Buddhism beliefs

An obscure battle over religious beliefs and COVID-19 vaccination continues

“There are thousands and thousands of people I have helped with religious exemptions,” Corrigan calmly assured people who continued to listen to his advice long after 11pm. “We are the majority and we have been silent.”

None of the major religions officially oppose vaccination, but that hasn’t stopped a growing cottage industry from helping people craft religious arguments to avoid getting vaccinated against COVID-19. Some are trying to link vaccine research to aborted fetal tissue, while others, including Corrigan, refer to passages in the Bible that they say suggest that vaccinations make blood “sacred” unclean.

Now, in the wake of President Biden’s recent order requiring COVID injections for an estimated 80 million Americans, the pressure to vaccinate has grown fiercer. The same goes for people who insist that the shootings violate their religious beliefs.

“It started with a little earlier this year, helping maybe three or four people navigate the money orders, but some days now we get 1,500 emails and our phone bank just keeps ringing. “said Harry Mihet, chief legal counsel at Liberty. Counsel, a Florida-based evangelical organization that has filed lawsuits on behalf of people opposing abortion, same-sex marriage and COVID vaccines.

“As more and more people face these mandates, the number of those who oppose them will grow, not because people suddenly become religious,” Mihet said, “but because they owe everything. suddenly make the decisions. “

Federal civil rights law requires companies to accommodate religious beliefs that are “sincere,” which puts employers at risk of legal action if they ignore employees’ faith-based claims. .

But the determining sincerity in a country deeply divided on COVID warrants have become a tense exercise, a journey into uncharted territory. Employers and human resources officials are keenly aware of the growing number of lawsuits challenging compulsory gunfire.

Last month, a federal judge dismissed a lawsuit against the University of Massachusetts for its requirement that students be fully immunized against COVID-19 before returning to campus. One of the students had called for a religious exemption, claiming she was Roman Catholic, while admitting that she received other vaccines in her late teens, including flu shots.

But on Tuesday, another federal judge, this one in New York, temporarily blocked that state from forcing healthcare workers to get COVID vaccines after a group of workers sued because the New York mandate did not allow exemptions religious.

Business reluctance in this regard is apparently widespread; several companies and universities contacted by The Globe for this story declined to comment on their process for granting religious exemptions.

Others, as State Street Corp., a Boston-based global financial services company with approximately 9,000 employees in Massachusetts, provided only general statements. State Street requires employees to be vaccinated, but does not ask questions if someone claims a religious exemption.

“We do not ask for any documents from employees [for exemptions] but reserve the right to do so, ”the State Street statement read.

John Dooney, adviser to the Society for Human Resource Management, said that before COVID, most businesses rarely encountered requests for religious exemptions. Now, he said, the professional association of human resource managers is increasingly receiving calls asking for advice on matters of faith and advising companies to be consistent, for example by using a group. limited number of reviewers, to ensure consistency in their decisions.

But Dooney also advises that each employee’s claim be judged on their own merits.

“It can’t be everyone who is this religion gets this type of accommodation,” he said.

During Corrigan’s recent late-night Zoom session, attendees from New York, Ohio and other states asked for advice on how best to express their responses on their employer’s religious exemption request forms.

Corrigan suggested that participants not answer questions about their religion on the forms. Instead, she recommended people write on the document “please see attached”.

“The forms, I firmly believe, are meant to trip you up, they ask you tough questions,” Corrigan told the group. “Your employer, your school is trying to turn you down, in a lot of cases they’re just trying to turn you down. “

Nearly two hours after the start of the session, several participants still had questions. Corrigan, meanwhile, has promised two more online courses next week. They usually last three hours and cost $ 25 per person.

Corrigan, who was homeschooled from age 8 through college, told The Globe she had never been vaccinated. She describes her own faith as Christian, but strongly values ​​Buddhist principles. She traces her passion for religion back to a long line of ancestors who, she says, fought for religious freedoms. His goal is to be ordained a minister and go to law school.

“I am called to do that, to support people”, she said “and to protect their right to bodily autonomy”.

Corrigan’s teachings do not exactly match the tenets of many religions that espouse an obligation to society, said Dr Michael Grodin, professor emeritus of health law, ethics and human rights at the Boston University School of Public. Health. Grodin has long taught a course in religious bioethics that explored the controversy inherent in major public health issues, including exemptions from compulsory vaccination.

“The notion of protecting life is central to this discussion, and the risk to others and not just to ourselves,” Grodin said.

Most religions have no ban on vaccines. Very few, like the Dutch Reformed Congregations and Faith Tabernacle, have concerns, according to research from Vanderbilt University Medical Center. Christian Science, which teaches that disease can be cured or prevented by prayer, does not prohibit injections.

“The church has made a point of letting its members know that there is no pressure or judgment about whether one chooses to vaccinate or not,” said Kevin Ness, a spokesperson for the church. “Christian scientists share a concern for public health and safety and remain aware of the responsibility of all citizens to follow government demands and respect the rights of others. “

Among those opposing the COVID vaccine, some cite misinterpreted information linking the blows to abortion. In testing or developing the three COVID vaccines available in the United States, researchers essentially reproduced cells originally obtained in the 1970s and 1980s from elective abortions. Many Catholic leaders, including Pope Francis, have said the COVID shots are morally acceptable. Historic fetal cell lines have been used to create vaccines against other diseases such as hepatitis A, rubella, and rabies.

The Rev. Laura Everett, executive director of the Massachusetts Council of Churches, argues that vaccines can be seen as a manifestation of God’s care and concern.

“His possible to understand that God is caring for us right now as coming from vaccines, as coming from divine wisdom and the hard work of those who have researched and developed vaccines, ”she said. “It is a gift from God, and I am not refusing gifts from God. “

But Corrigan, the theology student at Boston University, suggests otherwise

On its website, Students Against Mandates, it includes links to scripture passages to include in requests for religious exemptions as well as detailed steps for writing one. Corrigan also says that blood contamination “is generally the number one problem with vaccines for all faiths.”

Although there are many passages about blood in the Bible, the only denomination that generally asserts concerns about purity, often regarding infusions of blood, are Jehovah’s Witnesses, said Grodin, the retired professor of the BU. But even they are promoting vaccination.

Corrigan founded Students Against Mandates in June because colleges and universities were among the first to widely adopt COVID vaccine mandates.

Colleges have taken different approaches to exemptions, with some requiring a signed letter from a religious leader outlining the religious principle that prohibits vaccination, while others accept personal written statements from a student or employee. describing the religious basis of the objection.

A spokesperson for the University of Massachusetts said they were compiling figures for their five campuses, but expected just over 1,000 requests for religious exemption from students out of 75,000 UMass students.

“We expect over 80% of these exemption requests to be granted,” the spokesperson said. “Any student benefiting from an exemption is required to undergo at least weekly tests. “

For Corrigan, who calls COVID testing “nose rape,” such rules are unfair.

“People need to say no and take a stand,” she said as she closed her recent online course, with over 140 people still in attendance. As a stream of “Amens” and other comments ended in the written discussion section of the session, Corrigan concluded.

“I will pray for all of you,” she said.

Kay Lazar can be reached at [email protected] Follow her on Twitter @GlobeKayLazar.