The increasing number of employer COVID vaccine mandates has spurred many people to use religion as a grounds for exemption from getting the vaccine. However, if you're looking for what religions are against the vaccine, you won’t find many.
None of the major religious denominations in the U.S. are opposing the vaccination outright, reports CBS News. In Aug. 2021, Pope Francis of the Catholic Church told parishioners they “have the moral responsibility to get vaccinated.” Leaders of the Mormon Church also encourage followers to get the vaccine and wear masks in public.
“We can win this war if everyone will follow the wise and thoughtful recommendations of medical experts and government leaders,” Mormon Church leaders said in a statement.
But exemption requests on religious grounds don’t necessarily have to come from organized religions, says the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. Instead, those objecting can have new or uncommon beliefs that may “seem illogical or unreasonable to others.”
"It can be a personal, sincerely held religious belief which arises from the very nature of freedom of religion articulated in the First Amendment," labor attorney Domenique Camacho Moran told CBS News.
Kentucky resident and anti-vaxxer Drew Kirk told The New York Times that he and his wife didn’t want to get the COVID-19 vaccine because they think it was rushed, they read information tying the vaccine to abortion, and they see “similarities to the biblical mark of the beast,” or Antichrist. “There are many reasons we don’t want to take it, and faith is one,” Kirk told The New York Times.
Some religious leaders offer letters of exemption
Because of the vagueness of the religious exemption, independent faith leaders have come out of the woodwork as of late, offering to write letters of support for those requesting religious exemption from the vaccine.
The pastor of a California megachurch is offering letters to anyone who confirms they are a “practicing Evangelical that adheres to the religious and moral principles outlined in the Holy Bible,” The New York Times reports.
A Catholic church in Charlotte, N.C., offered exemption forms to its parishioners, which goes against the views of the Pope and global church leadership, reports Baptist News Global.
Employers are left trying to determine what truly constitutes an exemption on religious beliefs versus social or political beliefs. In Washington state, Governor Jay Inslee proclaimed that those requesting a religious exemption from a mandate requiring vaccines for most state employees, healthcare workers, and K-12 school staff must include a statement explaining how their beliefs and practice conflict with the requirement.
Christian legal organization files lawsuit against New York officials.
On Sep. 24, conservative Christian legal organization Liberty Counsel filed a lawsuit against New York state officials on behalf of more than 1,500 New York healthcare workers seeking religious exemptions from a COVID-19 vaccine mandate. Although Governor Kathy Hochul’s vaccine mandate initially provided limited exceptions for religious reasons, the state’s Public Health and Planning Council eliminated those exemptions, the lawsuit claims.
“All New York healthcare workers have the legal right to request reasonable accommodation for their sincerely held religious beliefs, and forcing COVID shots without any religious exemptions is unlawful,” said Liberty Counsel founder and chairman Mat Staver.