Sunday, September 05, 2021

What is the religious objection to COVID vaccines?

As we try to ramp up COVID vaccination efforts and mop up those holdouts who are reducing our herd immunity, and as vaccine passports become the norm, it is increasingly likely that we are going  to come up against the issue of religious and medical exemptions.

There are some bona fide medical reasons why some people should not get vaccinated, but these are rare. For example, Ontario's Ministry of Health recently explained that there are really only two good medical reasons why someone should not get a COVID vaccination: an allergic reaction to an element of the vaccine (which should be confirmed by a qualified allergist or immunologist), or if an individual suffered mycocarditis or pericarditis after the first dose of a vaccine (a very rare occurrence).

But what about a religious exemption? This is a much woollier, greyer area, and there is already some evidence that the religious exemption is being abused as people opposed to the vaccines for various reasons try to find ways round it, particularly in some of the more Gilead-orientated areas of the United States. Organizations like Liberty Counsel are ramping up their court case efforts, and threatening various states and companies with legal action over their vaccine mandates. There are detailed video guides on several alt-right websites on how to apply for a religious exemption to vaccination, and many evangelical pastors will provide exemption documents to pretty much anyone who asks.

To qualify, an individual needs to show "sincerely held beliefs" against getting vaccinated, a vague requirement not explained in law anywhere. There are two main religious reasons why people might claim a religious exemption. Firstly, they may object to the use of aborted fetal cell lines in their production (although as I have explained in a previous post, the cell lines used are cloned lines from two original aborted fetuses dating back to 1973 and 1985, and opposition on these grounds would also apply to any number of other vaccines developed over the last 30 or 40 years). 

The second argument makes use of a specific Bible verse claiming that the human body is "God's temple of the Holy Spirit" (1 Corinthians 6:19, if you are really interested), and that defiling it by deliberately pricking a small hole in it is therefore a sin. This might seem ridiculous to most people, but there are a few fundamentalist religious types who probably sincerely believe this (and many more who might claim to because it is convenient). 

Anyway, thousands of people will probably claim a religious exemption as an excuse not to get a COVID shot, including many who have never objected to vaccination before, so politicized has this become. And all this despite the fact that Christian, Jewish and Muslim leaders have all advised their followers to get vaccinated, and Pope Francis has specifically called it "morally.acceptable" and even '"an act of love". But then, morality it ls not really what this is about, is it?

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