Supreme Court’s Breyer Declines to Stop Maine Covid Vaccine Mandate

The workers had asked the Supreme Court to block the mandate based on their religious objections while their legal challenge moved forward.,


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Justice Breyer turns away a request to block Maine’s vaccine mandate.

Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer turned away a case regarding vaccine mandates for health care workers. Credit…Erin Schaff/The New York Times

Oct. 19, 2021, 5:54 p.m. ET

WASHINGTON — Justice Stephen G. Breyer on Tuesday turned away a request from health care workers in Maine who had asked the Supreme Court to block a state vaccine mandate based on their religious objections while their legal challenge moved forward.

Justice Breyer did not ask for a response to the workers’ application or refer it to the full Supreme Court. He said the workers could return to the Supreme Court after the federal appeals court rules on their appeal or if that court does not issue a decision by Oct. 29. That is the date on which the state has said it will start enforcing the requirement.

Last week, Judge Jon D. Levy of the Federal District Court in Maine, ruled that the requirement did not run afoul of the First Amendment’s protection of the free exercise of religion.

“Both the serious risk of illness and death associated with the spread of the Covid-19 virus and the efforts by state and local governments to reduce that risk have burdened most aspects of modern life,” he wrote.

“In this case, the plaintiffs — health care workers and a health care provider — have shown that their refusal to be vaccinated based on their religious beliefs has resulted or will result in real hardships as it relates to their jobs,” Judge Levy wrote. “They have not, however, been prevented from staying true to their professed religious beliefs which, they claim, compel them to refuse to be vaccinated against Covid-19.”

A unanimous three-judge panel of the appeals court, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the First Circuit, in Boston, refused to block the mandate while the workers’ appeal of Judge Levy’s ruling moved forward.

The Supreme Court had earlier rejected challenges to vaccination requirements at Indiana University and for personnel in New York City’s school system. Those rulings were also issued by just one justice, which can be a sign that the legal questions involved were not considered substantial.

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