Should there be religious exemptions from vaccine mandates?

September 7, 2021 • 9:15 am

The other day I had a bright idea for a post on my drive to the store, and, since my short-term memory has always been lousy, I should have made a note to myself. SInce I didn’t do that, I promptly forgot it, though I knew the topic was interesting.

I was, however, just reminded of what I’d thought of by seeing the title below of a NYT op-ed by Curtis Chang (identified as “a co-founder of Christians and the Vaccine, a consulting faculty member at Duke Divinity School and the C.E.O. of CWR, a management consultancy serving secular nonprofits and government agencies”).

I haven’t yet read this op-ed except for the title, so let me first give my own view before I parse the article.

First, I agree with the title wholeheartedly.  The only people who should be exempted from vaccine mandates are those who might be injured by vaccines, including the immunocompromised.  Now adults above a certain age should be allowed to make medical decisions if those decisions don’t endanger anyone else. Thus, if you have appendicitis and are one of those sects that don’t accept medical intervention (Christian Science is supposed to be one, but members often sneak around the restrictions), it’s okay by me if you reject the operation and endanger yourself. (If you have a wife and kids, however, that may be another matter, largely because the kids, who could be left without a parent, don’t get to choose their faith.)

But with vaccinations, you’re endangering not only yourself by rejecting science-based medicine, but others as well. Thus, if you refuse the Covid shot on religious grounds, you’re endangering other people because you might get infected and spread the virus. Even if nearly everyone else is vaccinated, you could still infect the few who aren’t. Even the Bible talks about rendering unto Caesar. Well, Caesar is the state, and to the state belongs the purview of preventing pandemics and epidemics.

The fact that religious people are allowed to refuse medical care for their kids in some places, or get a slap on the wrist when they do—even when the child dies—is absolutely unconscionable. It’s one of the unjustified forms of “respect” that we afford to religious beliefs. The subject of religion and healthcare is largely the subject of the last chapter of my book Faith Versus Fact, and I tell some horrific stories of those who believe in faith healing letting their children die in the vain hope that God would save them. This should be a felony, and it is in some places, but all too often that unwarranted “respect” for faith gets parents either off the hook or with a minimal sentence. And all too often those parents justify their behavior, even when, by withholding medical care, they’ve killed their own child. As I note in my book (p. 234):

It’s not just the parents who are at fault. Religious exemptions are written into law by the federal and state governments—that is, those who represent all Americans. In fact, 38 of the 50 states have religious exemptions for child abuse and neglect in their civil codes, 15 states have such exemptions for misdemeanors, 17 for felony crimes against children, and five (Idaho, Iowa, Ohio, West Virginia, and Arkansas) have exemptions for manslaughter, murder, or capital murder. Altogether, 43 of the 50 states confer some type of civil or criminal immunity on parents who injure their children by withholding medical care on religious grounds.

As for vaccinations, there should be no religious exemptions for getting them, regardless of the dictate of your faith. That’s because refusing a vaccine is not a decision with purely personal consequences, but can have widespread and deleterious effects on other people. And yet, as I note further in my book (pp. 235-236):

Religious exemptions for vaccinations, allowed in 48 of the 50 U.S. states (all except Mississippi and West Virginia) endanger not only the children who don’t get immunized, but the community in general:  not everyone gets vaccinated, and even those who are don’t always acquire immunity. To attend public schools and many colleges, like the one where I teach, students must show evidence of vaccination for diseases like hepatitis, measles, mumps, diphtheria, and tetanus. The only exemptions permitted are for medical reasons, like a compromised immune system—and religion.

Nor are Christians the only believers who oppose immunization. Islamic clerics in Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Nigeria urge their followers to oppose polio vaccination, declaring it a conspiracy to sterilize Muslims. These efforts may prevent the complete eradication of polio from the human species, something already been achieved for smallpox. Dr. A Majid Katme, spokesman and former head of the Islamic Medical Association of the UK, described by the Guardian as “a respected figure in the British Muslim community,” has come out against all childhood vaccination, claiming that “the case of vaccination is first an Islamic one, based on Islamic ethos regarding the perfection of the natural human body’s immune defense system, empowered by great and prophetic guidance to avoid most infections.”  Taking his advice would, of course, be disastrous.

