Tuesday, March 28, 2023

Example Of Religious Exemption For Flu Vaccinations

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COVID-19 Vaccine: What you have to do to get a religious exemption and how you can be denied.

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Kasturi Pananjadyis CT Mirrors data reporter. She is a May 2020 graduate of the Columbia Journalism Schools masters program in data journalism and holds a degree in comparative literature from Brown University, where she was editor-in-chief of the student newspaper. Prior to joining CT Mirror, Kasturi interned for publications in India.

Jenna Carlessois CT Mirrors Health Reporter, focusing on health access, affordability, quality, equity and disparities, social determinants of health, health system planning, infrastructure, processes, information systems, and other health policy. Before joining CT Mirror Jenna was a reporter at The Hartford Courant for 10 years, where she consistently won statewide and regional awards. Jenna has a Master of Science degree in Interactive Media from Quinnipiac University and a Bachelor or Arts degree in Journalism from Grand Valley State University.

Additional State And Local Considerations:

Several states have rules that prohibit employers from enforcing vaccine mandates, unless they provide certain exemptions. Employers should consult legal counsel to discuss the impact of these laws on their vaccination policies and practices.

Note: Even if the individual isnt entitled to a religious accommodation, they may be entitled to a reasonable accommodation for other reasons, such as a disability.

Why Do Vaccine Exemptions Exist

In 1855, Massachusetts became the first state to require children to get vaccinated to attend school. Other states soon followed with their own vaccination laws. The goal of these laws was to protect children and communities from contagious diseases.

Since then, anti-vaccination groups have challenged vaccine laws. States have had to balance people’s rights to personal and religious beliefs with the need to protect public health.

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Other Faiths And Traditions

Hindu, Sikh and Buddhist texts and doctrine contain no teachings in opposition to immunization. In 2010, Buddhist leader the Dalai Lama helped initiate a polio eradication drive in India.

One group, the New Jersey-based Congregation of Universal Wisdom, explicitly forbids vaccinations and even surgery and medicine of any kind. Chiropractor Walter P. Schilling founded the church which worships a Supreme Master of all levels in creation, according to its website in 1975. Schilling lets interested parties apply for membership using a simple form found on the groups website.

Objections to vaccinations are sometimes rooted more in culture than religion. Among the Hmong people, a minority ethnic group from southeast Asia who began immigrating to the U.S. during the Vietnam war, the notion of vaccines is largely foreign. The concept of preventative medicine, in general, isnt a part of traditional Hmong healing. The Hmong also tend to be wary of putting objects and substances in their bodies, which they believe can interfere with reincarnation.

But the study made a splash and continues to capture the imaginations of people ranging from President Donald Trump to Robert F. Kennedy Jr. to actress and holistic health icon Alicia Silverstone.

Granting A Religious Accommodation

Responses about removing peesonal/religious exemptions for ...

Once an employer determines that an employee’s request for accommodation is sincerely based on religion, the employer must then consider how to best accommodate the employee. Simply letting the employee wear a mask during flu season may not be enough. The appropriate accommodation depends on a variety of factors, including whether the employee’s position involves patient contact.

In EEOC v. Baystate Medical Center Inc., the EEOC claimed that an employer violated Title VII when the only accommodation offered to an employee who refused to get a flu shot based on a religious belief was to wear a face mask at all times while working. But the employee was a recruiter in the human resources department, did not work in a building where patients receive care, and therefore did not have any direct contact with patients.

Baystate asked the court to grant it summary judgment on the EEOC’s complaint, arguing that the employee was ultimately fired not because of her religious opposition to vaccination but because she was unwilling to wear a mask at all times if she refused the vaccination. The court denied Baystate’s summary judgment motion, holding that the reasonableness of the accommodation constituted a factual question that required a trial.

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Christians Shouldnt Be Afraid

This is a well-meaning but sad argument. Its logical end is to eschew all medical aid in toto. The New York Times related the following:

Threatened with a formal reprimand if she skipped work in protest, Ms. Holmes woke up in the middle of the night with a Bible verse from the book of 2 Timothy in her mind: For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.

The Liberty Counsel also rallied to the cause by declaring Christians have a religious exemption because they have a reliance upon Gods protection consistent with Psalm 91.

2 Timothy 1:7 has nothing to do with rejecting all medical aid, nor does Psalm 91. Its a symptom of what Scot McKnight has described as a puzzle piece hermeneutic rather than a contextual reading of the bible as a story. If a man cheats on his wife, can he cite 2 Timothy 1:12 and declare he has nothing to apologize for? Why not? Its in the bible!

Are There Religious Exemptions To Vaccines

Although vaccines are required to attend most schools in the United States, with the availability of exemptions, many kids attend without being vaccinated or fully vaccinated. Exemption based on religion is one of several reasons parents can claim to avoid giving their children vaccines in certain states.

And of course, parents can always choose to not send their kids to school. Children who are home-schooled usually do not have to meet the same vaccine requirements as children who attend public or private schools.

