WASHINGTON — Supreme Court Justices Amy Coney Barrett and Brett Kavanaugh denied emergency relief for healthcare workers in Maine seeking a religious exemption from Gov. Janet Mills’ authoritarian COVID-19 jab mandate. The court voted 6-3 to deny religious liberty.
As reported last week, Liberty Counsel is representing over 2,000 healthcare workers facing a loss of their jobs. Justice Stephen Breyer refused to take up a case for an emergency injunction pending appeal but ordered Mills and other state agencies to “respond by Monday, October 25, to Liberty Counsel’s request for immediate relief for health care workers until it decides to review the case” after an injunction pending disposition of the petition for writ of certiorari was filed.
Maine’s vax mandate took effect on Friday, the same day the entire Supreme Court denied the emergency relief for the workers. As Zero Hedge reported: “The court’s decision not to grant the immediate relief for the health care workers until it decides to review the case, means the state’s COVID-19 vaccine mandate will take effect while litigation continues in lower courts.”
This was the first time the entire Supreme Court has made a decision on anything related to the jab mandates concerning the experimental COVID-19 shots. Along with Breyer’s initial refusal to take up this case, Barrett and Justice Sonia Sotomayor have refused to take up cases for Indiana University students and New York teachers respectively.
Barrett, joined by Kavanaugh, wrote the majority’s opinion. They joined the court’s left wing justices with Breyer, Sotomayor, Chief Justice John Roberts and Justice Elena Kagen. Justice Neil Gorsuch, who was joined by Justices Samuel Alito and Clarence Thomas, wrote the dissent. Both the majority and dissenting opinions can be found here.
Barrett’s opinion stated what must be taken into consideration is if the case “is likely to succeed on the merits.”
“I understand this factor to encompass not only an assessment of the underlying merits but also a discretionary judgment about whether the Court should grant review in the case …. Were the standard otherwise, applicants could use the emergency docket to force the Court to give a merits preview in cases that it would be unlikely to take — and to do so on a short fuse without benefit of full briefing and oral argument. In my view, this discretionary consideration counsels against a grant of extraordinary relief in this case, which is the first to address the questions presented,” Barrett wrote.
Gorsuch noted in his dissent that Maine does not provide a religious exemption, “unlike comparable rules in most other States.” The thousands of healthcare workers represented by Liberty Counsel includes one who “has already lost her job for refusing to betray her faith” and “another risks the imminent loss of his medical practice.”
“No one questions that these individuals have served patients on the front line of the COVID — 19 pandemic with bravery and grace for 18 months now …. The applicants ask us to enjoin further enforcement of Maine’s new rule as to them, at least until we can decide whether to accept their petition for certiorari. I would grant that relief,” Gorsuch wrote.
On “whether the applicants are likely to succeed on the merits,” Gorsuch states: “The First Amendment protects the exercise of sincerely held religious beliefs. Laws that single out sincerely held religious beliefs or conduct based on them for sanction are ‘doubtless . . . unconstitutional.’”
Gorsuch stated that Maine’s edict is not “neutral toward religion” and does not “satisfy strict scrutiny” as it is not disputed by Maine that aborted babies have been used in the shots.
“Maine does not dispute that its rule burdens the exercise of sincerely held religious beliefs,” Gorsuch writes. “The applicants explain that receiving the COVID — 19 vaccines violates their faith because of what they view as an impermissible connection between the vaccines and the cell lines of aborted fetuses. More specifically, they allege that the Johnson & Johnson vaccine required the use of abortion-related materials in its production, and that Moderna and Pfizer relied on aborted fetal cell lines to develop their vaccines …. This much, the applicants say, violates foundational principles of their religious faith. For purposes of these proceedings, Maine has contested none of this.”
Beyond the religious objections, Gorsuch notes that Maine does provide individual exemptions despite refusing to allow religious exemptions.
“No one questions that protecting patients and health care workers from contracting COVID — 19 is a laudable objective. But Maine does not suggest a worker who is unvaccinated for medical reasons is less likely to spread or contract the virus than someone who is unvaccinated for religious reasons,” Gorsuch wrote.
Maine claims the lack of religious exemption is meant to protect the state’s medical infrastructure. Gorsuch responds: “But as we have already seen, Maine does not dispute that unvaccinated religious objectors and unvaccinated medical objectors are equally at risk for contracting COVID — 19 or spreading it to their colleagues. Nor is it any answer to say that, if the State required vaccination for medical objectors, they might suffer side effects resulting in fewer medical staff available to treat patients. If the State refuses religious exemptions, religious workers will be fired for refusing to violate their faith, which will also mean fewer healthcare workers available to care for patients.”
Liberty Counsel plans to continue fighting as its founder and chairman Mat Staver said: “This case is far from over. We will file a petition with the Supreme Court to review the merits of the case after full briefing and argument. The High Court’s decision to not grant the emergency relief is not a ruling on the merits. Maine has no authority to order employers to disobey federal Title VII employment law. While we should ultimately prevail on the merits, the tragedy is that today many health care heroes are being terminated. Since 2019, Maine has suffered from a shortage of health care workers and that shortage will increase as of today. The people who will suffer are not only the health care workers but patients who need care.”
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