In all states, immunizations are required for public school enrollment, except for medical, religious and philosophical exemptions. Here’s the latest map (2021) of exemptions, taken from The National Conference of State Legislatures. As you can see, since my book was published in 2015, it appears that four states—Maine, New York, Connecticut, and California—no longer grant religious exemptions for vaccination. That’s good news. Note as well that only 15 states allow philosophical exemptions (the striped ones are also blue, meaning that they allow religious exemptions too). This shows not only that religion gets precedence over philosophy, but also that this precedence makes no sense, since a philosophical exemption is presumably a “reasoned” one (misguided though it may be), while religious dictates come from scripture or authority. Every state in the map below should be white.

Now I’ll read the article, and you are free to at any time by clicking on the screenshot below.

Chang and I largely agree, but diverge in three important ways:

First, though, he notes that the religious exemption comes from Title VII of the Civil Rights acts, which “require American employers to accommodate employees’ religious beliefs.” And those are the grounds on which many people are claiming religious exemption from the Covid vaccination, though Chang believes that these religionists aren’t really doing it on religious grounds (which don’t exist anyway, see below), but are “nonreligious and rooted in deep-seated suspicion of government and vulnerability to misinformation.”

Further, and this is what made me realize originally that this topic deserves a post, how many religions really have dictates prompting their followers to refuse vaccination?  We know about Christian Science, of course, and there are dozens of evangelical Christian sects, largely in the American Northwest, that refuse medical care as part of their faith. But try to find a justification for that in scripture. As Chang notes:

. . . there is no actual religious basis for exemptions from vaccine mandates in any established stream of Christianity. Within both Catholicism and all the major Protestant denominations, no creed or Scripture in any way prohibits Christians from getting the vaccine. Even the sect of Christian Scientists, which historically has abstained from medical treatment, has expressed openness to vaccines for the sake of the wider community. The consensus of mainstream Christian leaders — from Pope Francis to Franklin Graham — is that vaccination is consistent with biblical Christian faith.

Biblically based arguments against vaccination have been rebutted. The project Christians and the Vaccine, which I helped to found, has created numerous explainer videos in an effort to refute attempts by anti-vax Christians to hijack pro-life values, to distort biblical references like the “mark of the beast” and to inflame fears about government control. Christians who request religious exemptions rarely even try to offer substantive biblical and theological reasoning. Rather, the drivers for evangelical resistance are nonreligious and are rooted in deep-seated suspicion of government and vulnerability to misinformation.
Chang is doing a good deed by pointing out the weakness of religious exemptions for vaccination, and by insisting that all employers should get rid of religious exemptions for coronavirus vaccines (he specifies “for Christians”, but I think no religious exemptions should be allowed).

That’s one way we differ. The other is that Chang appears to think that Christians have a “right” to refuse the vaccine in general, though not necessarily to be employed without it:

My plea to my fellow Christians: If you insist on refusing the vaccine, that is your right. But please do not bring God into it. Doing so is the very definition of violating the Third Commandment, “Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain.”

I don’t think there’s a “right” for Christians to refuse vaccines deemed essential by the state. They have no more right to do that than to refuse to pay taxes on religious grounds, nor to send their children to public schools without the required shots (except, of course, for those pesky exemptions).  And not paying taxes is far less harmful to society than walking around with a possibly infectious microbe.  Everyone should be vaccinated for diseases like Covid unless there are medical contraindications. I can see no reason not to. People may say that a few people may suffer serious side effects, but those are far less harmful than living through a pandemic.

Finally, many religious schools allow unvaccinated children to attend, and some parents are sending their children there, or homeschooling them, to get around the normal vaccine requirements (right now only older children must be vaccinated). For safe vaccines, as Covid-19 jabs will surely prove to be for younger children, all children everywhere must be vaccinated, just like adults. After all, even religious children mingle with the general public, and endanger them when they’re unvaccinated.