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Religious Exemptions From Covid

If an employee notifies you that a vaccination requirement conflicts with their religious beliefs or practices, begin the interactive process to determine whether the employee has a sincerely held religious belief that you can accommodate without undue hardship. Ask the employee to explain the religious basis for opposing vaccination, and in some circumstances, you may be able to request additional information or documentation about their faith to assess the sincerity of their belief.

Questioning A Religious Accommodation Request

What’s the process for a religious exemption to COVID vaccines?

If an employer has an objective basis for questioning either the religious nature or the sincerity of a particular belief or practice, the employer can seek additional information. The EEOC, however, has suggested that employees can substantiate their beliefs in any form and may not require third-party verification by a clergyman or other source. For example, written materials or the employee’s first-hand explanation may be sufficient to alleviate the employer’s doubts about the sincerity or religious nature of the employee’s professed belief. Because idiosyncratic beliefs can be sincerely held and religious, even when third-party verification is needed, it does not have to come from a clergyman. Others who are aware of the employee’s religious practice or belief could provide such substantiation.

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Objection To Other Vaccines

HEH asked Opel if healthcare workers can successfully challenge flu shot mandates on the grounds of religious discrimination, does that open the door to their declining other required immunizations for healthcare employment?

Title VII simply prohibits an employer from discriminating against an employee on the basis of religion, he says. It is broadly applicable and not specific to any particular employer practice or policy.

The answer may be surprising, but established healthcare vaccination programs for childhood diseases and hepatitis B would certainly be more difficult to challenge than the flu shot, which changes every season and must be administered annually.

Some of this seems to be more about style than substance, as Opel found that hospitals that are arbitrary in evaluating religious objections and inconsistently enforce deadlines leave themselves open to lawsuits.

One hospital lawsuit arose in part because workers who missed the vaccination deadline had a grace period. In contrast, the exemption request deadline was strictly enforced. Given this, it may be best to avoid even the appearance of discrimination to head off legal challenges.

Explain the reasons for denying exemption requests, and treat religious objectors with respect, he advises. Be aware that there may be legal challenges by workers who have been accommodated by hospital policy.

What Are Religious Beliefs

Under federal guidance, religious beliefs are defined broadly and include moral and ethical belief systems about what is right and wrong that are held with the strength of religious views. The belief isnt necessarily rooted in common, recognized religions. Determining whether a practice is religious should generally turn on the employees motivation rather than the nature of the belief or activity. For instance, an employee may follow a vegetarian diet because they believe it is religiously prescribed by scripture. In this situation, the vegetarianism might be considered a religious practice, even though many individuals adhere to a vegetarian diet for purely secular reasons. States may define religious beliefs differently.

If you have questions whether a particular belief or practice is religious, consult legal counsel to discuss next steps.

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What Should Parents Do If They’re Worried About Vaccines

If you have concerns about vaccine safety, get advice from a medical professional. “Find a doctor you trust and ask your doctor,” Salmon suggests.

You can also learn about vaccines at websites like the CDC and American Academy of Pediatrics, which support vaccination. Some groups may support anti-vaccine views, oppose government-mandated vaccinations or question vaccine safety, such as the National Vaccine Information Center and the Association of American Physicians and Surgeons.

Get informed, but don’t wait too long to get your child vaccinated. “These diseases are most serious for young children. If you wait to vaccinate your child, you leave them vulnerable at a time when they’re most likely to have complications,” Salmon says.

If an adult who was never vaccinated as a child gets one of these diseases, the illness can have serious complications.

Show Sources

CDC: “Frequently Asked Questions about Measles in the U.S.,” “Immunization,” “Measles Cases and Outbreaks,” “Mumps Cases and Outbreaks,” “State School and Childcare Vaccination Laws,” “Vaccination coverage among children aged 19 – 35 months — United States, 2017,” “What is an Exemption and What Does it Mean?”

Health Affairs: “Exempting schoolchildren from immunizations: states with few barriers had highest rates of nonmedical exemptions.”

Peter Hotez, MD, PhD, professor of pediatrics dean of the National School of Tropical Medicine, Baylor College of Medicine.

The History of Vaccines: “Vaccination Exemptions.”

Religious Exemptions: What Employers Need To Know

Religious exemption for vaccinations.pdf

Employees may sometimes seek exemptions from workplace policies or rules for religious reasons. In fact, some employees are currently seeking exemptions from COVID-19 vaccination mandates based on religious grounds. These requests must be handled carefully and in compliance with applicable laws.

Here are some guidelines for handling requests for religious exemptions:

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Federal State And Local Laws:

Title VII of the Civil Rights Act requires employers with 15 or more employees to provide reasonable accommodations for employees’ sincerely held religious beliefs or practices, unless it would cause an undue hardship. Guidance from the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, which enforces Title VII, provides that employers must try to accommodate employees who are unvaccinated due to a religious objection or medical condition. Many states and local jurisdictions have similar laws, some of which cover smaller employers.

