U.S. Supreme Court justice rejects challenge to Maine COVID-19 vaccine mandate

FILE PHOTO: General view of the U.S. Supreme Court building in Washington

By Lawrence Hurley

WASHINGTON (Reuters) -U.S. Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer on Tuesday turned away a religious challenge to a requirement that healthcare workers in Maine be vaccinated against COVID-19, the latest such bid rejected by the nation's top judicial body.

In a brief order, Breyer wrote that the challengers - unnamed plaintiffs who said they are healthcare workers and object to taking the vaccine on religious grounds - could make another request for a mandate exemption once the 1st U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled on their case.

Shortly after Breyer's order, the Boston-based appeals court ruled against the healthcare workers, setting up the case to return to the Supreme Court.

The Maine mandate required that all healthcare workers be fully vaccinated by the beginning of October, but the state said it would not enforce it until Oct. 29. Maine removed religious exemptions from mandated vaccines in 2019 and voters overwhelmingly rejected a referendum challenging the law last year.

Breyer handled the case for the Supreme Court because he is the justice assigned to deal with emergency requests arising from cases in states in a region that includes Maine.

A federal judge rejected https://www.reuters.com/world/us/maine-can-bar-religious-exemptions-covid-vaccine-mandate-judge-rules-2021-10-13 the bid for an exemption.

Breyer's order is the third time the Supreme Court has rejected an attempt to challenge a COVID-19 vaccine mandate. Justice Sonia Sotomayor this month refused https://www.reuters.com/world/us/us-supreme-courts-sotomayor-lets-new-york-school-vaccine-mandate-remain-2021-10-01 to block New York City's requirement that public school teachers and employees be vaccinated. Justice Amy Coney Barrett in August denied https://www.reuters.com/world/us/supreme-courts-barrett-rejects-indiana-university-students-vaccine-mandate-2021-08-12 a bid by Indiana University students to block that school's vaccination mandate.

(Reporting by Lawrence Hurley; Editing by Will Dunham and Rosalba O'Brien)