Religious experts and leaders speak out on vaccine exemptions


More Americans are seeking religious exemptions to avoid receiving the COVID-19 vaccine. But this influx of demands has baffled some religious leaders.

“Recently I had a bunch of people asking me about religious exemptions,” said Muhammad Kolila, an imam at the Islamic Center in downtown Denver.

Kolila says he has seen an increase in the number of people asking him about the COVID-19 vaccine.

“There is no exemption from vaccination,” he explained. “It is encouraged because it is the best way to achieve people’s safety, and it is part of our religion that we try as much as possible to protect our bodies and to protect the bodies of others as well.”

He said, in particular, that the mRNA vaccine does not interfere with their beliefs.

“The only time the exemption occurs is if the vaccine contains pork. This is the time when we consider that vaccination is not allowed because we do not eat pork or include anything in our body related to pork. Another is alcohol, ”he said.

Kolila is not alone.

“People have asked me to give them exemptions, and I see no religious basis for doing so,” said Rabbi Joseph Black, the senior rabbi of Temple Emanuel Denver.

He is faced with the same questions.

“Our top priority in each of our Jewish values ​​is an idea called ‘pikuach nefesh’, which means ‘preservation of life’ and according to Jewish tradition saving one life trumps any other commandment,” he said. declared. “We demand that all students in our preschool learning center be immunized.”

Churches across the country have clarified their position. The Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America announced in a statement: “… there is no exemption in the Orthodox Church for its faithful from all vaccination for religious reasons”.

Other entities, such as the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, have issued similar statements.

“What a religious exemption does is that it allows a person on the basis of a religious belief to claim to be exempt from a general legal requirement,” said Leslie Francis, director of the Center for Law and in Biomedical Sciences from the University of Utah.

She is a professor of law and philosophy.

“Part of what worries a lot of people in this discussion is that aren’t we just going to have a lot of people saying they have religious exemptions when they might not? “, she explained.

This is exactly what legal expert Christopher Jackson has found as more and more employers implement mandates.

“Religious exemptions are sort of a thing in labor law and constitutional law, but they haven’t been raised so much. I think there has been a slight uptick over the past few weeks, especially after the President announced a new OSHA rule requiring vaccines for most employers. It really has come up a lot more frequently, ”said Jackson, appeals partner at Holland & Hart LLP.

He said the line is not clear.

“Religious belief must be sincere. But there is no good reason for an employer to look into this or try to determine if someone has a sincere religious belief. “

Jackson said he sees several ways this could turn out.

“I could see this open up an avalanche of lawsuits, see federal courts getting involved, or maybe in a few weeks it will go away for the most part.” That they’ve sort of figured out who really should be exempt and who shouldn’t and maybe that goes away, and I don’t really think anyone has a clear idea of ​​where this is going, ”he said. he declares.

For now, churches will make decisions based on their core beliefs.

“The value of saving lives, the value of preserving the community, the value of supporting each other, is more important,” said Rabbi Black.

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