closeup of gavel and justice scales in background

Seven healthcare workers are appealing a federal judge’s dismissal of a claim against several companies, the governor and other officials regarding Maine’s healthcare COVID-19 vaccine mandate. The Supreme Court in February declined to hear the challenge, which argued against the mandate on religious grounds.  

In his decision, Jon Levy, the chief judge of the U.S. District Court for the District of Maine, said that the vaccine mandate was “rationally based” and that “no further analysis is required.” According to Levy, a religious exemption is not comparable with the medical exemption from the requirement.

“Exempting individuals whose health will be threatened if they receive a COVID-19 vaccine is an essential, constituent part of a reasoned public health response to the COVID-19 pandemic,” he said in court records.

Plaintiffs Alicia Lowe, Debra Chalmers, Jennifer Barbalia, Natalie Salavarria, Nicole Giroux, Garth Berenyi and Adam Jones contend that the state’s vaccine requirement violated their rights under the First Amendment of the Constitution. Two of the original “John Doe” defendants have withdrawn from the lawsuit.

“They said a religious exemption should be offered just as a medical exemption is,” Newscenter Maine reported

The civil suit names Genesis Healthcare, Genesis Healthcare of Maine, MaineHealth, MaineGeneral Health and the Northern Light Health Foundation — all of which count assisted living, memory care and/or skilled nursing among their offerings — as well as Gov. Janet Mills (D), the Maine Department of Health and Human Services Commissioner Jeanne Lambrew and Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention Director Nirav Shah, MD, MPH, according to records.

At the time the lawsuit was initially filed, Maine Attorney General Aaron Frey said the state would “vigorously defend” the mandate against the lawsuit, adding that the requirement “is based on a determination by public health experts that it is necessary to limit the spread of COVID-19 in healthcare facilities and to protect Maine’s healthcare system.”