Judge rules Maine can bar religious exemptions to health care vaccine mandate

Judge rules Maine can bar religious exemptions to health care vaccine mandate
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A U.S. District judge on Wednesday ruled that Maine could prohibit religious exemptions to its COVID-19 vaccine mandate for healthcare workers.

Judge Jon Levy found that the health care workers who brought the case against Maine were not being prevented from staying true to their religious beliefs, Reuters reported.

Levy also found that the workers were unable to prove Maine officials were motivated by any ill will toward religion or that they lacked a compelling reason to issue a vaccine mandate.

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Maine announced its vaccine mandate for health care workers in August, setting a deadline of Oct. 1 to be fully vaccinated. Maine Gov. Janet MillsJanet MillsThe Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Uber - Democrats optimistic after Biden meetings Overnight Health Care — Presented by Carequest — FDA moves to sell hearing aids over-the-counter Supreme Court won't block vaccine mandate for Maine health care workers MORE's (D) administration will begin enforcing the rule on Oct. 29.

Maine got rid of religious and philosophical exemptions in vaccine mandates in 2019. Other states such as California, Mississippi and West Virginia also do not allow for religious or philosophical exemptions to vaccine mandates.

In 2020, voters largely rejected a referendum seeking to challenge the new law. Levy ruled that the COVID-19 vaccine mandate was consistent with state law.

Medical exemptions to the vaccine mandate are still permitted.

Levy's ruling comes the same week that a federal judge ruled New York must allow religious exemptions in its vaccine mandate.

According to Reuters, Levy acknowledged this recent ruling and pointed out that New York's vaccine mandate originally allowed religious exemptions and only took this measure out when the deadline approached.

Matt Staver of the Christian advocacy group Liberty Counsel, which is representing the workers, said, “All Maine healthcare workers have the legal right to request reasonable accommodation for their sincerely held religious beliefs and forcing COVID shots without exemptions is unlawful."

Liberty Counsel has already filed an appeal of the ruling in the 1st U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals and has asked that the ruling be put on hold, Reuters reported.