Of course given my view that religion is man-made and generally detrimental to society (this is of course demonstrated by the last chapter of my book), I would object to any favoritism based on religion that doesn’t apply to secular people. (This doesn’t mean, though, that I favor philosophical exemptions to vaccination!) But you don’t have to go that route when making the argument that nobody should be exempt from a Covid vaccination except on medical grounds. The public health argument is sufficient.

Perhaps you disagree, or have other views. By all means, use the comments to air your thoughts.

54 thoughts on “Should there be religious exemptions from vaccine mandates?

    1. Would ‘Typhoid Mary’ have been granted a religious exemption from being isolated involuntarily? If not, why should she avoid being vaccinated for ‘religious’ reasons (I use quotes as I am unaware of any holy books pronouncing upon the use of mRNA).

      1. A rhetorical question, obviously, but I am afraid I do not get your point. In Mary’s time, no. Today, I do not know what we would or should do if we found a Covid Cary who was some kind of super-spreader, despite vaccination and masking. Isolating that person completely, as Mary was, somehow seems beyond the pale; there is a limit to what we can ask people to do for the good of the whole. Fortunately, that sort of thing has not so far become a problem. The key words, however, may be “so far.”

  1. I would agree with everything you said and then some. Vaccinations, for the protection of the people in a society must be mandatory. To allow exemption for religious reason would be like allowing murder for some religious reason and so far, we don’t do that. The only good side of this refusal to get vaccinated is, as time goes on there will be fewer of the protesters around to complain. Covid has a way of reducing the winers.

    1. It’s been said that “you can’t fix stupid,” but COVID seems to be making some progress in falsifying that adage.

  2. I am a bit more liberal about the subject. Consistent with your comment:

    Now adults above a certain age should be allowed to make medical decisions if those decisions don’t endanger anyone else.

    …and consistent with the US notion of ‘reasonable accommodation,’ I would say that a state should identify as best it can the herd immunity requirement (i.e. 95% or whatever), identify as best it can the percent of the population who can’t be vaccinated for medical reasons, and if there’s a few percent “left over,” permit ideological exemptions on a first-come, first-served basis. For Covid, this is likely to be zero as we don’t know the herd immunity requirement and we have a lot of medical exemptions because of age. But for more standard childhood vaccinations (MMR, chicken pox, polio, etc.), I expect we have a much better idea of exactly what percent we need to hit and a much lower percent of medical exemptions (because it’s only kids of a specific age range getting the vaccine).

    The goal with this concept is to accommodate ideological exemption requests to the extent that they don’t negatively impact public safety. This is far more complicated than just saying ‘none,’ but I guess on the ‘administrative cost’ question, I’d say that’s up to the people and their state; if the people feel this is such an important service for their state to provide that they’re committing the use of state tax dollars and civil servant labor to administer it, I’m fine with that.

    1. I’m 80.

      Can you give me an example of a religious or ideological exemption which will allow a moron to come and sit next to me at an indoor hockey game which I might like to attend, and cough and sneeze all over the goddam place? That is, at least give even one reasonable situation in detail, rather than this abstract fairy-tale freedom to kill other people bullshit. If you and nobody else can give even the slightest particular detail about this, instead of just heart-warming freedom nonsense, it’s time to realize that the religious nitwits have got to be forced to stay away from everybody else, everywhere and all the time. “Concepts” need specific reasonable examples, not high-flown abstract “reasonable accommodation” lawyer babble.

      I’m sure happy to have turned down US jobs many years ago.

    2. I think that’s a bad idea for several reasons.

      Firstly, as Peeter says, these percentages are just general trends. At an individual level, until the disease is completely wiped out, you will get cases like the one he describes. Everybody needs to be vaccinated to avoid as many of these as possible. Or, to put it in more global terms, there’s a minimal level of immunity to stop the disease spreading and make it die out eventually, but the higher the immunity level, the quicker the dying out will occur and with fewer human deaths.

      Secondly, it sends the wrong message. There is no such thing as a reasonable accommodation with religion in areas where the safety and well being of people are concerned. We need to set the expectation that whilst they are free to believe in whatever mythical beings they like, this does not make them special and they have be subject to and obey secular law just like everybody else.

