Across the United States, more and more employers are demanding mandatory vaccination against covid-19. Dissatisfied, many workers are retaliating.
In Washington DC, for example, more than 400 firefighters and emergency medical professionals have requested religious exemptions. And in Los Angeles, about a quarter of the police department is expected to seek religious exemptions, writes NPR.
The right to request a religious exemption is stated in the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which protect workers from discrimination based on religion, among other things.
But first, employers can investigate whether an employee’s religious belief is sincere. If the employer determines that the belief is not sincere, he may deny the request for an exemption.
In Conway, Arkansas, the Regional Health System has granted 45 religious exemptions to employees who refuse to be vaccinated against covid-19.
Most exemptions were based on employees’ beliefs that vaccines that used fetal cells during research, testing or production — a common practice in pharmaceutical research — should not be placed in their bodies.
Before granting the exemptions, the head of the Regional Health System, Matt Troup, sent a list of medicines that used fetal cells and asked workers to certify that they were not using any of them.
“They need to know that if they want to be consistent in their beliefs, it applies to many different things besides the covid-19 vaccine,” said Troup, quoted by US radio.
However, not all exemptions are being accepted as in Conway. Recently, the NBA Denied a Religious Exemption Request Golden State Warriors player Andrew Wiggins. The athlete will not be able to play any home games in San Francisco, which has mandatory vaccinations at large indoor events.
Then there are other cases, like United Airlines, where the religious exemption is accepted, but the employees were put on unpaid leave indefinitely, without benefits.
Some workers have already sued the US airline. According to the law, employers must provide reasonable accommodation to workers seeking religious exemptions — unless this presents an undue hardship, explains NPR.
Although Pope Francis himself has already come to appeal for vaccination against covid-19, classifying it as “a simple way to promote the common good and take care of each other”, his opinion does not matter in the matter of religious exemptions.
Vaccination is a simple way of promoting the common good and caring for each other, especially the most vulnerable. https://t.co/j9prRxvpoi
— Pope Francis (@Pope) August 18, 2021
This is because the religious exemptions are related to personal belief of the employee himself. So far, no major religion has opposed covid-19 vaccines.