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Maine throws out religious vaccine exemptions

Healthcare workers sue the state government and employers


Protesters shout at Gov. Janet Mills during Maine’s bicentennial parade on Aug. 21 in Lewiston. Associated Press/Photo by Robert F. Bukaty

Maine throws out religious vaccine exemptions

More than 2,000 healthcare workers in Maine challenged Gov. Janet Mills’ vaccine mandate last week. The federal lawsuit says the Democratic governor’s directive, which includes no religious exemption, violates the First Amendment and Title VII of the Civil Rights Act.

Maine removed the religious exemption to mandatory immunizations in early August, and state law now allows only medical exceptions.

Some people object to one or more of the COVID-19 vaccines because of a connection with cell lines from aborted babies, while others have religious convictions against taking any vaccines. Religious healthcare workers argue the personal protective equipment they wear, which is more protective than masks worn by the general public, effectively prevents the spread of COVID-19.

“All plaintiffs seek in this lawsuit is to be able to continue to provide the healthcare they have provided to patients for their entire careers, and to do so under the same protective measures that have sufficed for them to be considered superheroes for the last 18 months,” they contend, referring to a previous accolade by the governor.

On Friday, New York removed its religious exemption to vaccination. Oregon, in contrast, permits religious and medical exemptions.

In Maine, challengers cast Mills’ failure to allow a religious exemption as an attempt to override federal law. Regent University law professor Brad Jacob said a different argument might be more likely to succeed in court. The Supreme Court’s ruling earlier this summer in Fulton v. City of Philadelphia would suggest that since Maine provides a medical exemption to the mandate, the law is not generally applicable. That means it is subject to strict scrutiny by the courts. The state must not only show a compelling interest for the vaccine mandate but also use the least restrictive means to meet that interest.

Jacob also said the challengers’ claims under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act against the private healthcare providers named in the lawsuit may face difficulty. Under Title VII, employers have to demonstrate that they could not accommodate an employee having a religious objection without “undue hardship.” During the pandemic, that has not been a difficult case for employers to make.

A hearing in the case is set for today.


Steve West

Steve is a legal correspondent for WORLD. He is a graduate of World Journalism Institute, Wake Forest University School of Law, and N.C. State University. He worked for 34 years as a federal prosecutor and is now an attorney in private practice. Steve resides with his wife in Raleigh, N.C.

@slntplanet

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DavidWarren

The fact that abortion clinics profit from selling babys cells in any form, stems from the murder of a baby, baby's cells used as reported by CDC "The report also shows that other substances are used in vaccines manufactured for human use, including: porcine circoviruses, Thimerosal, aluminum, formaldehyde, human serum albumin, diploid human cell, human embryonic kidney cells 293, also often referred to as HEK 293, HEK-293, 293 cells, or less precisely as HEK cells, human fetal cells ...

RCRE8109

No one is forcing them to do anything! It is purely a condition of employment. It is the employers right to set those conditions and if the employee does not want to honor them, then they leave and go work elsewhere.

KDON9307RCRE8109

Oh that it were that simple. The problem is an employer doesn't have the right to set a condition that violates an employee's constitutional right. Yes, a religious objection is a constitutional right (at least for now, but it's quickly disappearing). What if they said we won't hire homosexuals or women? How do you think that would go over?

FIMIKI

I'd always been taught that as Christians we are to honor the authorities God has placed us under in every way possible, unless they command us to sin (Romans 13, 1 Peter 2, Acts 4). For an evangelical Christian to refuse a mandated vaccine under religious objection, one would have to be convinced that it is a sin to do so.

The only argument I've heard along these lines is that we are commanded not to murder, and that the vaccine can result in death, and thus by taking the vaccine we might be murdering ourselves, making it sinful. This seems to be quite the stretch, making out any medical intervention that has even a remote possibility of causing death out to be sin.

As a conservative I'm generally against mandates of any sort, and believe that there are surely other ways to encourage good public health practices other than shame or coercion. But if push comes to shove and a mandate comes our way, the Christian thing (though hardly the red-blooded patriot thing!) to do is to joyfully submit.

RCRE8109FIMIKI

I agree. If one is to be following the anti-self-murder Biblical mandate, based on what we consume, the average American is a vial sinner because of our poor diet as shown by the leading causes of death in America like Heart disease, Cancer, Stroke, Diabetes, etc. (Note that death by vaccine is so rare is does not even make the list).

Steve SoCal

I can understand and generally agree that people should not be forced to take a vaccination by government, whether or not it is well tested and/or proven effective, but I honestly cannot think of a serious Christian argument for religious exemption from an employer requiring vaccination. What is the Biblical argument against taking the current vaccines... one that is applied consistently in all areas of life. This is an honest question.

CaptTee

A Government that does not allow conscience objections has no conscience!