Dealing with Larger Employers, Schools, and their Forms

Many larger employers or educational institutions are requiring their employees or students to fill out electronic forms to request a religious exemption from their COVID vaccine requirements.

There are two significant issues that these forms typically pose to the person filling them out. The first problem is that most if not all of the forms have various statements of “facts” that the person requesting the exemption must attest to when using the form. The second problem is the blanks themselves that need to be filled out.

Proper statements that should not be objected to are statements of simple fact that cannot be disputed. An example of a statement like this would be, “By order of the County Health Department, all healthcare providers are required to receive a COVID immunization by September 1, 2021.”

Some statements, depending on one’s particular point of view, may contain somewhat troubling “facts” that one might have a philosophical objection to, but which would be very difficult to directly refute. Statements like these pose a dilemma for some people to affirm. An example of a statement of ambiguous truth would be, “The Covid-19 vaccination is recommended for me and all other healthcare workers, including students and trainees, to protect us and our patients from COVID-19, it’s complications and death.” The difficulty for some people to affirm this statement could arise from that person’s belief that the vaccines don’t really work and pose substantial safety threats, so that the real reasons for the vaccine mandate is to enrich the pharmaceutical industry, enhance government tyranny, or further some other sinister agenda. Objecting to this sort of statement is a personal choice. If one objects to the statement, one should consider that they may be required to justify their objection. One should also think about all the people that they could be required to justify their objection to, from their boss, to HR, to the company president or a school dean, to a judge, or to a jury. It is important to avoid fights not worth fighting and, if possible, maintain a level of credibility which will allow for the possibility of persuasion. While it seems the United States government can present evidence that UFOs are real, I would never suggest my client do so. Nevertheless, one must examine one’s conscience in determining whether to affirm such statements.

Very commonly on these forms are statements that are untrue and which attack the foundation of the employee’s or student’s objection to the vaccine. An example of a statement like this would be: “The consequences of my refusal to be vaccinated could have life-threatening consequences to my health and to those in which I have contact, including: All faculty/staff/employees, my peers, my family, my community.” This statement is designed to paint the person adhering to their conscience as irresponsible, immoral, or worse. This statement presupposes the efficacy, safety, and moral neutrality of the vaccine, and ignores the consequences should the vaccine injure the employee or the student. Finally, it presents a way of thinking that is outside of the normal consent process. Instead of a person weighing their own personal risks, benefits, and moral objections, the focus is on the community, and even worse, it presumes the benefits outweigh the risks. It is essentially removing the student’s or employee’s personal situation and beliefs from the moral decision-making process. Sentences like these should be crossed out from the form before the form is signed.

Many of these forms are electronic, and it is impossible to cross anything out on them. In this situation, the form should be printed out, offending portions crossed out, blanks filled out manually and given to HR or a supervisor.  If this is not possible, then if there is space to write your objection to these specific statements on the form then that should be done (more on this later), or a letter (an example of which can be found on our website HERE) should be used in its place.

The second significant issue posed by the forms is the filling in of the blanks. Most forms, if they have any blanks at all, have three or four blanks. Here are the four most common questions and example answers:

  1. Please identify your sincerely held religious belief, practice, or observance that is the basis for your request for an exemption as a religious accommodation?

Example Answer: I believe in the sanctity of human life and that my body is the temple of God (1 Cor 6:19), which imposes a duty upon me to keep myself pure from all immoral or harmful substances.

  1. Please briefly explain how your sincerely held religious belief, practice, or observance conflicts with our vaccination requirement.

Example Answer: All of the COVID vaccines were either created or tested on fetal cell lines from aborted fetuses, and the COVID vaccines all carry serious danger to my health which I cannot in good conscience risk.

  1. Please provide any additional information that you think may be helpful in processing your religious accommodation request.

Example Answer: I have consulted James 1:5, asking the Lord for wisdom, and am convicted that I cannot take the vaccine. James 1:6 requires me to adhere to my conscience without wavering.

In this portion of the form, if there is space, additional objections to the form can be written. There probably won’t be enough space, in which case, one can write, “Additional objections to this form have been provided to my supervisor/HR/etc.” and then be sure to give whomever you have stated here a statement of your additional objections, either in physical writing, by email, or both.

  1. Please describe the specific accommodations you are requesting.

Example Answer: I request to be excused from taking the vaccine.

The above is just an example. You may have different or more religious beliefs. You should modify your answer to reflect those beliefs. It is best to always cite an authority if possible, such as Scripture. It does not matter if your church does not agree with your beliefs. See my previous blog post HERE.

Also, do not request exemption from testing or masking. These exemptions will generally not be granted and if you request them, you will risk not receiving the exemption from the vaccine. If you receive the exemption from the vaccine, you can later request an exemption from masking and testing. An exemption will probably be possible once it becomes more settled that the vaccinated are just as likely to spread the virus as the unvaccinated. It is important to pick our battles wisely and at the proper time.

There will be a future blog entry with strategies for talking to HR or the dean if you are questioned about your beliefs.

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