emergency request by the same plaintiffs seeking to prevent Maine from enforcing the mandate against them. They are represented by a Christian legal advocacy group.
The court previously rejected other challenges to vaccine mandates including one focusing upon New York’s lack of religious exemptions for healthcare workers.
The justices in January blocked President Joe Biden’s COVID-19 vaccination-or-testing mandate for large businesses – a policy the conservative justices deemed an improper imposition on the lives and health of many Americans – while endorsing a separate federal vaccine requirement for healthcare workers at facilities that accept money from the Medicare and Medicaid government insurance programs.
When the court, which has a 6-3 conservative majority, rejected the earlier request in the Maine case in November, three conservative justices dissented.
Maine has required hospitals and other healthcare facilities to ensure that workers are vaccinated against various diseases since 1989.
The administration of Governor Janet Mills required all healthcare workers in Maine to be fully vaccinated by the end of October as a public health measure during the pandemic. Mills said such workers perform a critical role in protecting the health of Maine’s residents and that every precaution needed to be taken to protect against the spread of COVID-19.
That emergency rule has since been replaced by a permanent regulation that requires vaccination for such workers, the state said in court papers.
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