Religious exemptions to COVID vaccines: are denominations against it?



This week, the United States took a grim pandemic milestone: 1 in 500 Americans have now died from COVID-19. This coincides with the week’s other disheartening COVID news: that the number of people claiming religious exemptions from President Biden’s tenure also appears to be on the rise. Take Los Angeles, where nearly a quarter of the LAPD plans to seek waivers of the city’s mandate. According to Los Angeles Times, nearly 90% of them are religious exemptions. Or just yesterday the Washington post posted a story about an Oklahoma pastor signing religious exemptions for anyone who donates to his church. Thirty thousand people have downloaded its exemption form since Monday. (“It’s beautiful,” he told the newspaper. “My phone and emails have exploded.”)

The point is, very few organized religions oppose vaccinations of any kind, according to lists compiled by Vanderbilt University Medical Center and the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. Many religious leaders have actually done the opposite, helping members plan vaccines and even offer their places of worship as makeshift vaccination clinics. Given that so few denominations have doctrinal reasons for remaining unvaccinated, and it is not clear whether any of them actively discourage members from getting vaccinated against COVID-19, the question is what religion do most of these people claim to be?

Here’s how different faith groups have responded to COVID-19 vaccines, and whether they have come out for or against religious exemptions. Their positions are taken from the answers Fast business received from the groups themselves, as well as official statements, posted online or given to the press. This story may be updated with additional answers as we receive them.


Almost no Christian denomination opposes vaccines for theological reasons. This includes smaller groups like the Amish, Mennonites, Quakers, Eastern Orthodox, and Anglicans, as well as larger Protestant denominations like Baptists and Pentecostals. Yet Protestants have a distinction that sets them apart from other faith groups: in a recent survey by the Public Religion Research Institute, evangelical and Hispanic white Protestants had the lowest percentage of vaccine acceptors in their ranks (56% for both groups). Additionally, White Evangelicals had the highest refusal rate (24%) and were the only group where less than half agreed with the statement “Because getting the COVID-19 vaccine helps protect everyone, it’s a way of living the religious principle of loving my neighbors.

America has over 200 Christian denominations, but conservative feelings about the vaccine are similar. The president of America’s largest evangelical congregation, the Southern Baptist Convention, posted a photo of himself getting the shot on Facebook, and it drew hundreds of rabid comments.


Catholic leaders initially opposed the Johnson & Johnson vaccine’s use of cell lines from aborted fetuses, arguing it was “morally compromised”. Citing “conflicting statements from bishops in the media,” the Vatican told Catholics in December that their main moral mandate was not to infect others with the virus. The church did not specifically address religious exemptions, but Pope Francis had a new message for vaccine denials yesterday. “It’s a bit strange, because humanity has a history of friendship with vaccines,” he said, according to the AP, adding that we have been vaccinating against measles and polio for ages. and nobody said anything “.


The Islamic Society of North America has actively encouraged Muslims to get vaccinated, as well as to take all other necessary precautions to prevent the spread of COVID-19. At first, some imams questioned whether the vaccines contained pork products, which were prohibited by Islamic law. ISNA explained that no pork products were used and that the injections would not break the Ramadan fast. He did not respond to Fast businessasks for comments on its position on religious exemptions.


The Orthodox Union, the Central Conference of American Rabbis, and the Union for Reform Judaism have issued statements that call vaccination primarily “a Jewish obligation.” The Orthodox Union acknowledged that vaccines had been developed “at an unprecedented speed” and noted that Pfizer and Moderna “are using new vaccine technology” via mRNA, but said the Torah commands the Jewish people to protect life, which means that he must “get vaccinated against COVID-19 as soon as a vaccine is available.”

Mormon church

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has repeatedly encouraged its members to get immunized, even going so far as to update its official policy manual to say so. President Russell Nelson called vaccines a “literal godsend.” And last week, church leaders in California were told not to sign religious exemptions for members seeking to circumvent the Golden State’s new vaccination mandate.

Church of Scientology

While some members have a reputation for being anti-vax, the Church of Scientology itself takes no official position on vaccinations. Despite this, New York Church of Scientology President John Carmichael has proposed that Scientologists are “fairly independent people” who “tend to do a little more research, perhaps, on the effect. various medical procedures ”. Church has been silent on COVID-19 and has yet to respond to Fast business‘s questions.

Religious groups that officially oppose vaccines

Vanderbilt’s research distinguishes three groups that, as a general practice, oppose vaccines: Christian scientists, the Dutch Reformed Church, and a small subset of Protestant denominations that practice faith healing.

First Church of Christ spokesperson, Scientist, recounts Fast business the church “wanted to let its members know that there is no pressure or judgment as to whether one chooses to vaccinate or not.” He adds that they “remain aware of our responsibility to our neighbors and our community. We actively strive to live up to the golden rule ethic of treating others with respect, care and consideration. And of course, we do. respect the law.

Religious exemptions vary by geography. The greatest irony in the public vaccination effort is that, according to experts, many refusing vaccination probably do not need a letter signed by a member of the clergy; they just need to reside in good condition. Currently, 12 states allow residents to object to vaccines for medical, religious, or philosophical reasons, while six states have removed these exemptions entirely (California, Connecticut, Maine, Mississippi, New York, West Virginia ). Some of those six, like Connecticut, have repealed their religious exemption laws specifically in response to the pandemic. “When you see a clear trend,” said a lawmaker who voted to repeal Connecticut in April, “it’s important to get ahead of the curve.”


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