Few if any things about the COVID-19 pandemic are humorous. But when it comes to the Liberty Counsel Nine, I can’t help but chuckle.

They are the six women and three men – all health professionals – who are suing the state of Maine in federal court over Gov. Janet Mills’ mandate that health care workers get vaccinated against COVID-19. They’re represented by Florida-based Liberty Counsel, a self-described Christian ministry law firm that says its work “is based upon the good news, which is also referred to as the gospel.”

Now for the funny part. Unlike, say, the 12 apostles, whose names are all over the gospel, these nine crusaders are known only as John Doe 1, 2 and 3, and Jane Doe 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 and 6.

And why is that? They’re afraid that if the rest of us knew their names, it might make their lives difficult. Heck, someone might even ask them how it feels to be a walking contradiction – working to keep patients healthy while at the same time potentially exposing them to a deadly virus.

On Wednesday, the Portland Press Herald and three other Maine newspapers, along with the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press, filed a motion in U.S. District Court in Portland seeking to overturn a September order by Judge Jon Levy. It allowed the plaintiffs in the case against the state to proceed “pseudonymously” for the time being.

The rationale behind the newspapers’ motion: Once you protect the names of the people filing a lawsuit, our open court system suddenly becomes opaque, if not altogether invisible.

We’ll leave it to the judge to decide on our motion. Meanwhile, it’s worth asking: What exactly has this small herd of Does so spooked in the first place?

After all, they’re far from an obscure minority. With the number of Mainers hospitalized with COVID-19 hitting a record of 248 people Friday, some 400,000 people in this state have yet to be fully vaccinated.

Should all of those names be made public? Obviously not – misguided as they may be, even those who could get a shot but won’t are entitled to some modicum of privacy.

But the moment someone crosses the courthouse threshold and takes legal action against the state of Maine – also known as you and me – that right to privacy should evaporate like a drop of water on a hot woodstove. If you’re going to sue the rest of us while claiming some God-given right to prolong the pandemic, we damn well have a right to know who you are.

David Schmid, the attorney representing the Liberty Counsel Nine, told the court in an affidavit that his clients fear “retribution, reprisal and ostracization because of their sincerely held religious beliefs concerning the COVID-19 vaccines and the mandates concerning such purported vaccines.”

Let’s look at retribution and reprisal first. If the plaintiffs meant they feared losing their jobs, they’re right. The governor’s health care mandate, intended to protect our most vulnerable, requires that only the vaccinated be allowed to treat sick people. The rest can take a hike. Period.

As for the plaintiffs’ fear of ostracization, right again. If you’re so hell bent on not getting vaccinated that you’re willing to go to court over it, I’m not giving you a wide berth because I want to hurt your feelings. I’m doing it to avoid getting infected.

Then there’s the hypocrisy of it all. The most strident vaccine opponents – a group to which we can safely assume the Liberty Counsel Nine belong – have shown no qualms whatsoever in recent months about descending on Maine school boards and other public bodies to scream, point fingers and outright threaten elected officials who are simply trying to do their jobs. Following one recent meeting at Regional School Unit 4 in Wales that ended before it could even start, board members requested police escort to their cars.

What about their right to live free of retribution and reprisal?

In granting the Liberty Counsel Nine their “pseudonym” status – an order that oddly met with no objection from the state – Judge Levy made an exception to Rule 10(a) of the federal Rules of Civil Procedure, which clearly states that “the title of the complaints must name all parties.”

Levy was within his authority to do that – exceptions to the rule are occasionally allowed in cases dealing with sexual abuse or some similar matter where a plaintiff’s safety or legitimate privacy concern eclipses the public’s right to know who’s doing the complaining.

But this is not one of those cases. However they may have been recruited to lead Liberty Counsel’s charge against Maine’s eminently defensible vaccine mandate, each of them made an individual decision to proceed. If their attorney now argues that they did so only under the condition that they remain anonymous, then you have to wonder about the strength of their convictions in the first place.

Sooner or later, Maine’s mandate will end up before the full U.S. Supreme Court. What happens there will be anyone’s guess – claims of religious freedom hold particular sway with the court’s strong conservative majority.

Which raises an interesting hypothesis: If the Liberty Counsel Nine were to successfully maintain their anonymity and then win before the Supreme Court, would they still hide behind their John and Jane Does? Or would they be more than happy to finally come forward?

My prediction? Cue Tucker Carlson.

But enough with the nightmare scenarios. As their federal lawsuit teeters on the edge of darkness – what good is watching a trial if we don’t know who’s testifying? – don’t buy the Liberty Counsel Nine’s whining that they need protection from the 70 percent of Mainers who’ve had the good sense to get vaccinated.

They need protection, all right. But only from themselves.

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