Many religious leaders say ‘no’ to approval of COVID-19 vaccine exemptions


The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints also does not provide religious exemptions for vaccines for its members, according to church spokesperson Eric Hawkins.

(Leah Hogsten | The Salt Lake Tribune) The Salt Lake Temple of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is undergoing major renovations on August 4, 2021.

While a significant number of Americans are calling for religious exemptions from COVID-19 vaccination warrants, many religious leaders say: Not with our approval.

Leaders of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America said Thursday that while some people may have medical reasons for not receiving the vaccine, “there is no exemption in the Orthodox Church for its followers from any vaccination. for religious reasons “.

The Holy Eparchial Synod of the National Archdiocese, representing the bulk of Eastern Orthodox in the United States, urged members to “pay attention to the relevant medical authorities and avoid false accounts that are totally unfounded in science.”

“No member of the clergy should issue such letters of religious exemption,” said Greek Orthodox Archbishop Elpidophoros, and such a letter “is not valid.”

Likewise, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America recently issued a statement encouraging the use of vaccines and stating that “there is no obvious basis for a religious exemption” in its own Lutheran tradition or in the Lutheran tradition. wider.

The Roman Catholic Archdiocese of New York laid out its own position over the summer, saying any priest issuing a letter of exemption would “act in contradiction” to Pope Francis’ statements that receiving the vaccine is morally acceptable and responsible.

The Vatican and the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops have said Catholics can receive the vaccines in good conscience given the lack of alternatives and the goal of alleviating suffering – even by opposing research even with a remote link to abortion.

A number of dioceses have adopted policies similar to those in New York, and the bishops of El Paso, Texas, and Lexington, Ky., Have made vaccination of employees mandatory.

But other Catholic jurisdictions are more accommodating to exemptions. The Colorado Catholic Conference, the political arm of the state’s bishops, has posted a template letter for priests to sign online saying that an individual parishioner can rely on Catholic values ​​to oppose vaccines. The bishops of South Dakota have also taken this position.

The problem for many Catholics and other abortion opponents is that the most widely used COVID-19 vaccines have been tested on fetal cell lines developed over decades in laboratories, although the vaccines themselves do not contain no such material.

The issue is becoming more and more burning as employers in the public and private sectors impose more and more mandates.

A secretary’s letter would not necessarily be necessary for a person to obtain an exemption – federal law requires employers to make reasonable accommodations for “genuine” religious beliefs – although approval from the clergy may help strengthen the claim. of somebody.

Reverend Robert Jeffress of First Baptist Dallas, a Southern Baptist mega-church, said he and his staff “neither offer nor encourage members to seek religious exemptions from vaccination mandates.”

“There is no credible religious argument against vaccines,” he said by email. “Christians who are troubled by the use of a fetal cell line to test vaccines should also refrain from using Tylenol, Pepto Bismol, Ibuprofen and other products using the same cell line. ‘they are sincere in their objection. “

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints does not provide religious exemptions for vaccines for members, according to church spokesperson Eric Hawkins. Leaders of the Utah-based faith have advocated for members to be vaccinated even though doctrine recognizes that it is up to the individual.

The church’s Brigham Young University has asked students to report their immunization status but does not require vaccination, and the church also requires American missionaries serving in foreign countries to be vaccinated.

Some other religious groups, such as the Orthodox Union, an umbrella organization of Orthodox Judaism, and the United Methodist Church, have encouraged people to get vaccinated but have not issued policy statements on the exemptions.

The Fiqh Council of North America, made up of Islamic scholars, has advised Muslims to receive the Pfizer or Moderna vaccines and debunk the “unfounded rumors and myths” about them.

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Associated Press editors Brady McCombs in Salt Lake City and David Crary in New York contributed to this report.


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