About 3,000 Los Angeles Police Department employees are citing religious objections to try to get out of the required COVID-19 vaccination. Hundreds of Washington state employees are seeking similar exemptions. A hospital in Arkansas has received so many requests from employees that it is calling their bluff.
The COVID-19 shot is increasingly being resisted by religious objections. These were once only used in a few places.
It is likely to increase with President Joe Biden’s new mandates for vaccines that cover more than 100,000,000 Americans. This includes executive branch employees as well as workers in businesses with more then 100 employees.
Although the administration admits that a small number of Americans may use religious exemptions, and others may try to exploit them, it is not surprising. However, it stated that even slight improvements in vaccination levels could save lives.
It’s unclear how many federal workers have asked for a religious exemption. The Labor Department stated that an accommodation could be denied if it poses an undue hardship.
While the state’s requirements for vaccine and mask use vary across the country, many offer exemptions for certain medical conditions as well as religious or philosophical objections. These exemptions have been increasing in popularity, especially for parents who use them to protect their children’s education.
The federal Civil Rights Act of 64 enshrined the allowance. This law requires that employers make reasonable accommodations for employees who are unable to work because of their religious beliefs.
According to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, a religious belief doesn’t have to be recognized by any organized religion. It can also be unusual, new or “seem unreasonable or illogical to others.” It cannot be based solely on social or political ideas.
This puts employers in a difficult position to determine what is a valid religious belief and what is a dodge.
COVID-19 vaccines won’t be opposed by major religious faiths. The rollout of COVID-19 vaccines has provoked heated debates due to the long-standing role cell lines derived directly from fetal tissue played in the research and development and testing of many vaccines and other medicines.
Roman Catholic leaders in New Orleans, St. Louis and elsewhere went as far as to label Johnson & Johnson’s COVID-19 shot “morally flawed.” J&J stressed that its vaccine contains no fetal tissue.
The Vatican’s doctrine office also stated that it is morally acceptable for Catholics to be given COVID-19 vaccines based on research using cells derived from aborted foetuses. Pope Francis said that the vaccine would be suicide if it wasn’t given.
New York state legislators tried to make the vaccine compulsory for all medical staff, without any religious exemptions. A federal judge blocked Tuesday’s rule due to the lack of an opt-out.
According to an August APNORC poll, 58% of white evangelical Protestants, 72%of white mainline Protestants, 80% Catholics, and 73%of Americans who are religiously non-affiliated said they had been vaccinated. 70% of all non-white Protestants, and 70% of Black Protestants, say they’ve been vaccinated.
33% of white evangelical Protestants say they won’t get the shot, making them the least likely group to be vaccinated.
A variety of public officials, doctors, community leaders, and physicians have attempted to help Americans avoid the COVID-19 vaccine requirements.
Jackson Lahmeyer, a pastor in Oklahoma, has posted a “religious exempt” form on the website of his church. It is also available for download. There are links to suggest donations. The 29-year-old is running to be the U.S. Senate.
Anybody interested can sign the form by a religious leader. Twitter said that it had been downloaded more than 14,000 times. He noted that it was remarkable how many pastors would not sign the form to their church members. He said that he can sign for someone who joins the church or donates.
However, obtaining a religious exemption is more complicated than simply presenting a signed form to a religious leader. Some states have changed their policies in response to measles outbreaks at schools in the last decade. Some states now require a signed affidavit from religious leaders, rather than an online application. California eliminated non-medical exemptions in 2015.
Some private employers are following a strict line. United Airlines informed employees last week that religious exemptions would be placed on unpaid leave while new coronavirus testing procedures were in place.
Michel Moore, the Police Chief in Los Angeles, said that he awaits guidance from the personnel department of the city regarding exemptions. Unless they are granted a religious or medical exemption, the city has ordered that all municipal employees be vaccinated before Oct. 5. A group of LAPD personnel is suing the city over this policy.
The police chief stated that he could not and would not comment on the sincerity of religious exemptions. “I don’t want to speculate. Religion can be defined in many ways in America.
COVID-19 has claimed the lives of ten LAPD officers, as well as many others in the department.
The Governor has issued a mandate to Washington state that approximately 60,000 state employees be vaccinated. Jay Inslee directed that they all be fully vaccinated by October 18 or they would lose their jobs, unless Jay Inslee grants them a medical or religious exemption and provides accommodation that allows for them to continue working.
More than 3,800 workers have requested religious exemptions as of Tuesday. Officials stressed that while 737 exemptions have been granted so far, it does not guarantee continued employment.
After the exemption has been approved, agencies must evaluate the employee’s situation and determine if they are able to do the job with accommodations while maintaining a safe work environment. So far, seven accommodations have been granted.
Tara Lee, spokeswoman for Inslee, said that the process could help differentiate between a deeply held personal belief and a religious belief.
Arkansas has a small staff of Conway Regional Health System, which is privately owned. About 5% have requested medical or religious exemptions.
The hospital sent employees a form listing common medications, including Tylenol and Preparation H. It also stated that these medicines were created using fetal cell line technology.
It asks for people to sign the form and affirm that their “sincerely held religious belief” is true and consistent. They also state that they do not use or intend to use any of the listed medications.
Matt Troup, Conway Regional Health CEO and President, stated that staff who are sincere should not hesitate to agree to the medication list.
Associated Press Writers Zeke Miller, Stefanie Dazio and Rachael LaCorte contributed to this report.