NBC NEWS – Religious exemptions could prove to be the latest legal battlefield of the pandemic, as Americans opposed to the coronavirus vaccines try to find ways around employer and government vaccination mandates.
Some evangelical pastors are reportedly providing religious exemption documents to members of their churches, and right-wing forums are sharing strategies to skirt vaccination requirements.
Religious freedom groups are sending threatening letters to states, schools and employers and preparing legal challenges to fight vaccination mandates.
Only some federal agencies and states have made vaccinations mandatory for workers, and more private companies are doing or considering the same.
But experts anticipate that religious liberty challenges will pick up as more mandates are put in place — especially when there is no national standard.
James Sonne, a law professor at Stanford Law School and founding director of its Religious Liberty Clinic, said:
“There are some First Amendment implications here and there’s a patchwork of laws that could potentially be implicated by these mandates. It’s certainly something we’ll see getting worked out in the courts.”
The challenge for governments and institutions is balancing American civil liberties with a worsening public health crisis.
Experts say that the threshold for religious exemptions could come down to proving whether the person attempting to obtain one has “sincerely held beliefs” against getting vaccinated on religious grounds. They may even have to show a track record of opposition to receive an exemption.
Those challenging employer-created mandates cite Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, which requires employers to make reasonable efforts to accommodate employees, while government-created mandates are being challenged under the First Amendment. Both, however, bring up the question of whether a person’s religious beliefs are sincere.
Pope Francis went so far as to say that receiving the vaccine was ‘the moral choice because it is about your life but also the lives of others’ … READ MORE.