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Rules around religious exemptions and the COVID-19 vaccine

Virus Outbreak
Posted at 5:00 PM, Sep 24, 2021
and last updated 2021-09-24 17:01:13-04

While other countries are desperate for vaccine supply, some Americans are shunning the shots because of religion.

The Los Angeles Police Department has thousands of employees refusing vaccine mandates citing "religious objections." The same goes for state workers in Washington and even hospital staff in Arkansas.

Employers are required under the Civil Rights Act to provide the possibility of an exemption based on a sincere religious belief unless it creates an undue hardship on the employer.

“I believe our material shows very conclusively there is no valid religious reason for not taking the vaccine,” said Curtis Chang, a former evangelical pastor and Duke Divinity theologian. “You cannot take the vaccine for political or cultural reasons, but there are no valid religious reasons, there's no religious creed scripture theology, there's no major religious denomination or religious leader that validates this idea of a religious exemption.”

Chang says employers should have confidence in rejecting religious exemption requests because of the hardship it can create, compromising workplace safety.

He encourages employers to require religious exemption applicants to demonstrate they have consistently refused other vaccines for religious reasons.

“And this is where we really do need to draw the line and say, you know, ‘I’m totally willing to talk to you about your hesitation to try to persuade and convince you to agree to disagree even.' But for you to hijack my faith to justify your action here, one that actually is not legitimated by religion and, frankly, one that harms public health is simply that something that we as religious leaders cannot go along with,” said Chang.

Chang has been addressing the concerns of Christian evangelicals about vaccines through a series of videos on ChristiansAndTheVaccine.com, discussing everything from fetal tissue used in testing to government control and the mark of the beast.

In partnership with major groups, just this year, they've made headway in increasing vaccine acceptance among the faithful and non-religious.

How Americans react to vaccines is a global concern.

“There are parts in the global South and Africa and Asia, especially, who are also heavily Christian in their culture and in the ways that they get information and they actually take their cues from the United States, so one of the reasons we need to combat misinformation among evangelicals in the United States is not just for the ending the pandemic here, but it's going to be important for that globally as well,” said Chang.