NEWS PROVIDED BY
May 26, 2023
BOSTON, May 26, 2023 /Christian Newswire
/ -- The First Circuit Court of Appeals ruled 3-0 in favor of seven Maine health care workers, ruling that the district court erred in dismissing the First Amendment and Equal Protection claims, in a case brought by Liberty Counsel. The case will now return to the lower court for discovery.
In Alicia Lowe, et al., v. Janet Mills, et al, Liberty Counsel argued on behalf of these health care workers in Maine who were terminated because their religious exemptions from Governor Janet Mills' unconstitutional COVID-19 shot mandate were denied.
During the argument on May 4, 2023, the judges seemed favorable to Liberty Counsel's case. In fact, at one point, Judge Lynch turned to the attorney for the state, Kimberly Patwardhan, and said, "You obviously have not been reading the U.S. Supreme Court precedent on this, or else you would not have filed your motion to dismiss."
As a result, Judges Lara Montecalvo, Bruce M. Selya, and Sandra Lynch have now reversed federal Judge Jon Levy's dismissal of the case on both of the two constitutional claims. Now Liberty Counsel can proceed to obtain discovery.
The three-judge panel wrote, "But we conclude that the plaintiffs' complaint states claims for relief under the Free Exercise and Equal Protection Clauses, as it is plausible, based on the plaintiffs' allegations and in the absence of further factual development, that the Mandate treats comparable secular and religious activity dissimilarly without adequate justification."
The court further wrote, "We conclude that it is plausible, in the absence of any factual development, that the Mandate falls in this category, based on the complaint's allegations that the Mandate allows some number of unvaccinated individuals to continue working in healthcare facilities based on medical exemptions while refusing to allow individuals to continue working while unvaccinated for religious reasons….[T]he State has not asserted an independent interest in maximizing vaccination rates apart from the public health benefits of doing so, and the Supreme Court has instructed us to assess comparability in the public health context based on the risks various activities pose. The State's argument that it did not independently conduct this type of analysis is, if anything, a reason to be skeptical that dismissal is appropriate absent further factual development."
"The cited discussion is insufficient, standing alone, to satisfy the State's burden under strict scrutiny. For example, it does not address the likely effects of including a religious exemption in the Mandate or give reasons why doing so would prevent the state from achieving its public health goals," the court wrote.
Liberty Counsel represents these health care workers in Maine who have sincerely held religious beliefs that prevent them from complying with Governor Janet Mills' unconstitutional shot mandate. Despite the violation to the First Amendment, that state mandate coerced health care employees into a tyrannical choice of accepting a COVID-19 shot or being terminated. These same health care workers sacrificed and worked endlessly on the frontlines caring for COVID patients before the mandate. Yet they were given a deadline to become vaccinated by October 1, 2021, forcing them to accept an experimental injection by September 17, 2021, at the latest.
Their lawsuit against Governor Mills, health officials of the Maine Department of Health and Human Services, Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention, and five of the state's largest hospital systems, challenges the Maine law that requires employees of designated Maine health care facilities to be vaccinated against the COVID-19 shot. Governor Mills ordered employers to deny all religious exemptions and ignore the federal employment law known as Title VII that affords employees the right to request reasonable accommodation for their sincere religious beliefs. Governor Mills also threatened to revoke the licenses of all health care employers who fail to mandate the shot to their employees.
Liberty Counsel Founder and Chairman Mat Staver said, "We look forward to taking on Gov. Janet Mills and her administration regarding the clear violations of the U.S. Constitution. This administration operates as though it is above the law. No one is above the law. The rights guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution cannot be set aside. Gov. Janet Mills trashed the health care heroes who were front line responders. But instead of a heroes' parade, Mills forced violated their religious rights and booted them into the unemployment lines. Now, Gov. Mills and her administration will have to defend her actions in the court of law."
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SOURCE Liberty Counsel
CONTACT: Mat Staver, 407-875-1776, Liberty@LC.org