What Are Religious Exemptions

This exemption allows parents to opt their child out of vaccines based on their religious beliefs.

Some states ask for evidence that the family belongs to a religious group that objects to vaccines. Only a few religions object to vaccines, including Christian Scientists and some faith healing groups. But in most states with this provision, you can simply sign a form stating that you have religious reasons to opt out.

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Battling The Mandate Why Will Jones Is Speaking Out

For months, Jones and some of his colleagues have argued that a reasonable accommodation for those with religious objections would be to allow regular testing as an alternative to vaccination.

“If there was no way to test for this,” he said. “It’s a completely different conversation. But we do have tests. Tests are very effective. The wealthiest people in the world have been using these tests to safely protect themselves for the past year.”

So far, Jones said that he has not received an answer regarding his request for an exemption. He said he’s seen some of the negative posts on social media about the 419 firefighters that have requested this exemption.

“I would – you know – hope that people would be able to see,” he said. “And extend grace towards other people. And believe that people do have spiritual beliefs that may be different than the ones that they themselves hold.”

Jones said he would continue fighting against the mandates, which he fears could cause many firefighters to be out of a job if enforced.

“I’m going to stay as long as I can to fight for my job,” he said. “If they fire me, if they revoke my ability to work here, then that is what happens. I will still continue to fight back for my job.”

What Are The Arguments Against Vaccine Exemptions

Religious exemption requests for COVID-19 vaccine on the rise across DC region | FOX 5 DC

Vaccines help children avoid serious diseases. High vaccination rates also protect people who can’t get vaccinated because they’re too young or they have a medical condition that would make vaccines unsafe for them. This is called “herd immunity.”

At least 90% to 95% of people in one area need to be vaccinated to protect the whole community against diseases. In one study, a 5% drop in measles, mumps, rubella vaccine coverage led to a threefold increase in measles cases each year. This is because even kids who have been vaccinated may be at a small risk if there is a child in the community who has the illness.

“Measles tends to be the disease we see the fastest because it’s one of the most highly contagious viruses,” says Peter Hotez, MD, PhD, professor of pediatrics and dean of the National School of Tropical Medicine at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston.

Vaccine-preventable diseases like measles can be serious. “Up until a couple of decades ago, measles was the single leading killer of children globally,” Hotez says.

Another problem is that exemption laws are hard to enforce. In 2015, California outlawed nonmedical exemptions. After the law passed, medical exemptions jumped 250%. One reason was that some doctors began writing medical exemptions for parents who had personal objections to vaccines.

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What Are Medical Exemptions

Parents can ask for a medical exemption if a vaccine wouldn’t be safe for their child. Reasons that children can get an exemption include:

  • They have a disease or take medicine that weakens their immune system.
  • They have a severe allergy to a vaccine or an ingredient in it.
  • They had a serious reaction to a vaccine in the past.

To get a medical exemption, parents need to have their child’s doctor sign a form. Many states ask whether the exemption is temporary or permanent. And almost half of states require doctors to sign a new form every year or so.

God Doesnt Require It

This is a novel interpretation. The New York Times reports the following:

In rural Hudson, Iowa, Sam Jones has informed his small congregation at Faith Baptist Church that he is willing to provide them with a four-paragraph letter stating that a Christian has no responsibility to obey any government outside of the scope that has been designated by God.

This argument is a non-starter. God hasnt mandated seatbelts, either. Nor the Bill of Rights. The pastor owes it to his congregation to provide a more robust argument than this. If he has one, hit didnt make it into the news article.

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What Are The Laws On Vaccine Exemptions

All 50 states and the District of Columbia allow medical exemptions. Every state except three — California, Maine, Mississippi, New York, and West Virginia — allows religious exemptions. And 15 states let parents decline vaccines for personal reasons.

Personal exemptions are harder to get in some states than in others. In certain states, parents have to do one or more of these things to get a personal exemption:

  • Talk to their doctor or read about the benefits of vaccines and the risks of not vaccinating their children.
  • Get a signature from a local health department official.
  • Write a letter that explains their reasons for refusing vaccines.
  • Renew their exemption form every year.

Have A Standardized Form

Study: Religious vaccine exemptions in kindergartners on ...

This is where you want documentation and consistency. The Safer Federal Workforce website gives a sample form for an employee to request a religious exemption. It has seven questions:

  • Please describe the nature of your objection to the Covid-19 vaccination requirement.
  • Would complying with the Covid-19 vaccination requirement substantially burden your religious exercise? If so, please explain how.
  • How long have you held the religious belief underlying your objection?
  • Please describe whether, as an adult, you have received any vaccines against any other diseases and, if so, what vaccine you most recently received and when, to the best of your recollection.
  • If you do not have a religious objection to the use of all vaccines, please explain why your objection is limited to particular vaccines.
  • If there are any other medicines or products that you do not use because of the religious belief underlying your objection, please identify them.
  • Please provide any additional information that you think may be helpful in reviewing your request.
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