Conservative David French calls for an end to enabling Evangelical vaccine rejection

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.

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It just gets more bizarre. Ultimately, being anti-vax seems to be more a social group marker, devoid on any rational reasoning.

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Since the terms here clearly states that" we dont condone anything political on this site" i suggest we better refrain from posts like these which can bring on a political debate in the comments.

I know i already have a bad relationship with the mods here but it seems unfair to me to do this kind of posting . Feel free to correct me though

The whole point is that vaccination shouldn’t be politicized. The fact that it has been is a problem that needs to be addressed.

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A brief echo:

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Yes, and the fact that he is a very big voice for evangelicals and can earn trust with the vaccine hesitant population.

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But aren’t you politicizing it by demanding everyone get the shot? The notion of freedom is a very biblical concept if we read our Bibles. If a younger person doesn’t want the shot and they are healthy, who is the state to demand that they get the shot? Even if an older person doesn’t want the shot, why should they be required? Personally, I had no issue to get the shot, though there was some side effects I did experience.

 
You haven’t read this, I guess:

Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God. Therefore whoever resists the authorities resists what God has appointed, and those who resist will incur judgment. For rulers are not a terror to good conduct, but to bad. Would you have no fear of the one who is in authority? Then do what is good, and you will receive his approval, for he is God’s servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword in vain. For he is the servant of God, an avenger who carries out God’s wrath on the wrongdoer. Therefore one must be in subjection, not only to avoid God’s wrath but also for the sake of conscience. For because of this you also pay taxes, for the authorities are ministers of God, attending to this very thing. Pay to all what is owed to them: taxes to whom taxes are owed, revenue to whom revenue is owed, respect to whom respect is owed, honor to whom honor is owed.
 
Romans 13:1-7

 
Or this:

Remind them to be submissive to rulers and authorities
 
Titus 3:1

 
Not this, either?:

Be subject for the Lord’s sake to every human institution, whether it be to the emperor as supreme, or to governors as sent by him to punish those who do evil and to praise those who do good. For this is the will of God, that by doing good you should put to silence the ignorance of foolish people.
 
1 Peter 2:13-25

 
Maybe you are misconstruing what the Bible says we are free from.

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Is it being political to demand that everyone wear a seat belt or put their toddler in a carseat? How about driving on the correct side of the road, obeying speed limits and other laws about not driving recklessly? Have those been politicized?
 
Refusing to be vaccinated is living recklessly and endangering others, too.

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Health is not political.

Vaccination isn’t about “personal freedom” or “civil liberties.” I think the only reason you think it is has to do with the fact that a public health issue has been politicized by people with political interests.

People should be required to get the shot because the unvaccinated population is spreading a disease that is killing people, including people who cannot be vaccinated because they are too young. The unvaccinated population is putting an untenable strain on the healthcare system both in terms of capacity and cost. Vaccination is not a silver bullet that prevents all infection, but it significantly reduced spread and severity. The intended results for curbing the pandemic work at the population level, not the individual level.

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I read French’s Sunday column (and most of his others) every week and usually agree with him. I mostly agree with him here, too, but for a couple issues.

  1. Beyond the shortest of time frames, it’s very difficult to make a case that people who choose not to be vaccinated increase the peril to anyone but themselves (vaccine slows but does not stop transmission)

  2. Almost nobody accepts the truth about vaccines but still refuses to get one. It’s their beliefs, not their morals, that are the problem.

  3. There is a huge difference between patients and laypersons confused by mixed messages and those who are actively propagating disinformation on the subject.

I went into these in greater depth here:

Valid observations for the most part, but I would argue this is not:

The reason being that the ICUs and hospitals are full of unvaccinated Covid patients, leaving patients needing care for other conditions in the lurch. Also delaying elective surgery and causing suffering, And causing severe distress and burnout as well as compassion fatigue in caregivers, Not to mention the cost we as taxpayers bear to support their care and long term disability. And their families who suffer financial distress and grief from their actions. I would say they place many in peril.

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It is very easy to make such a case. I completely agree with @jpm, an MD (or DO? :slightly_smiling_face:). A refrain of mine which you may have had the misfortune to have seen before, “It’s not being called a pandemic of the unvaccinated for nothing!” Also not to mention the mental health of weary and weeping frontline medical staff.

Interesting thoughts to consider. In my original statement I was primarily thinking of death/hospitalization from COVID, and not so much about secondary mechanisms. The crowding is a temporary effect and we are already seeing several of the southern states on a downslope. Nobody I know of predicted this last wave to rise so rapidly, but the faster it goes up the faster it goes down.

