Today, Liberty Counsel filed an emergency injunction pending appeal to the First Circuit Court of Appeals 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.
The governor originally stated health care workers must receive a COVID-19 injection by October 1 and then extended the deadline for compliance to October 29. However, this requires that plaintiffs accept an injection that violates their sincerely held religious beliefs by no later than tomorrow, Friday, October 15, 2021.
Gov. Janet Mills’ executive order purports to override both Title VII employment law and the First Amendment Free Exercise clause. Her discriminatory order mandates the shots and states health care workers cannot raise religious exemptions claims.
On August 12, 2021, Governor Mills announced that Maine will require health care workers to accept or receive one of the three, currently available COVID-19 shots to remain employed in the healthcare profession. This edict would force numerous doctors, nurses, medical professionals, and other health care workers to choose between the exercise of their sincerely held religious beliefs and their employment. 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 will be given to their religious beliefs.
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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, despite the unconstitutional fact that she is discriminating against religious employees who decline vaccination while favoring those who decline for secular, medical reasons.
Accommodations for patient-facing health care workers, those who work directly with patients, with sincerely held religious objections to the shots cannot mean one thing in most states and not in the vast majority of Maine. This is evident with employers granting accommodations to health care employees in Oregon, California, Washington, New Mexico, Missouri, Texas, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Illinois, Colorado, Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Delaware, Maryland and Florida. These health care providers include top education and research hospitals such as University of Colorado, University of Chicago, University of Maryland, Temple University; some of the largest health care providers in the nation including Kaiser Permanente, Trinity Health, and Advocate Aurora Healthcare with hundreds of thousands of employees providing patient-facing care and accommodating the subset of those with sincere religious beliefs; and mid-size and smaller health care providers that have also readily accommodated patient-facing personnel with sincere religious beliefs.
In addition, Title VII of the Civil Rights Act clearly requires that every employer with over 15 employees must provide religious accommodations “unless an employer demonstrates that he is unable to reasonably accommodate an employee’s or prospective employee’s religious observance or practice without undue hardship.” For months, health care employees have worked every day with reasonable accommodations and history underscores that the state and the employers can continue to provide accommodations.
Liberty Counsel Founder and Chairman Mat Staver said, “The court must stop Governor Mills from discriminating against health care workers with sincerely held religious beliefs that prevents them from receiving the COVID injection. She cannot override federal law and dictate that they must inject an experimental substance into their bodies. All Maine health care workers have the legal right to request reasonable accommodation for their sincerely held religious beliefs and forcing shots without exemptions is unlawful.”