This is a letter to the Eugene Register Guard that was published with the title “Trust in science, be gone with religious exemptions for vaccines” on 19 Sept, 21. It’s pretty self explanatory. I took some of the legal information from an article in Freethought Today, a publication of the Freedom From Religion Foundation. There is also an article on this in the L.A. Times by Michael Hiltzik.
Let’s be clear that there is no legal obligation in the U.S. to provide religious exemptions for being vaccinated. Thirty years ago in Employment Division vs. Smith, Justice Antonin Scalia’s opinion said that as long as a law is neutral, not motivated by a desire to interfere with religion and of general applicability to all individuals, it cannot be challenged based on free exercise of religion. This was reaffirmed in June in Fulton vs. City of Philadelphia. Apropos, courts have upheld public schools’ rights to require vaccinations without religious exemptions. A colloquial way of understanding this situation is the old adage: your right to swing your fist – or your religion, or your virus – ends at the tip of my nose.
The fact that religious exemptions are almost universal in vaccine mandates epitomizes religious privilege. That people use religious exemptions to refuse to be vaccinated is a modern example of the harm done by religion. Why do people hide behind religion to avoid their moral obligation to protect society in general and the vulnerable in particular?
I ask governments, businesses, and educational institutions to have enough trust in science and enough understanding of the law to eliminate these religious exemptions.
A final comment is that religion shouldn’t exempt anyone from anything.
(The cover image was taken from an online search. The design is available in various formats on various websites.)