Religious Belief Exemptions Surged 640% In One State
One state in particular, Vermont, offers a striking look at how some parents seem to be avoiding vaccines. After eliminating personal belief exemptions in 2016, the state saw a 640% increase in the proportion of kindergarteners with religious vaccine exemptions, according to Williams study.
To qualify for a religious exemption in the state, parents are required to sign a short form confirming that theyve read a two-page vaccine fact sheet and attest to holding religious beliefs opposed to immunizations.
When personal belief exemptions were allowed, 1 in every 200 students entered kindergarten each year with a religious vaccine exemption. But that number surged to almost 1 in 25 after Vermont changed its law, the researchers found.
The overall proportion of kindergarteners with non-medical exemptions did decrease in the state, but Rupali Limaye, associate director for behavioral research at the Johns Hopkins Institute for Vaccine Safety, said the results of this study do suggest a replacement effect.
The data, she said, suggest that parents are choosing to use religious exemptions as a mechanism to avoid complying with vaccination laws. The rise of religious exemptions is particularly interesting, she added, because the study notes a decline in the number of individuals who report a religious affiliation in the United States.
Australia’s History Of Religious Exemptions
Looking back through Australia’s recent history, there’s only been one religion that has successfully lobbied for a vaccine exemption. That is the Christian Scientists, a small sect of Christianity who believes in prayerful healing to manage their health.
According to the 2016 Census, just 974 Australians reported they were Christian Scientist, out of 12 million people identifying as Christian more broadly.
In 1998, the church was granted an exemption to the Federal Government’s new “no jab, no pay” laws that meant children had to be vaccinated to receive childcare and family benefits. They were the only religion to receive such an exemption which required parents and carers to provide a letter from a church leader sparking unfounded fears the decision would cause a flood of new converts eager to bypass the laws.
But when it comes to COVID-19, the Christian Scientists are taking a different approach.
“As far as our practice of trusting our problems to God prayerfully, that hasn’t really altered,” said Edwina Aubin, a Christian Scientist practitioner from Brisbane. “We’re not ‘anti-vax’ as such, and neither are we ‘pro-vax’ if it’s what’s required, then that’s what we’ll do.”
Ms Aubin explains that while the majority of the church’s members feel they don’t require traditional medicine, instead relying on prayer and the support of practitioners in the church, there’s nothing stopping them from seeking it out whether it’s a legal requirement or not.
Religious Exemptions Threaten To Undermine Us Covid Vaccine Mandates
In California, hundreds of public employees make claims as Christian legal group offers template exemption letter
This month, California became the first state to require Covid-19 vaccines for all schoolchildren but the provision came with a loophole: students will be granted religious exemptions.
California, which currently has the lowest coronavirus case rate in the US, has been issuing a series of sweeping mandates, requiring that healthcare workers, state employees, care workers and school staff get the vaccine. But in each case, Californians are able to ask for personal belief exemptions and they are doing so in droves.
Epidemiologists are concerned that the loophole will embolden the vaccine-hesitant to evade requirements and undermine the states progress against the pandemic. And lawyers and legal experts are bracing for a deluge of complaints over the blurry lines that define sincerely held objections to the vaccine.
Many parents and even some teachers have raised opposition to the mandates, with walkouts and protests already taking place across the state. In rural northern California and conservative patches of the south, parents picketed against the public health measures on Monday, insisting that they wouldnt co-parent with the government. Last week, teachers at a school district in Los Angeles who were denied religious exemptions demonstrated outside the headquarters.
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Research Into Religions And Vaccines
I found a fascinating systematic review of religious dogma with respect to vaccines and specific components of vaccines. The article was published in the highly respected and peer-reviewed medical journal, Vaccine, one of the top venues for vaccine research.
This peer-reviewed piece was penned by John D Grabenstein, a religious expert on vaccines who happens to be employed by Merck, a major manufacturer of vaccines. Grabensteins article is a review of religion and vaccines, and it was peer-reviewed by others .
In the next section, I summarize the studys information about religion and vaccination specifically regarding the teachings of many of these religions. If you run across someone claiming that their religion is against vaccinations, you can check here, although, admittedly, the article only covers mainstream religions.
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The Church Of Jesus Christ Of Latter
The First Presidency, the governing body of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, urged Latter-day Saints to get vaccinated against COVID-19 in August, saying, To provide personal protection from such severe infections, we urge individuals to be vaccinated. Available vaccines have proven to be both safe and effective.
Lds Religion And Vaccines
The LDS church has stated fairly clearly that it supports the use of vaccines to eliminate preventable infectious diseases in children. In addition, LDS missionaries are sent all over the world, and they are all fully vaccinated, with many vaccines that are only used in tropical areas, before they leave on their missions.
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The Qanon Conspiracy Scale
QAnon beliefs are measured using a three-point composite index based on four questions that asked Americans to what extent they agree with the following statements, summarized in Table 4.1.
The additive scale was recoded into three groups: those who completely disagree with all four statements , those who give a variety of responses and remain mostly negative toward the conspiracy theories , and those who give a variety of responses and are more likely to agree with the conspiracy theories or agree with all four statements .
