Who decides whether a religious objection to vaccination is genuine?


As more workers across the country need to be vaccinated against Covid-19, thousands of people are asking for religious exemptions from tenure – sometimes forcing employers to determine if an individual is inappropriately looking for a ‘loophole’ to avoid the vaccination.

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What the law on religious exemptions says

Under the Federal Civil Rights Act of 1964, employers are required to provide reasonable accommodation to employees who have “sincere” religious beliefs that conflict with job requirements.

Under this provision, the term “religion” has a broad definition. According to Commission for Equal Employment Opportunities, a religious belief has not been formally recognized by an organized religion. Beliefs can also be new, unconventional, or “seem illogical or unreasonable to others.” However, religious beliefs cannot be based solely on political or social beliefs.

In the case of Covid-19 vaccines, major religious denominations, institutions and traditions have been “essentially unanimous” in their support for Covid-19 vaccinations, according to the New York Times.

Although some Catholic leaders in the United States have scoffed at vaccines for their use of cell lines derived from fetal tissue, the Vatican Doctrine Office has said it is “morally acceptable” for Catholics to receive Covid vaccines -19 based on research using these cell types. In addition, Pope Francis has declared that it would be “suicide” not to be vaccinated and that he himself has been fully vaccinated with the. Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine.

a Associated Press-NORC An August poll found that the majority of people who identify as nuns were vaccinated against Covid-19. Specifically, the poll found that 58% of white evangelical Protestants, 72% of mainline white Protestants, 80% of Catholics, and 73% of Americans with no religious affiliation reported being vaccinated. Seventy percent of non-white Protestants, including 70% of black Protestants, also reported having been vaccinated.

Thousands of people demand religious exemptions for vaccination warrants

Despite support for vaccinations from religious institutions, some people have cited religious objections to the Covid-19 vaccination, PA / Modern health reports.

For example, about 2,600 employees of the Los Angeles Police Department have cited religious objections in seeking to avoid the required vaccination against Covid-19, and thousands of Washington state employees are asking for similar exemptions.

Mat Staver, Founder and President of Freedom Council, a conservative Christian legal organization, said its group had received more than 20,000 requests for religious exemptions in recent weeks.

According to PA / Modern health, several government officials, doctors and community leaders have also offered people help seeking religious exemptions from Covid-19 vaccine warrants.

For example, Jackson Lahmeyer, a pastor of Sheridan Church in Tulsa, Oklahoma, has a “religious exemption” form on his church’s website that people can download. Anyone interested in a religious exemption can download the form and have it signed by a religious leader, or Lahmeyer will sign the form himself if he joins and donates to his church.

According to Lahmeyer, more than 35,000 people downloaded the form in just three days.

“We are not anti-vaccines,” he said. “We’re just in favor of freedom. A lot of those people who signed up… have already taken the vaccine. They just don’t think it’s fair that someone else is forced or lost their job.”

According to Times, research suggests that some vaccine skeptics’ resistance is not due to formal religious teachings, but rather to media opinions and conversations with like-minded family members and friends.

“People who have already made up their minds are now looking for ways to continue exempting themselves from the Covid vaccine,” Joshua Williams, pediatrician and assistant professor of pediatrics at the University of Colorado, noted.

Before the pandemic, Williams researched vaccination requirements in schools and found evidence that some objections to vaccines cited as religious may be based on personal and secular beliefs.

For example, after Vermont removed exemptions for vaccinations based on personal non-religious beliefs in 2016, the proportion of kindergarten students with a religious exemption increased sharply from 0.5% to 3, 7%.

Employers struggle to navigate religious exemption requests

According to Times, companies have already spent the past 18 months tackling contentious pandemic challenges, including closing workplaces, requiring masks and, for some, returning to work in person.

Now the Times reports, employers with immunization mandates need to distinguish between objections that are primarily secular and those based on religious beliefs – a situation that can become increasingly tense as religious freedom clashes with employers’ concerns. in health and safety.

Some employers have already taken a hard line on these exemptions, PA / Modern health reports. United Airlines last week, told employees who get religious exemptions they would be put on unpaid leave until new coronavirus testing procedures are in place. And New York lawmakers tried to make the vaccine mandatory for all medical workers without religious exemptions before a federal judge blocked the state from enforcing the rule.

Other employers still have questions.

“How much can we ask? How far can we push? Do we have to adapt to that? These are the questions that employers are trying to solve,” said Barbara Holland, advisor at the Society for Human Resources Management, noted. And, she added, “How can I tease who isn’t telling the truth?” (PA / Modern health, 15/9; Bailey, Washington post, 15/9; Graham, New York Times, 15/9)


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