A federal judge has thrown out a lawsuit filed by a group of medical professionals against Governor Janet Mills and several Maine hospitals that argued they were subjected to unlawful discrimination because of Maine’s COVID-19 vaccination mandate.
Plaintiffs argued that the lack of a religious exemption in the vaccine mandate infringed on their right to free exercise of religion.
The chief judge of the U.S. District Court for the District of Maine, Judge Jon Levy ruled in favor of Gov. Mills and the hospitals in a ruling issued on Thursday.
Judge Levy wrote that the vaccine mandate was “rationally based” and that “no further analysis is required,” AP reported.
“Reducing the number of unvaccinated healthcare workers at designated healthcare facilities in Maine is rationally related to the government’s interests in limiting the spread of COVID-19, safeguarding Maine’s healthcare capacity, and protecting the lives and health of Maine people,” Levy wrote.
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The workers had remained anonymous since filing the suit until July, when a federal appeals court in Boston said they must reveal their identities. The workers also argued it was their religious right to decline the vaccine over the belief that fetal stem cells from abortions are used to develop them.
Liberty Counsel, a law firm representing the health care workers, said in a statement on Friday that it would appeal the dismissal. The firm said in a statement that Levy’s dismissal was “critically flawed” and “contrary to recent Supreme Court precedent involving COVID restrictions on places of worship and many other Supreme Court decisions.”
The vaccine mandate went into effect in October. The plaintiffs hoped to take their case to the U.S. Supreme Court, but the court declined to hear arguments in the suit earlier this year. The high court did not explain its decision at the time.
The lawsuit named some of the largest health care networks in the state as defendants. One of those networks, Northern Light Health, said in a statement on Friday that it had been validated by the court’s ruling.
“Our health care organization continues to strive always to act in the best interests of our patients and our staff in these challenging times, and we’re gratified that the court completely validated our conduct in this matter,” the statement said.
Meanwhile, a group of healthcare workers sued NorthShore University HealthSystem over their COVID vax mandate, as TGP reported.
They said that they were denied religious exemptions despite the fact they shared their religious beliefs with NorthShore University HealthSystem.
NorthShore has decided to settle, to the tune of $10 million.
According to estimates, those who were fired over the mandate can receive about $25,000 — and those who ended up getting the vaccine after being denied an exemption on the basis of religion can receive around $3,000.
The plaintiffs in the case are each going to receive about $20,000 each.