Republicans are notably more likely than independents and Democrats to generally agree with QAnon theories. By contrast, a majority of Democrats completely disagree with these theories, compared to 40% of independents and 21% of Republicans. A majority of Republicans , nearly half of independents , and over one-third of Democrats hold mixed but generally negative views of QAnon beliefs.
About one in five white evangelical Protestants , Hispanic Protestants , Mormons , Black protestants , other nonwhite Protestants , Hispanic Catholics , and members of non-Christian religions generally agree with QAnon conspiracy theories, as do 13% of other Christians, 11% of white Catholics, and 9% of religiously unaffiliated Americans. Jewish Americans are the least likely to hold these beliefs and, with religiously unaffiliated Americans , are the most likely to completely disagree with these theories .
Tread Carefully On Vaccine Restrictions Experts Say
Asked whether some parents are using religious vaccine exemptions dishonestly, Limaye, the Hopkins expert, said that parents that hold strong beliefs about vaccination believe they are doing what is best for their child. That means they will exhaust all options to ensure that their beliefs are upheld, she said.
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Understanding Opposition To Vaccines
Opposition to vaccines
Health and medical experts have hailed vaccines as being one of the major achievements in the 20th century, but not everyone agrees.
In the past few years, opposition to vaccinations has been discussed more frequently in the news. Concerned parents are opting to forgo vaccinations for their children for many different reasons.
This has resulted in a surge of infectious diseases that had been previously or nearly eradicated.
What Are The Real Facts And What Do Parents Or Lawmakers Need To Know
Real Fact 1
There are no major world religions that forbid vaccination. The vast majority of religious faiths want their followers to live healthy lives and know that vaccines are a boon to healthy children and thriving communities. While there are a few religions that have ideas about medicine that are outside of the mainstream, most allow for their adherents to make individual decisions about medical care and vaccination.
Real Fact 2
Whether they are found online or holding signs in front of a government building, claims by antivaccine activists are not likely rooted in religion. While these activists do have deeply held fears related to vaccines, those fears have their roots in the belief that vaccines are harmful to health. Religious and political ideas are often used to argue that they and their children should not have to get vaccinated, but the reason they dont want to vaccinate is because misinformation has convinced them that vaccines are harmful.
Real Fact 3
Real Fact 4
While there are a few vaccines with components grown in human cells, vaccines themselves do not contain fetal cell materials. These rumors began because there are two cell lines that began from fetal material in the 1960s. However, these cell lines are completely stable and lab grown. No new fetal tissue is needed for the continued stability of these cells, and the cells themselves are not present in any vaccination.
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No Major Religions Oppose Vaccination
While eliminating personal belief exemptions may decrease state exemption rates overall and improve community health, it may also obscure reasons parents exempt their children from vaccines and create possible stigma for religious traditions who support vaccines, said Williams, who described himself as a religious individual.
He said that policymakers could create stronger exemption policies that preserve transparency and noted that most religious vaccine exemptions were formalized more than half a century ago. All major religions, he emphasized, support vaccines.
That support isnt new, either. Buddhist nuns, for example, are said to have practiced an early version of smallpox vaccination more than 1,000 years ago. One Jewish rabbi, writing in the 18th century, immunization an act of eager religious devotion. And the Vatican has consistently encouraged vaccines, even those developed using fetal-derived cell lines.
Political Opposition To Vaccination By Religious Groups
The majority of Orthodox Rabbis view vaccination as a religious obligation. A magazine called P.E.A.C.H. that presented an anti-immunization message to Orthodox Jews was distributed in Brooklyn, New York in early 2014. This is not a widespread phenomenon though. 96% of students at Yeshivas in New York City were immunized according to information obtained in 2014, although this is a lower than average rate.
In 2003 imams in northern Nigeria advised their followers not to have their children vaccinated with oral polio vaccine, perceived to be a plot by Westerners to decrease Muslim fertility. The boycott caused the number of polio cases to rise not only in Nigeria but also in neighboring countries. The followers were also wary of other vaccinations, and Nigeria reported more than twenty thousand measles cases and nearly six hundred deaths from measles from January through March 2005. In 2006 Nigeria accounted for more than half of all new polio cases worldwide. Outbreaks continued thereafter for example, at least 200 children died in a late-2007 measles outbreak in Borno State. In 2013, nine health workers administering polio vaccine were targeted and killed by gunmen on motorcycles in Kano, but this was an isolated incident. Local traditional and religious leaders and polio survivors worked to support the vaccination campaign, and Nigeria has not had a polio case since July 24, 2014 in 2017, if no new cases appear, Nigeria will be declared polio-free.
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What Sorts Of Beliefs Might Qualify
Angel James Horacek, an attorney in Culver City, said Californias ban on religious creed discrimination applies not just to beliefs based on an organized religions teachings, but also to beliefs, observances, or practices, which an individual sincerely holds and which occupy in his or her life a place of importance parallel to that of traditionally recognized religions.
