Religious liberties lawyer and Evangelical David French dismisses the idea the vaccine exemptions have anything to do with freedom of religion.
For example, there is a scramble by Christian Americans to seek “religious exemptions” from employer vaccine mandates. I’ve received correspondence from Christian religious liberty ministries who report a sharp rise in requests for legal assistance to secure religious exemptions. One ministry indicated in an email to affiliated attorneys that it had been “inundated by requests” for help. A pastor in a large church in California has promised to hand out “religious exemption forms” to anyone who attends the church and asks.
On Friday the National Religious Broadcasters, an umbrella association of roughly 1,100 member associations, abruptly fired its senior vice president of communications, my friend Daniel Darling, because Darling appeared on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” to discuss why he got vaccinated and to try to allay Christian fears about the vaccine. He lost his job even though he was remarkably gracious in his comments. He defended Evangelical distrust of institutions and merely urged Christians “to talk to their doctor and really consider [the vaccine], just because we just don’t want to see anyone else unnecessarily die of this lethal virus.”
Dan was fired for violating an alleged NRB policy of “neutrality” towards the COVID vaccine. Yes, neutrality. Towards a vaccine that offers a lifeline out of a pandemic that has slain more than 650,000 Americans.
As we approach nine months of vaccine availability and nine months of flood-the-zone coverage of vaccine safety and efficacy, it is clear that much (though certainly not all) of our remaining refusal problem is not one of information but one of moral formation itself. The very moral framework of millions of our fellow citizens—the way in which they understand the balance between liberty and responsibility—is gravely skewed.
By contrast, what does the anti-vax Christian seek? The liberty to risk both the lives of others (through the physical danger of COVID and/or the danger of swamped medical facilities) and their pursuit of happiness (through the continued physical, economic, and social strains of a pandemic extended in part but the choices of anti-vax citizens).
Such an extreme and dangerous assertion of individual autonomy at the expense of colleagues and neighbors is not a legitimate exercise of religious liberty. Even those statutes protecting religious employees from discrimination and requiring workplace accommodations of religious practices do not require such accommodations when they impose an “undue hardship” on employers.
Granting an employee the “right” to spread a potentially deadly disease to employees and customers is the very definition of imposing an “undue hardship.”
And let’s be honest and clear. The majority of Christians seeking religious exemptions are using religion as a mere pretext for their real concern—be it fear of the shot or the simple desire to do what they want. In speaking to my religious liberty lawyer friends, the vast majority of those requesting a religious exemption to the COVID vaccine don’t come from the tiny religious sects that historically reject conventional medicine. In fact, they don’t even object to all vaccines, just this vaccine. A sincere desire not to take a shot does not equate with a sincere expression of orthodox Christian faith.