  3. I’m fully vaccinated and have little patience for those who are refusing to be vaccinated, most of whom seem to be doing so for political reasons or as a result of conspiracy theories rather than for religious of philosophical reasons. However, the push-back that I’m now hearing is that the vaccinated and the unvaccinated are apparently BOTH capable of spreading the Delta variant of COVID, such that the unvaccinated aren’t creating any greater risk for the public. In looking into that “defense” a bit this morning, I see that it isn’t entirely correct, since the latest proclamation from the CDS is as follows:

    “For prior variants, lower amounts of viral genetic material were found in samples taken from fully vaccinated people who had breakthrough infections than from unvaccinated people with COVID-19. For people infected with the Delta variant, similar amounts of viral genetic material have been found among both unvaccinated and fully vaccinated people. However, like prior variants, the amount of viral genetic material may go down faster in fully vaccinated people when compared to unvaccinated people. This means fully vaccinated people will likely spread the virus for less time than unvaccinated people.”

      1. Good point. Again, here is what the CDC says —

        “[T]he risk of infection remains much higher for unvaccinated than vaccinated people. Vaccines remain effective in protecting most people from COVID-19 infection and its complications.”

  4. Should there be religious exemptions from vaccine mandates? Oh, hell no — there should be no religious exemptions from facially neutral laws that are written without an intent to advance or impede religious practices. That’s essentially the law of the land now under SCOTUS’s decision in Employment Division v. Smith, even if the courts have been somewhat uneven in that decision’s application.

    Nevertheless, in last term’s decision in the gay-adoption case arising out of Philadelphia, SCOTUS’s current conservative majority gave clear indication that they’re champing at the bit to overrule Smith, presumably to expand the Free Exercise Clause rights of religious adherents. See especially the concurring opinions of justices Barrett and Alito (joined in relevant part by justices Thomas, Gorsuch, and Kavanaugh).

    1. For clarification purposes: the above analysis addresses when accommodation for religious practices must be made under the Free Exercise Clause. Under existing law, accommodations may be offered under a broader array of circumstances, though they are not required to be so.

  5. Quote: “Dr. A Majid Katme, spokesman and former head of the Islamic Medical Association of the UK, described by the Guardian as “a respected figure in the British Muslim community”…”

    The fact that these peeps are “respected” just because of the religious position they hold in various communities, is a worrying and continuing problem, especially when they are consulted for views on social, political, and health matters.

    Also, puts that nonsense about the Qu’ran revealing all sorts of scientific “truths” into perspective.

  6. and five (Idaho, Iowa, Ohio, West Virginia, and Arkansas) have exemptions for manslaughter, murder, or capital murder

    Washington, I’m ashamed to say, also has an exemption for medical neglect that leads to death of a child. Idaho, as I understand it, repealed theirs.

    WA also go rid of our ‘philosophical’ exemption a few years ago (maybe last year?). I was curious what the new exemption form looked like, so I took to the google. It turns out, for a medical exemption, all you need is a sign off from – get this! – an MD, a DO, an ND a nurse, or other healthcare professional. So, not even difficult to do. My opinion? get rid of everything but legitimate medical exemptions, no NDs allowed to sign off.

  7. I’m in two minds about this. It is one philosophical thing to be strongly urged to comply with a social requirement, it’s another to be compelled to comply. Is society or the individual the most important element?

    I hesitate to propose a thought experiment… if the Afghan Wars II kicked off involving military action across the Middle East for the security of your homeland and everybody of a certain age range was to be (potentially) called up for the military draft… would you allow conscientious objectors? It’s the element of compulsion for the social good that needs consideration.

    Meanwhile I have been happily double jabbed, yet my friend’s daughter is poorly with COVID. I can see both sides of the issue.

    1. Is society or the individual the most important element?

      Society is a collection of individuals. The quoted statement is really saying “is the right of many people in our society not to die of a preventable disease or an individual’s right to refuse to be jabbed with a needle the most important element?”