Theres still a limit to what constitutes a religion, Horacek said in an email. In a 2002 decision holding that veganism was not a religious belief, a California appeals court laid out three factors: a religion addresses fundamental and ultimate questions, consists of a belief-system as opposed to an isolated teaching, and often can be recognized by the presence of certain formal and external signs.
Employers can ask for the details of the religious conviction behind the request for an accommodation and explore whether the objection is based on politics, ideology or medical concerns. And if the employer denies the request and the worker sues, the burden will be on the worker to establish that he or she was motivated by a sincere religious belief.
Nevertheless, said Phillips, its not a good idea to question the sincerity of somebodys religious belief. Horacek agreed, saying theres very little an employer can do to test whether a workers claim is sincere.
When can parents expect their kids to be eligible for a COVID vaccine? Heres the latest.
Implications For Public Universities
At present, the Supreme Court has not yet ruled that public universities requiring vaccines have to give a religious exemption. The Supreme Court has been tightening protection of religious freedom, but the guiding principle is still Employment Division v. Smith, which does not require a religious exemption from a generally applicable, neutral-on-its-face law. Universities may want to consider, on this background, not offering a religious exemption. Yes, there is a risk the Supreme Court will strike down such a rule. But, given the context that its highly likely most exemption requests are from people without religious objections, and that many are selling services to help game exemptions the Supreme Court may consider that universities are justified in not offering such an exemption.
If universities do offer religious exemptions, they may want to consider the need for careful enforcement, including examining, in detail, the advice of anti-vaccine activists, keeping a list of those openly working to game religious exemptions and looking for their involvement, and potentially interviewing individuals whose exemption requests raise red flags. They also can require a detailed exemption letter, and, in cases that raise questions, require independent corroboration though they cannot limit that corroboration to organized religion. At the least, universities should plan how to reduce misuse of religious exemption, to avoid having exemptors undermine campus safety.
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How To Seek A Religious Exemption For The Covid Vaccine Mandate
Businesses with 100 employees or more will now be required to develop vaccine and testing policies to comply with a mandate issued by President Joe Biden‘s administration.
The Department of Labor said on Thursday that the Occupational Safety and Health Administration will issue an emergency temporary standard on Friday that will mandate that the affected businesses develop a policy within 30 days.
Businesses that do not comply by January 4 will face a fine of up to $14,000 per violation, while the mandate is expected to affect more than 80 million people in the United States.
Biden’s mandate will require that employees of businesses with at least 100 workers either be vaccinated against COVID-19 or undergo weekly testing beginning on January 4.
However, people will be able to apply for a religious exemption from any employers’ vaccine mandate under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.
Title VII forbids employment discrimination based on religion and grants employees and job applicants the right to request an exemption, also known as a religious or reasonable accommodation, from an employer’s requirement if that requirement conflicts with a person’s sincerely held religious beliefs.
The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission explains the right to request a religious exemption under Title VII on its website and specifically discusses the vaccine mandate.
Judging ‘sincerely Held’ Religious Belief Is Tricky For Employers Mandating Vaccines
Brittany Watson, Katherine Hart, Dawn Carlisle and Amanda Mackanos protest vaccine mandates outside Winchester Medical Center in August in Winchester, Va.hide caption
Brittany Watson, Katherine Hart, Dawn Carlisle and Amanda Mackanos protest vaccine mandates outside Winchester Medical Center in August in Winchester, Va.
Brittany Watson worked as a nurse at the hospital in Winchester, Va. until her employer, Valley Health, announced that all staff must get vaccinated.
Watson says there are a couple reasons why she hasn’t gotten the jab. One is that she got COVID-19 in November, so she figures she has some natural immunity. And she’s also skeptical of all the carrots that have been dangled things like college scholarships, hunting rifles, fishing licenses to urge West Virginians like herself to get vaccinated.
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Fetal Cell Lines And Abortion
Many vaccines use fetal cell lines that are grown in a lab, but those cell lines descend from cells taken from two fetuses from elective abortions in the 1970s and 1980s. Those original cells have been multiplied in labs for decades, meaning that they are far removed from the original fetal tissue. Fetal cell lines dont contain any tissue from the original aborted fetuses. However, many people who are religiously opposed to abortion are hesitant to use cells that are in any way connected to abortion. This is a particularly common belief within Christian sects.
Neither Pfizer nor Moderna used fetal cell lines in the development of their COVID-19 vaccines, and none of the COVID-19 vaccines use fetal cell lines from recent abortions.
Some members of the Catholic Church turn down vaccines that contain cell lines derived from aborted fetal tissue based on the belief that life begins at conception and that they would be morally complicit in the abortions. However, the Catholic Church has officially stated that clinically safe and effective vaccines can be used in good conscience because the use of such vaccines does not constitute formal cooperation with the abortion and, in fact, becoming vaccinated can be seen as protecting personal health and pursuing the common good.
Pope Francis has received the COVID-19 vaccine and has stated that everyone is morally obligated to get the vaccine.