Vaccines and Religious Exemptions: A Source List

As more companies and institutions impose vaccine mandates, many are now struggling to process and evaluate requests for religious exemptions. The following resources provide background and context for these ongoing conversations around exemptions. 

Many religious leaders and organizations encourage their community members to get the COVID-19 vaccine, including the Vatican, the National Association of Evangelicals, the National Council of Churches, the Jewish Orthodox Union and Rabbinical Council of America, and the National Muslim Task Force on COVID-19. A recent IFYC/PRRI study shows vaccine hesitancy is declining among faith groups, thanks in part to targeted advocacy within faith communities.

News Articles

Interfaith America, "As Vaccine Mandates Spread, Employers and Colleges Seek Advice on Religious Exemptions," (link)

NBC, “Confusing rules, loopholes and legal issues: College vaccination plans are a mess” (link)

Time, “Can Your Employer Require That You Get Vaccinated? It Depends Where You Live” (link)

Politico, “Democrats plan childhood immunization push as vaccines take center stage in governor’s race” (link)

The Gazette, “Some Colorado Springs faithful required to get COVID-19 vaccine likely will seek religious exemption” (link)

Bloomberg, “Religious Objections Stand in Path of Mask, Vaccine Mandates” (link)

National Catholic Reporter, “Two Catholic groups: No vaccine mandate without conscience protections” (link)

America Magazine, “Do not give religious exemptions for Covid vaccines, New York archdiocese tells its priests” (link)

Slate, “Why Is There a Religious Exemption for Vaccinations?” (link)

The New York Times, “Who Can Make You Get a Covid Vaccine?” (link)

Associated Press, “Momentum grows for closing gaps in US vaccine requirements” (link)

Associated Press, “Pushback challenges vaccination requirements at US colleges” (link)

CNN, Religious groups eye legal challenges to Delta variant restrictions and vaccine mandates (link)

The Atlantic, “Close the Churches,” (link)

 

Selected University and Hospital Resources

Columbia University Religious Exemption Form (link)

Princeton University Information (link)

Association of Catholic Colleges and Universities (link)

Kaiser Permanente statement (link)

 

More Expert Resources

Employers' Guide to the Religious Exemption for the COVID-19 Vaccine (link)

Los Angeles Times Op-Ed: Don’t exempt religious objectors from vaccine mandates (link)

How to Handle an Employee's Request for a Medical or Religious Accommodation to a Vaccine Requirement (link)

Vaccine Exemptions and the Church-State Problem (link)

Religious exception for vaccination or religious excuses for avoiding vaccination (link)

History of Vaccines, "Vaccine Exemptions" (link)

Pew, "Amid measles outbreak, New York closes religious exemption for vaccinations – but most states retain it" (link)

States With Religious and Philosophical Exemptions From School Immunization Requirements (link)

Religious Exemptions to Vaccines and the Anti-Vax Movement (link)

Thou Shalt Not Take the Name of the Lord Thy God in Vain: Use and Abuse of Religious Exemptions from School Immunization Requirements (link)

What Are the Rules on Vaccine Exemptions? (link)

The covid-19 vaccine is here: what about religious and medical exemptions in the workplace? (link)

“On This Day, the Supreme Court Rules on Vaccines and Public Health” (link)

Various articles by members of the Vaccine Working Group on Ethics and Public Policy (link)

“Free Exercise and Shutdown Orders in a Pandemic” (link)

“Defining ‘Religion’” (link)

 

A Selection of Relevant Court Cases


Berg v. Glen Cove City School Dist., 853 F. Supp. 651 (E.D.N.Y. 1994) (link)

Employment Div. v. Smith, 494 U.S. 872 (1990) (link)

Jacobson v. Massachusetts 197 U.S. 11 (1905) (link)

United States v. Ballard, 322 U.S. 78 (1944) (link)

United States v. Seeger, 380 U.S. 163 (1965) (link)

 