      1. Margaret Thatcher famously said “There is no such thing as society”… the full statement was rather more nuanced in detail than her critics were willing to acknowledge. But she was right in my opinion. Arguably this means that rights are less important than responsibilities.

        So can you compel people to exercise their responsibilities? I’d say not in practice, by observation. We have plenty of criminals and selfish people after all. If you do insist on the vaccine deniers being vaccinated against their wishes (for the good of society or just the good of other people) how are you going to enforce that?

        1. I haven’t heard anyone suggest that anti-vaxxers be strapped to a gurney and be given the shots against their will. The question is the extent to which certain privileges may be withheld, and costs imposed, for those who refuse to be vaccinated without legitimate medical basis.

  8. I think that everyone has the right to refuse vaccination but no one has the right to endanger the health of others by such a decision. Where I live (Quebec, Canada), people must produce a proof of vaccination via a QR code issued by the provincial government in order to enter public buildings (restaurants, gyms, concert halls etc.). If you choose not be be vaccinated then you must accept such restrictions. You are free to follow your “religious belief” only if you are willing to accept the restrictions.

    1. The restrictions would have to be complete isolation including from family members, otherwise the refuser can still infect the community. That is untenable. So mandatory vaccinations are the only solution to a pandemic.

      1. I think Quebec has it about right. You can’t force someone to get vaccinated, but you can make it impossible for them to function. Yes, a few will still hold out, but you will get vastly more compliance than we see now. Masks are another matter – a mask is not putting a foreign substance into your body, and I see no reason we cannot compel someone to wear a mask.

    2. This is a good rule for Quebec, for Canada, and for any civilized country. It would also imply that employers who pack multiple employees into a common space must require vaccination for those employees. For the United States, I’m not so sure about such workplace rules being a good idea. It’s only been about five centuries since Europe was soaked in blood over religious conflicts. Ironically, Europe has progressed a lot farther than the US in this respect. We still have plenty of people ready to kill over their supposed religious liberties. A more life-protecting response here might be to require employers to provide special circumstances to separate the vaccine refusers from the Covid-vulnerable (and give the less-desirable space to the refusers).

  9. The civil libertarian in me is uncomfortable with mandatory vaccination, and I wish we could get to herd immunity on a purely voluntary basis. It’s tragic that Covid-19 was politicized and turned into part of the culture war, because you could imagine a time when a nation filled with purpose could easily get everyone on board with vaccination. As is often said, it’s happened before with Polio.

    But given the state we’re in, if mandatory vaccination is what we need to get the intransigent vaccinated and the world to some kind of normalcy, then I support it.

    1. Dean Reimer: I’ll put my libertarian bona fides up against anyone’s, but when I hear the “personal liberty” argument from my supposed compadres, I ask them:

      “So…you are against forcible confinement and treatment of active TB cases? How about Ebola?”

      Then I’ll quote SCOTUS Associate Justice Robert Jackson, writing (in dissent, it must be said) in Terminiello v. Chicago, (1949) 337 US 1:

      “There is danger that, if the Court does not temper its doctrinaire logic with a little practical wisdom, it will convert the constitutional Bill of Rights into a suicide pact.”

      Or as Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr., put it: “A page of history is worth a pound of logic.” (There are of course many variants of THAT one, variously attributed.) And we certainly have enough history concerning vaccinations to know what needs to be done.

      1. “The life of the law has not been logic: it has been experience,” is how OWH put it in his book The Common Law, if memory serves.

  10. In the U.S. I think this runs afoul of the Establishment Clause because exemptions place religion in a superior position to the secular government. Someone’s religious beliefs do not get priority over ‘promoting the general welfare.’ Securing liberty is not license to violate the liberty of fellow citizens.

    1. At what point an accommodation offered to religious adherents under the Free Exercise Clause becomes a violation of the Establishment Clause is a difficult question — one that the courts have not had much success in delineating clearly or consistently.

      1. I agree, it’s not an easy question to answer. I admit that my opinion is not based on training nor experience in Con Law.

      2. Any law that provides exemptions for religions is in violation of the establishment clause. That’s pretty easy to delineate.

