Appeals Court Fast Tracks Maine Health Care Workers Case

Oct 15, 2021

BOSTON, MA – Yesterday, Liberty Counsel filed an emergency request for an injunction pending appeal (IPA) at the First Circuit Court of Appeals on behalf of 2,000 health care workers against Governor Janet Mills, health officials of the Maine Department of Health and Human Services, Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention and five of Maine’s largest hospital systems. 

The Court ordered Maine to file a reply today by 9:00 a.m. and ordered both parties to simultaneously file their merits briefs by 5:00 p.m. Monday. Even though the Court denied the IPA without stating any reason, the fact that the case will be fully briefed by Monday is extraordinary.  A final ruling will likely be issued next week. If it is not favorable, Liberty Counsel will file an emergency IPA with the U.S. Supreme Court. 

The governor originally stated health care workers must receive a COVID-19 injection by October 1 and then extended the deadline for compliance to October 29. However, this deadline requires that plaintiffs accept the first injection that violates their sincerely held religious beliefs by no later than today. 

Gov. Janet Mills’ executive order purports to override both Title VII employment law and the First Amendment Free Exercise clause. Her discriminatory order mandates the shots and states health care workers cannot raise religious exemption claims.

On August 12, 2021, Governor Mills announced that Maine will require health care workers to accept or receive one of the three currently available COVID-19 shots to remain employed in the health care profession. This edict would force numerous doctors, nurses, medical professionals and other health care workers to choose between the exercise of their sincerely held religious beliefs and their employment. Governor Mills and state officials explicitly and illegally claim that federal law does not apply to health care workers in Maine and that no protections or considerations will be given to their religious beliefs. The governor has even threatened to revoke the licenses of all health care employers who fail to mandate that all employees receive the COVID-19 injection, despite the unconstitutional fact that she is discriminating against religious employees who decline vaccination while favoring those who decline for secular, medical reasons. 

Title VII of the Civil Rights Act clearly requires that every employer with over 15 employees must provide religious accommodations “unless an employer demonstrates that he is unable to reasonably accommodate an employee’s or prospective employee’s religious observance or practice without undue hardship.” For months, health care employees have worked every day with reasonable accommodations and history underscores that the state and the employers can continue to provide accommodations. 

Liberty Counsel Founder and Chairman Mat Staver said, “This case is moving with lightning speed. Each day that passes brings health care workers closer to the impending deadline. Governor Mills cannot override federal law and ignore the legal right of all Maine health care workers to request reasonable accommodation for their sincerely held religious beliefs, and forcing shots without exemptions is unlawful. With full briefing due Monday, we look forward to a decision from the Court of Appeals. If that decision is not favorable, we will request emergency relief from the Supreme Court.” 

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