Monday, September 13, 2021

Religious exemptions for vaccinations were on the rise even before Biden mandate, which will take months to implement

"Religious exemptions are becoming another major flashpoint in the Covid-19 vaccination debate. Even though the world's major religions generally support the use of vaccines to control infectious disease, some religious-liberty advocates maintain that vaccine mandates must accommodate people who refuse because of deeply held religious beliefs," Jay Tokasz reports for The Buffalo News. "Others say the religious exemption threatens public-health efforts by giving people who disagree with vaccine mandates for political reasons an easy loophole."

The notion is becoming particularly popular among conservatives and evangelical Christians, two frequently overlapping demographics that are among the most resistant to the coronavirus vaccine. "Mat Staver, the founder and chair of Liberty Counsel, a conservative Christian legal organization, said his group had received more than 20,000 queries on religious exemptions in recent weeks," Ruth Graham reports for The New York Times. "In rural Hudson, Iowa, Sam Jones has informed his small congregation at Faith Baptist Church that he is willing to provide them with a four-paragraph letter stating that 'a Christian has no responsibility to obey any government outside of the scope that has been designated by God.'"

Major religions almost unanimously support coronavirus vaccination. Albert Mohler, president of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, gave Christians the green light to get vaccinated when vaccines were released in December, and offered seven points to consider as they decide whether to get the shots, generally encouraging vaccination.

Anecdotally, the resistance seems to come largely from resentment toward a Democrat-issued mandate like the one President Biden issued Friday, one that will take months to implement. The same groups resisting the vaccine in Mississippi have made little fuss in recent years over state vaccination mandates for routine childhood maladies such as measles, polio and chicken pox, Sheryl Gay Stolberg reports for the Times. The Republican-led state has some of the strictest vaccine mandates, with no exceptions for religious or philosophical objections.

The widespread resistance to the coronavirus vaccine mandate is already causing trouble, Timothy Bella reports for The Washington Post. Lewis County General Hospital in rural New York will no longer deliver babies because it's too short-staffed; at least six maternity ward employees quit over the mandate.

FOLLOW-UP: A Tulsa pastor is offering to write religious exemptions in exchange for cash. In just a couple days, more than 30,000 people have downloaded the form from the church's website.

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