Who can give up religious beliefs?

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The University of Florida told many of its employees on Wednesday that they will need to be vaccinated unless they qualify for an exemption because of their religious beliefs, but although there is no real test to determine who can make such an objection, that may not be the trump card. some are waiting.

Few mainstream religions have principles that prohibit or even discourage medical care such as vaccination against COVID-19. Yet some people of faith cite their religion as the reason they will not receive the COVID-19 vaccine.

Can there be a sincere religious belief that should allow someone to avoid vaccination? “The short answer is yes,” said Dr. David Hackett, professor in the Department of Religious Studies at UF.

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The most difficult question for employers is how to handle these objections.

“Employers can say they’re going to demand a vaccination, but they have to be very careful any time someone makes a religious objection,” said Ron Kozlowski, a lawyer for Gainesville.

Kozlowski said many large employers who are considering religious objections to vaccination warrants will not educate themselves too rigorously about these beliefs.

But that doesn’t mean they don’t have options.

Brad Areheart, a professor at the University of Tennessee with expertise in employment law, said employers don’t face a high bar for making accommodations based on religious beliefs.

“It’s much easier for an employer to say that the accommodation you are looking for will take a toll on our organization,” Areheart said. “Being religious doesn’t give everyone a basis for exemption.”

Federal law called Title VII requires employers to consider requests for religious accommodations, but does not protect the social, political or economic opinions, or personal preferences of employees who request exemptions from a COVID-19 vaccination requirement.

There are no “magic words” required to state a religious objection, but employees should say that there is a conflict between their sincere religious beliefs and the employer’s vaccination requirement.

Employees are entitled to reasonable accommodation, but not necessarily the one they prefer, according to to an article this week in the National Law Review. And an employer is not required to provide religious accommodation if it precluded the employee from performing the essential functions of their position.

What religions say about vaccinations

So what is the basis for an objection to vaccination because of religious belief?

White Evangelical Protestants are the only religious group that did not come of age when asked in a Institute for Research on Public Religion (PRRI) and Interfaith Youth Core (IFYC) poll if they think they should get the vaccine because it “helps protect everyone” and “it is a way of living the religious principle of loving my neighbor”.

Only 43% of white Evangelical Protestants agreed with these statements, compared to 56% of black Protestants and 61% of Hispanic Protestants, according to the survey.

One way that white evangelical Protestants say their faith is against the vaccine is to talk about eternal life, like Tate Reeves, Governor of Mississippi done at the end of August.

“When you believe in eternal life – when you believe that living on this earth is just a stain on the screen – then you don’t have to be so afraid of things,” Reeves said.

This belief, that God is in control, is a core belief of evangelicals, said Natalie Jackson, PRRI research director.

There are many religious arguments for and against COVID-19 vaccination. Here are some of the beliefs of the major religions on this subject:


Catholic officials expressed their initial concerns about the use of cell lines from aborted fetuses in the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, but ultimately said Catholics could still get the vaccine if it was the only one available.

In a March declaration, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops said “being vaccinated can be an act of charity that serves the common good”.

Nearly 80% of white Catholics accepted the vaccine in July, according to a PRRI study, and Hispanic Catholics were one of the religious groups whose acceptance of the vaccine increased the most. It went from 56% in March to 80% in June, according to PRRI.

Other Christians

Christians, not counting Catholics, were 77% to accept vaccines, according to the PRRI press release in July.

The vast majority of Christian denominations have no theological opposition to vaccines, including Eastern Orthodox, Amish, Anglicans, Baptists, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Jehovah’s Witnesses, Mennonites , Quakers and Pentecostal Christians, according to Research from Vanderbilt University Medical Center.

Christian denominations with theological opposition to vaccination

The only Christian denominations that cite a theological reason for opposing vaccines are the Dutch Reformed Church and the Church of Christ, Scientist, according to Vanderbilt.

Some members of the Dutch Reformed Church refuse vaccines because they “interfere with divine providence,” while others accept it as a gift from God, according to Vanderbilt’s research.

Other research indicates that diseases caused by smallpox vaccines in the 19th century were a reason some members of the religion did not want vaccines.

Denominations that believe in faith healing, or lay hands on people to heal their diseases, probably don’t believe in vaccines either.

Church of Christ, Scientist, teaches that prayer will relieve and prevent disease, so members can request vaccine exemptions, Vanderbilt research shows. The denomination does not strictly prohibit vaccination, however.

In a press release on the church’s website, officials say most members rely on prayer for healing.

“We therefore appreciated the immunization exemptions and sought to use them conscientiously and responsibly, when granted,” the statement said. “Church members are free to make their own choices about all life decisions, in obedience to the law, including whether or not to immunize their children. These are not decisions imposed by their church.”


The Islamic Society of North America (ISNA) published information encourage people to get vaccinated and take other precautions to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

“One of the highest goals of Islamic law is to preserve and protect human life,” said Imam Mohamed Magid, Former ISNA President and Executive Imam of the All Dulles Area Muslim Society Center in Sterling, Virginia.

Magid spoke for a Interview recorded by Religion News Service (RNS) on the COVID-19 vaccine in January.

“Muslims have practiced preventive medicine throughout history, and Muslims are among the first to believe in the idea of ​​vaccination,” Magid said, according to RNS.

“The idea of ​​preventing evil comes from the Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him, who said, if there is a contagious disease in a city, you should not enter or leave that city. disease, you should not go on to spread it.This is the theological basis of vaccination.

At the start of COVID-19 vaccination efforts, concerns were expressed that pork products – which religion forbids followers from consuming – could be included in vaccines. ISNA said in its statement that the vaccines do not contain pork products.


The Jewish people support vaccination because one of the most important tenets of religion is the preservation of life. Protecting one’s health is a mitzvah, or an obligation, depending on Chabad.org.

“It is not enough to treat health problems as they arise; we must take precautions to avoid dangers, ”the site specifies.

The Central Conference of American Rabbis, the Union for Reform Judaism and the Orthodox Union all published statements in favor of vaccination.

– Danae King of the Columbus Dispatch provided material on cross-faith teaching in this article.

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