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Friday, January 21, 2022

Maine health officials are the latest to submit vaccine mandate to Supreme Court

Maine health officials opposed to the COVID-19 vaccination mandate are hoping the U.S. Supreme Court will take the same stance as the Texas federal court, which recently took over the Defense Department’s commitment to approve religious exemptions for active duty veterans.

In a memo filed Jan. 11 on behalf of 2,000 healthcare professionals in Pine Tree State, national civil liberties organization Liberty Counsel said giving hospitals medical benefits, but not religious benefits, discriminates against healthcare professionals opposed to taking a COVID injection.

“People who receive medical benefits pose exactly the same risk to the state’s supposed interest in slowing the spread of COVID-19,” Liberty Counsel chief judicial counsel Harry Michet told The Epoch Times. “The virus doesn’t know if a person is unvaccinated for religious reasons or for medical reasons.”

This is the same argument that won a small group of U.S. Navy SEALs their argument before the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Texas that the military used an unconstitutional double standard by granting non-secular exemptions that are medical exemptions rather than granting religious exemptions.

The U.S. Supreme Court in Washington, D.C., file photo. (Mark Thomas/Pixabay)

Justice Reid O’Connor agreed, writing in his ruling that “no matter how small the number of secular exceptions is compared to it, any favorable treatment—in this case, the possibility of deployment without medical disqualification—wins over neutrality.”

The Department of Defense argued that it was justified to grant medical exemptions when denying requests for exemption on religious grounds because the number of requests for medical exemption was lower.

In Maine, Gov. Janet Mills has ordered that healthcare workers be banned from receiving a religious exemption from a vaccine, while still allowing them to receive medical exemptions.

The state, defending the repeal of the exemption, argued that religious exemptions were a contentious issue because the mandates did not cover any specific religious group and were solely intended to protect against medical professionals exposing patients to the virus.

The liberty lawyer filed his brief with the Supreme Court on the same day that Mills asked for 169 Maine National Guard troops to be sent to fill a severe shortage of staff in hospitals across Maine.

Mills blamed the critical shortage on the unvaccinated.

“I wish we didn’t have to take this step, but the surge in hospital admissions, driven primarily by those who are not vaccinated, is draining our healthcare system capacity, jeopardizing care for Maine residents, and adding to the burden on our already exhausted medical workers,” Mills said in a lengthy press release announcing a call for help from the National Guard.

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Steve Michaud, president of the Maine Hospital Association, issued a statement calling Mill’s decision to call in the National Guard “good news” for the state’s “beleaguered hospitals.”

“We are going through the most difficult time of the entire pandemic for hospitals,” Michaud said.

The Epoch Times Photos
Maine Gov. Janet Mills in 2019 (Rebecca Hummel/U.S. Senate/Public domain)

Michet said the shortage was, if anything, caused by what he estimated were the layoffs of thousands of Maine health workers for failing to meet the COVID-19 vaccine mandate.

He pointed out that Mills has never provided any statistics to support her claims that the unvaccinated are spreading COVID-19, adding that it will most likely be those who have been vaccinated given that the governor is pushing Maine with one of the highest vaccinated population in the country. United States.

Mills also got rid of all unvaccinated healthcare workers, Michet said.

“This is a crisis caused by the governor,” he told The Epoch Times.

According to the latest data from the Maine Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 76 percent of the state’s population is fully vaccinated against COVID-19.

Vermont and Rhode Island are the only two states with slightly higher vaccination rates.

Maine also has a large number of healthcare workers vaccinated against the virus.

By the end of September 2021, 91.6% of hospital workers and 85.8% of nursing home employees had been vaccinated, according to the state CDC.

Maine, New York, and Rhode Island are the only three states that do not allow healthcare workers to be exempted from COVID-19 vaccinations on religious grounds.

The northern state of New England has the “oldest” population in the United States. Of the 1.3 million inhabitants, 21.8 percent over 65 years old.

States hospitals were particularly hard hit by a shortage of medical workers.

Two of its largest hospitals have closed or substantially reduced their emergency departments and emergency services due to lack of staff to deal with the influx of COVID patients, most of whom were 65 and older.

Central Maine Healthcare, when announcing the closure of its neonatal intensive care unit, made specific reference to laying off healthcare workers due to the vaccination mandate for this reason.

Several cities in northern Maine have recently reported shortages of ambulance drivers and ambulance crews.

Adding to the shortfall is the recent record number of COVID-related hospitalizations.

The Maine CDC recently reported 159,498 cases.

Alice Giordano

To follow

Alice Giordano is a former correspondent for The Boston Globe, The Associated Press, and the New England bureau of The New York Times.

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