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Liberty Counsel filed the reply brief to the First Circuit Court of Appeals asking that it reverse federal Judge Jon Levy’s dismissal of Alicia Lowe, et al., v. Janet Mills, et al, involving Maine health care workers who were terminated because their religious exemptions from the COVID-19 shot mandate were denied. Oral arguments are scheduled for May 4, 2023.

Liberty Counsel represents seven 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.

In the brief Liberty Counsel writes, “Forcing Plaintiffs to choose between their jobs and their religious beliefs is perforce coercion in violation of the Free Exercise Clause.”

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.

In his dismissal, Judge Levy stated there can be no accommodation for the plaintiffs since they only asked for an exemption. However, there cannot be an accommodation without an exemption. He stated to grant an exemption under Title VII would violate state law, so it is an undue hardship. That statement turns the Supremacy Clause of the U.S. Constitution on its head. Judge Levy does not dispute that the complaint stated a claim, which is the standard for a motion to dismiss, but he stated it would create an undue hardship to grant an exemption.

Liberty Counsel further writes in the reply brief, “Indeed, the First Amendment protects them from violating their convictions, and a plausible claim under the First Amendment is not contingent upon a plaintiff first violating his religious convictions to unlock the doors to the federal courthouse. Also, contrary to the district court’s conclusions, the timing of State Defendants’ revocation of protections for religious accommodations is irrelevant to the First Amendment violation. State Defendants’ reliance on delegation of authority to approve a nonreligious medical exemption does not diminish that the State created the system for individualized exemptions in violation of the First Amendment. Finally, State Defendants’ reliance on a numbers game ignores the salient inquiry of neutrality and general applicability under the First Amendment.”

Liberty Counsel Founder and Chairman Mat Staver said, “Maine is required to abide by federal law and the First Amendment to accommodate employees who have sincerely held religious objections to the COVID shots. In fact, Governor Mills cannot create her own law that ignores the Free Exercise Clause. She must abide by federal law. Liberty Counsel will continue to prove this in court.”

Author: Liberty Counsel


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