I’ve been practicing medicine for over 40 years now. It’s been a fact my entire career that a large majority of hospitalizations are for preventable illnesses. We wish patients were more responsible, but we can’t control them.

I have difficulty seeing why someone refusing COVID vaccination - because they’ve been misinformed - is morally more culpable than a smoker (25% of US population), a motorcyclist with or without helmet, an unrestrained driver or passenger, etc. (Not that you’re actually saying that).

I guess you’re just saying they injure others because the health systems are temporarily overwhelmed. But many of those who might be displaced are just as culpable for their situation. Their risk will continue indefinitely. COVID won’t because eventually most everyone will be immune - the easy way or the hard way.

(For context, since I’m not here much, I’ve been pretty rough on antivaxxers. Some have unfriended/blocked me on FaceBook. I’ve been repeatedly attacked elsewhere for taking them on).

I don’t see why that at all necessarily follows, with schools opening and other public events more frequent.
 

Passing the contagion on to others injures them regardless of the capacity of healthcare systems.
 

You may not have noticed, but there are a lot of prideful antimaskers and antivaxxers – “No one is going to tell me what to do!” If healthcare systems were overwhelmed with helmetless bikers, unrestrained accident victims and the like, moral triage would be relevant for them, too. Those addicted to nicotine are a different case (many may want to quit).
 

Not necessarily so. There are variants coming down the pipe and those who spread the virus by willingly renouncing countermeasures contribute more than others and are culpable. And vaccines plus antibodies from natural infections give better protection than just the natural.

Thank you for your efforts. I have been pretty hard on them also to little avail. The only one who I know directly changed his mind was a brother-in law on immunosuppressant therapy for ocular myasthenia who was not going to get it because his niece who is a nurse told him not to because “they don’t work if you are on those drugs.” After explaining how he was at greater risk and the vaccine helps though may not be as effective, he got it. Unfortunately, most people are NOT misinformed, but rather have chosen to ignore sound advice because their tribal/political group demands it as a social marker. That is disheartening.

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Certainly there are limitations to the states power.

Matthew 22:20-21

New King James Version

20 And He said to them, “Whose image and inscription is this?”

21 They said to Him, “Caesar’s.”

And He said to them, “Render therefore to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s.”

Now some states were dictating if churches could be opened literally usurping the church’s authority.

And the notion of shutting down people’s livelihoods was another act of usurping of power.

The view that the state should be our nanny is very un-Christian to say the least.

While watching the evening news, I realized that I forgot to include the Labor Day weekend and what are likely to superspreader events which will be slow to recover from.

I won’t post them again, but the appropriate nanny state scriptures are above. If what Christians are doing is endangering public health, then what they are doing isn’t Christian, including assembling indoors together in public places (or even indoors anywhere, if it violates current advisories about group sizes) and rebelling against effective countermeasures such as masking, vaccinations and social distancing.

That kind of behavior is immoral because it rebels against the mandate to love your neighbor. It isn’t even loving your fellow church member. Those behaviors are based more in pride than they are any kind of love. I am all for civil disobedience when called for, as I have said before, but that is not the current situation with COVID restrictions.

The same applies if someone’s livelihood is endangering public health. Why shouldn’t it? If someone were selling inherently dangerous products (say, contaminated food), that is absolutely within a government’s jurisdiction. If a fellow Christian is affected, then the church should band together (with appropriate COVID precautions :slightly_smiling_face:) to help support them.

Were early Christians meeting in church buildings? Meeting in a church building is not a God-given right under any and all circumstances. I don’t recall any scriptures to that effect, do you? The objections to restrictions are pride based and not at all necessarily godly. There is a lot of false nobility being paraded.
 

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I love that passage. N, T. Wright points out the importance of context and knowledge of setting in that passage, as the Pharisees having a graven image of Caesar in their pocket was of course in violation of the covenant law, plus he mentioned the inscription which on the denarius read “Son of God” to further indict them in their folly.
It is complicated, but the passage could also be interpreted as giving government proper authority within its realm, which would include public health measures. Sadly, churches in general did and are doing a poor job of taking the initiative in caring for the vulnerable and disadvantaged in this pandemic. Not all of course, but the majority. I fear many church leaders have acted in the role given the Pharisees in this passage, trying to put their rules and desires ahead of the kingdom of God.

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