        Free exercise is a bit more of a problem mainly because people pretend their religion is defined to suit them. For example, there’s no rule in Christianity that says you must not get vaccinated. All the people refusing vaccination on religious grounds are just making it up. Furthermore, the free exercise clause is routinely ignored: the Bible instructs you to put men who engage in homosexual sex to death but “free exercise of my religion” would probably fail as a defence for a Christian who had murdered a gay person.

        The courts just need to be more robust about what constitutes free exercise of religion. The person claiming their constitutional rights have been violated needs to prove that the thing being constrained is a genuine part of their religion, and that their religion is not just something they invented.

        1. Any law that provides exemptions for religions is in violation of the establishment clause. That’s pretty easy to delineate.

          A public employer or public university grants Jewish employees/professors/students the accommodation of not requiring their attendance on Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur — violation of the Establishment Clause?

          I don’t think the issues raised are quite so easy as you suppose them to be, Jeremy.

    2. Since when do you have a right to not get sick? Do the germs respect that? I think what you should have said is that the Constitution places a citizen’s religion outside the sphere of governmental action.

      1. … the Constitution places a citizen’s religion outside the sphere of governmental action.

        That’s a bold statement. Female genital mutilation? Plural marriage among fundamentalist Mormons? Scientology’s Sea Org holding people in involuntary servitude? David Koresh having sex with Branch Davidian minors? All “outside the sphere of governmental action”?

        1. Ken, you forgot to mention slavery, which the religious folk in the antebellum South repeatedly and unequivocally stated was ordained by God, relying in part on the plain language of Leviticus 25:44-45:

          “You may purchase male or female slaves from among the foreigners who live among you. You may also purchase the children of such resident foreigners, including those who have been born in your land. You may treat them as your property, passing them on to your children as a permanent inheritance.”

  11. If they’re going to be falling on biblical excuses not to get vaccinated, whatever happened to loving one’s neighbor as oneself, which is both in the Torah (Leviticus, I think) and in the “Gospels” (Matthew at least, I think). Surely these people are violating that commandment by willingly endangering their fellow humans. If even Christian Scientists are recognizing that it’s reasonable to be vaccinated to protect others, even if not for yourself, then it’s surely plain hypocritical to make religious exemption claims…and Jesus, at least, is reputed to have had very little patience for hypocrites.

  12. There should be no option to refuse the Covid vaccine for religious sentiments. Even if an adult elects not to be vaccinated, the hospital bills and medical expenses she may incur if she does become sick or hospitalized will be borne to some degree by the rest of society.

    Even if this hypothetical patient has good health insurance, her Covid-related medical care costs still trickle down to affect the medical economy. But often, these people are underinsured, so a greater percentage of hospital expenses will be borne by other people.

  13. “Should there be religious exemptions from vaccine mandates?” – Absolutely not.

    In the UK, at least one parliamentary petition calling for religious exemptions for Covid-19 certification/passports has been rejected for being so badly thought through:

    Why was this petition rejected?
    It’s not clear what the petition is asking the UK Government or Parliament to do.

    Petitions need to call on the Government or Parliament to take a specific action.

    We’re not sure exactly what you’d like the Government or Parliament to do. We’re not sure whether you’d like people who are unable to receive a vaccine to be exempt from any certification requirements, or if you’d like them to be able to prove their status in a different way, such as with a negative test.

    With effect from 11 November, all staff and visitors to care homes in England must provide proof of full vaccination or of medical exemption. I can see no mention of non-medical exemptions, which is good if true. https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/vaccination-of-people-working-or-deployed-in-care-homes-operational-guidance/coronavirus-covid-19-vaccination-of-people-working-or-deployed-in-care-homes-operational-guidance#groups-that-can-get-a-medical-exemption

    1. In that case, can you set out for us the standard by which to distinguish those who refuse to get vaccinated on actual religious grounds from those who refuse based on political tribalism?

      Because only the first has any plausible claim to exemption under the First Amendment’s Free Exercise Clause.

