Many religious leaders are wary of religious exemptions from vaccines

By thousands of people, Americans have sought religious exemptions to circumvent the COVID-19 vaccine obligation, but generally they do so without the encouragement of major denominations and prominent religious leaders. doing.

From the Vatican, Pope Francis defended the vaccine as “the most rational solution to a pandemic.” The Archdiocese of the Greek Orthodox Church in the United States has categorically declared that its followers will not be offered religious exemptions. Robert Jeffres, a conservative minister of the Baptist Megachurch in Dallas, expressed similar feelings.

“Because of the lack of a credible biblical debate about vaccines, we refused to offer an exemption to the few who requested the vaccine,” Jeffress told The Associated Press by email. “People may have strong medical or political opposition to government-mandated vaccines, but the strong feeling of those oppositions raises them to an acceptable religious belief. It is not.”

Rabbi Sholom Lipskar of The Shul of Bal Harbor, an orthodox synagogue in Surfside, Florida, tells members of the congregation that vaccination should be a matter of free choice.

“But I always encourage them to get medical opinion from competent professionals,” he added. “In a serious problem, they need to get two consensus medical opinions.”

Within the Catholic Church of the United States, it is clear that Pope Francis supports vaccination, but there are divisions. Some bishops forbade helping their priests seek exemptions, while others and priests provided template letters to those who claimed conscientious objectors from the vaccine for Catholic reasons.

“We have received many requests and have helped quite a few to process their letters / requests,” Rev. Bob Stick of the Catholic Parish of St. Ambrose in Brunswick, Ohio said in an email. I did.

“Vaccination is not a universal obligation and one must follow the judgment of a particular divine conscience based on his own information,” said one of the letters provided by Stec. increase. “If a Catholic reaches a conscientious informed decision that he should not be vaccinated, the Catholic Church acknowledges that he … has the right to refuse the vaccine.”

Not in the Archdiocese of Newark, New Jersey. Advised the priest Do not support religious exemptions for their parishioners.

Our Lady of Hoboken and Rev. Alexander Soundtrack, pastor of the Parish of St. Joseph, said:

Candice Buchbinder, a spokesman for the American Evangelical Lutheran Church, said the denominations are currently studying the issue of religious exemption. She said earlier ELCA documents opposed widespread religious exemptions and regarded medicine as a “gift of God for the community.”

Even before the pandemic, the Episcopal Church’s Executive Council clarified its stance – in June 2019, it adopted a resolution calling for a stronger government vaccination obligation.

“The Executive Council does not recognize claims of theological or religious exemption from vaccination of our members,” the resolution said.

However, anyone in the sect that encourages vaccines can seek an exemption based on an individual’s conscience, said Bruce Ledewitz, a law professor at Duquesne University in Pittsburgh.

Mr. Redewitz advised clients wishing for a religious exemption to simply say, “I prayed for this. God has come to the conclusion that I do not want me to be vaccinated.”

Employers take different approaches to such discussions. U.S. Army, Very few have been granted.

There are various reasons for seeking a religious exemption, but many Christians cite the remote connection of the COVID-19 vaccine to past abortions. Laboratory-grown cell lines, which are the offspring of a fetus that was discontinued decades ago, were used to test the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines and to grow the virus used to make the Johnson & Johnson vaccines. rice field. None of those vaccines contain fetal cells.

Vatican It states that vaccination with these COVID-19 vaccines is morally acceptable. He opposes abortion-related studies, but said vaccinated people are not responsible for their involvement in the study, given how far they are from the involvement of abortion.

The American Catholic Synod reflects the teachings of the Vatican, but some bishops have helped those seeking religious exemptions. So is the National Catholic Bioethics Center. This is a think tank with prominent bishops on the board.

The Center’s template letter states that individual Catholics may interpret the teachings of the Church and conclude that it is wrong to accept abortion-related medical products.

Pastor Tad Pacortic, ethicist and director of education at the center, said the Vatican said the vaccine “must be voluntary.”

The church criticized the “universal” approach to employer obligations, stating in a statement that it “strongly encourages the protection of the right to conscience.”

“Such decisions are properly in the hands of individual patients, who can better assess the situation in the field than any federal agency, politician, or employer.” He said. “The exemption of conscience for vaccination obligations should be freely available to all individuals, not just Catholics.”

Religious forgiveness claims frustrate those who suspect that they have non-religious motives.

Michael Deme, an assistant professor of bioethics and human genetics at the University of Pittsburgh, said:

He said the Vatican provided detailed moral guidance on vaccine acceptability — taking into account the lack of alternative vaccines and the benefits of enclosing a deadly pandemic.

The relatively low vaccination rate of white evangelicals means that the Redemption Babel organization has launched a vaccine project with Christians between evangelicals and healthcare groups to promote the COVID-19 vaccine based on Bible principles. It is annoying the theologian Curtischan.

Asking many people for a religious exemption is “a takeover of religion to justify a political or cultural position, which is extremely dangerous,” Chan said. “There is no real religious reason to seek tax exemption, especially because of the employer’s obligations.”

He knows pastors who prefer vaccines, but is being pressured by the congregation to give them letters justifying their refusal to vaccinate for religious reasons. “I advise the pastors not to give in to it.”

Such tax exemption moves are “ultimately religious freedom” because employers and courts may downplay employee integrity when faced with a true situation in which they need to embrace faith. “Danger to long-term causes,” he said.


The Associated Press’s religious coverage is funded by Lily Endowment, Inc. and is supported through a collaboration between AP and The Conversation US. AP is solely responsible for this content.

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