Sunday, 21 July, 2024
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US Supreme Court rejects religious challenge to vaccine mandate

In the latest legal battle over vaccinations, reports Reuters, the US Supreme Court, which has a 6-3 conservative majority, rejected the request by nine Maine healthcare workers who object to receiving the shots on religious grounds. The court previously rejected challenges to vaccine mandates in New York and Indiana, though those cases did not involve religious objections.

The six-justice majority did not explain its refusal to block Maine’s mandate. However, in a concurring opinion, Justice Amy Coney Barrett, who was joined by Justice Brett Kavanaugh, argued that the court should not consider the claims on an emergency basis “without benefit of full briefing and oral argument.” Three (conservative) justices dissented, arguing that Maine’s failure to provide a religious exemption violated the First Amendment’s protection for the free exercise of religion.

Maine Governor Janet Mills' administration had required that all healthcare workers in the state be fully vaccinated by the beginning of October, but the state said it would not enforce it until Friday.

Maine removed religious exemptions from mandated vaccines in 2019, before the pandemic, because of falling vaccination rates. Voters in the state overwhelmingly rejected a referendum challenging the law last year.

Since 1989, the state has required hospitals and other healthcare facilities to ensure workers are vaccinated against various diseases. The challengers argued that the lack of a religious exemption violated their right to free exercise of religion under the US Constitution's First Amendment. A federal judge had earlier rejected the bid for an exemption.

The conservative-majority Supreme Court, which has been receptive to claims involving religious rights, rejected two previous challenges to COVID-19 vaccine mandates.

In October, a judge refused to block New York City’s requirement that public school teachers and employees be vaccinated, while in August, another had denied a bid by Indiana University students to block that institution’s vaccination mandate.

Also on Friday, adds Reuters, a federal appeals court in New York ruled that the state could move ahead with its healthcare vaccine mandate, which like Maine’s did not allow religious exemptions. A lower court judge had ruled the state had to allow such exemptions.


Reuters article – U.S. Supreme Court rejects religious challenge to Maine vaccine mandate (Restricted access)


See more from MedicalBrief archives:


COVID-19 has spurred a litigatory pandemic in US


US Hospital workers lawsuit challenging mandatory vaccine ‘without merit’


First US federal ruling upholds hospital's vaccine mandate


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