If you are looking for a way to become an interfaith leader, work for racial equity and build bridges, please check out our free curriculum "We Are Each Other's" and start your interfaith leadership today

more from IFYC

It is incredibly empowering to know that by protecting yourself, you can protect so many other people.  The Lord gave us the knowledge and people we need in order to defeat COVID-19.
"99.8% of U.S. deaths are of the unvaccinated. If you heard of an airline of that percentage dying, whereas a 0.02% on another, you’re switching flights." -- Dr. Jimmie Smith, Macon-Bibb County Health Department, Georgia.
As a scholar of religious studies, I frequently use critical race theory as a tool to better understand how religion operates in American society.
Inspired by their faith, four LDS students built new study resource that has revolutionized how hundreds of thousands of aspiring physicians study for their exams. "It really started because we just wanted to help people," one said.
We're now in one of the holiest seasons of the year for one of smallest and oldest religions in India -- one with a long history in the United States.
Organizing on-campus vaccination clinics, calling thousands of students, hosting informational webinars with medical experts – these are some of the ways in which IFYC’s Faith in the Vaccine Ambassadors (FIVA) have been raising awareness around the COVID-19 vaccine on campuses and high-need communities across the nation.
Last year's winners, listed below, created a range of initiatives, from virtual retreats and criminal justice initiatives to book clubs and racial equity workshops.
Religious objections, once used sparingly around the country to get exempted from various required vaccines, are becoming a much more widely used loophole against the COVID-19 shot.
What will the campus chapel, and the chaplaincy, look like more than a century from now? Let the adventure begin.
The issue is not the presence of religion in the public square. Instead, the question before us is how to express those religious commitments within in a pluralistic society.
We don’t know what the year 5782 – as it is in the Hebrew calendar – has in store for any of us. But we have the power to act in a way to do right by each other and bring a little more peace and love and joy into this profoundly broken world.
The following interview features Dr. Toby Bressler, senior director of nursing for oncology and clinical quality at the Mount Sinai Health System and vice president of the Orthodox Jewish Nurses Association.
Part of what I found so beautiful about our conversation is that we both agree that American pluralism is not simply a pragmatic solution to the challenge of a diverse democracy, it is also a kind of sacred trust that God intends us to steward.
After 9/11, there was increased intentionality in widening interfaith relations to include a broader number of faith groups and discussions. Twenty years later, it is not unusual to see interreligious conferences, joint advocacy efforts and disaster relief teamwork involving faith groups ranging from Adventists to Zoroastrians.
Twenty years later, we at IFYC, like so many others, collect the shards of memory, recollecting, reconstituting the trauma and horror of that day. And the sacredness is in doing so together.
As we approach this significant anniversary of 9/11, we must work to infuse the day with purpose and pluralism. Pay it Forward 9/11 is bringing people together to do 20,000 good deeds for the 20th anniversary.
In the first month since 9/11, The Sikh Coalition documented over 300 cases of violence and religious discrimination against Sikhs in the U.S. and has since grown to become the largest Sikh advocacy and civil rights organization in the country.
“If you were to quiz these students on what happened on 9/11, they think they knew what happened, but nobody really explained it to them,” Lisa Doi said. “I had to think through, how do you teach this history to somebody who doesn’t really remember it?”
My prayer is that for as long as we remember 9/11, that we will take time to listen to the stories of loss that break our hearts, and join together in finding ways to heal the division, violence and hate that continue to tear apart our world.
It has been 20 years, but the pain of that day is still present in so many places.
20 years after the 9/11 attacks, four remarkable people took profound suffering, loss and grief and “somehow managed to not center enemies. What can we learn from that? How can that be a teaching to the culture?”

The opinions contained in this piece are solely the author’s and do not necessarily reflect the views of Interfaith Youth Core. Interfaith America encourages a wide range of views and strives to maintain a respectful tone with a goal of greater understanding and cooperation between people of different faiths, worldviews, and traditions.