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Maine health care workers appeal lawsuit dismissal over state's vaccine mandate

Attorneys who represent the health care workers believe the vaccine requirement violates the First Amendment.

MAINE, USA — A group of healthcare workers are appealing a decision to dismiss their lawsuit against the state of Maine's COVID vaccine requirements.

The group of seven people sued the state of Maine to get a religious exemption added to the vaccine mandate over their belief that fetal stem cells from abortions are used to develop the vaccines. They said a religious exemption should be offered just as a medical exemption is.

A federal judge dismissed their complaint last month, while attorneys who represent the healthcare workers said the vaccine requirement violates the First Amendment.

However, the state of Maine argued the two exemptions should not be viewed in the same way under the law. The judge agreed and added that if hospitals made accommodations for the healthcare workers seeking a religious exemption, they would be in violation of state law. The judge also ruled there is no conflict between federal and state law. 

Northern Light Health previously released a statement regarding the lawsuit dismissal:

“Our health care organization continues to strive always to act in the best interests of our patients and our staff in these challenging times, and we’re gratified that the Court completely validated our conduct in this matter,” Suzanne Spruce, the senior vice president of marketing and communications, said.

RELATED: Judge dismisses vaccine lawsuit filed by Maine health care workers

The group of healthcare workers originally sued in August 2021 with their names kept anonymous. Two of them, however, dropped out because the private practice where they work was no longer covered by the mandate.

In July, the remaining names of the seven workers were revealed as Alicia Lowe, Debra Chalmers, Jennifer Barbalias, Natalie Salavarria, Nicole Giroux, Garth Berenyi, and Adam Jones after a federal appeals court in Boston set a deadline for them to file an amended complaint with their names.

Several Maine newspapers, including the Portland Press Herald, also intervened and pushed for the plaintiffs to be identified.

The lawsuit stated that Barbalias, Jones, and Salavarria lost their jobs at Northern Light Eastern Maine Medical Center for refusing to get the vaccine. Lowe was fired from MaineHealth, and Chalmers and Berenyi were fired from Genesis Healthcare for the same reason.

Now, the group is turning to the First Circuit Court of Appeals in Boston in hopes their case will be revisited, the Portland Press Herald reported.

Attorneys representing the healthcare workers have a month to file a brief to the Boston court that outlines their reasons for an appeal, according to the Portland Press Herald.

RELATED: Plaintiffs' names revealed in vaccine mandate lawsuit against Gov. Mills

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