Liberty Counsel filed a lawsuit yesterday in the U.S. District Court of Maine on behalf of more than 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 regarding the state’s attempt to ignore federal law and remove religious exemptions and accommodations from unlawful COVID shot mandates for health care workers.
Judge Jon D. Levy held a short hearing today and will expedite the case for a status conference next Tuesday, at which time he will set a preliminary injunction hearing in early September in advance of the September 17 deadline required for the Johnson and Johnson injections.
This morning, Liberty Counsel was made aware of one nurse who was fired from Northern Light last night. She was terminated after submitting her religious exemption request. Northern Light told this nurse in Maine only medical exemptions are permitted. This employer, like the other defendants, at the direction of Gov. Mills, is operating as though the federal employment law, Title VII, does not exist.
This same nurse immediately applied to another healthcare facility and was told this facility would love to hire her. However, she was told the facility receives state funding and must abide by Gov. Mills’ order which does not permit religious exemptions.
One of the plaintiffs in the lawsuit is a dental office that is being told by Gov. Mills employees must be terminated if they do not get the COVID shots and do not have a medical exemption. Some of the employees do have religious exemptions. On behalf of this dentist and his office, Liberty Counsel argues that Gov. Mills and the state defendants are violating the First Amendment Free Exercise of Religion.
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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 are given to their religious beliefs, and they must receive a COVID-19 injection by October 1, 2021. Gov. Mills has threatened to revoke the licenses of all health care employers who fail to mandate that all employees receive the COVID-19 injection.
All health care workers are protected by Title VII of the Civil Rights Act which does provide for religious exemptions and accommodations and mandates that employers provide them. Furthermore, COVID shots cannot be mandatory under Title VII. In general, employee vaccine religious exemption requests must be accommodated, where a reasonable accommodation exists without undue hardship to the employer, under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Many people hold sincere religious beliefs against taking any vaccines, or taking those derived from aborted fetal cell lines, or taking those sold by companies that profit from the sale of vaccines and other products derived from abortion.
Further, all private health care employers and workers in Maine that are employed by the state also have protection for the exercise of their sincerely held religious beliefs under the First Amendment. These employees do not shed their constitutional rights upon entering government employment. Maine law provides a long-established common law right to all individuals to refuse unwanted medical care.
Liberty Counsel Founder and Chairman Mat Staver said, “This morning a nurse was terminated because of Gov. Janet Mills’ illegal order. Federal law and the First Amendment protect these health care heroes. These health care heroes ran to the front lines to protect us. We will fight to protect them. We look forward to an expedited hearing.”