  14. Near the very end of Paul Offit’s book, Autism’s False Prophets, you find that the motivation behind the odious and disingenuous Andrew Wakefield’s efforts is religion. When I read the book, I wondered why he kept that aspect to the end, but I suppose it was in an effort to coax people who would otherwise be offended by salvos in that direction to keep reading to the end.

    1. Because it’s not true. Wakefield had commercial conflicts of interest. It was all about money.

      I’ve not heard anybody claiming there was a religious motivation behind Wakefield’s fraud before.

  15. I am mighty sick of the hold-outs who are basically ruining a return to a bit more normalcy for all of us.
    But trying to dismiss religious exemptions in this country is asking for too much trouble, and it won’t pass, imo. It does not matter how logical and ethical and right are the arguments.

    So any other ideas? One that seems worth considering is to jack up the insurance premiums on people who aren’t vaccinated. They are high risk, and the unvaccinated filling up hospital wards have been an enormous financial burden. Those who do risk assessment for health insurance outa get out pen and paper and get to work.

  16. I feel this way about masking as well. You should not have a religious exemption to wander around unmasked where masking is required.

  17. The interesting question is what should be the exemptions for vaccination, other than a medical exemption. If there was a legitimate exemption, on one hand, it would seem as if a religious exemption would be best candidate for a non-medical exemption. However, if it were going to work, it should require a high standard of proof that the religion actually forbade vaccinations, much like getting an exemption from conscription in the day.

    Obviously, in America, where religion is something you make up as you go along, it would be hard to have a religious exemption that didn’t swallow the rule. However, I don’t think people would go for it you started throwing Amish or Haredim in jail for refusing to get jabbed (I don’t know these sects position on vaccination, but they do seem like they are sincere in their convictions).

    1. …and they are quite happy to stay away from everybody else. Might be an idea to make that the law. Maybe starting up their own exclusive hospitals would be a useful idea, not so much for them but for everybody else. The staff will be entirely in the island they create for themselves.

  18. It seems to me important to distinguish a mandate, one which simply forces every person, barring medical reasons, to be vaccinated, from a weaker more complicated mandate which requires in detail those who insist on no vaccination to stay well clear of everyone, and in particular to require whoever controls a large space, particularly indoors, e.g. stores, restaurants, stadiums, public transport, etc. to enforce this. To me, the second is a slam dunk. Assuming that can be carried out fairly well (let not the impossible perfect ruin the good), the first need not even be discussed. But then the unvaccinated even walking out off their own property in public unmasked should have a very severe penalty.

    If a nation is unwilling to impose the first, simple mandate, such a country can then sleep in the bed it has made for itself, countries such as US, and UK to a lesser extent.

    The source, Worldometer, I use for stats on this, now has a whole large table giving the sensible 7-day averages for several things, all countries. The only really usefully reliable one, if only for ‘western’ countries, is 7-day number of covid deaths per million population. Right now, that is about 24, 12, 3, for the countries I have lived in one time for more than 6 weeks or so, namely US, UK, Canada. So UK is 4 times worse than us in Canada, US is 8 times worse.

    According to Krugman, by far the main reason in the US is simply many peoples’ attempts to make Biden look bad, to put it simply, whatever other factually false excuses they give for being anti-vacc. So we’ve got 10s of millions of USians paid up members of the Dropping Dead for Trump Club. Fantastic, I hope anybody like that is a successful member, but not their children, and it can’t happen too soon.

    It will be a reality that by the 2nd anniversary of covid deaths in US, approx. March 1, 2022, US will have achieved the notable goal of at least one million deaths more than would have happened if no covid had appeared. The Worldometer number will be more than 750,000, but once the excess over expected numbers of deaths become known, that number will be at least 30% larger than reported such deaths, in lots of places as well as US. For the latter, I’d blame the Mass Murderer Trump for at least half of those.

  19. `’you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength.’ The second is this, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these

    ~~ Mark 12 – NRSV

    These words are recorded as being the words of Jesus. You get vaccinated to protect your neighbour. You wear a mask to protect your neighbour. For Christians, it is clear, vaccination and masks should be mandatory according to the founder of their religion.

    Any Christian who claims they do not get vaccinated for religious reasons is a damned liar.

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