By Deborah Stilt — People across our nation are being faced with an impossible choice – violate their sincerely held religious beliefs by taking an abortion-derived COVID-19 injection, or lose their livelihoods, their careers, and their opportunity for education. How can we, as Christians, take a principled stand as we navigate COVID-19 vaccine mandates, which are an unprecedented attack on our civil and religious liberties? Here are some practical resources and tools we hope will help.
You have the RIGHT to refuse
First and foremost, we need to need to be clear—forcing people to violate their sincerely held beliefs is against the law. It is easy to be intimidated by the words “requirement” and “mandate,” but claiming a religious exemption is your right. As Christians, we not only have the right, but also the duty to refuse unethical medical treatments. Rather than succumb to this bullying, we need to step out in faith and exhibit leadership and strength. This will require great courage and conviction, as well as trust that God will continue to provide for our families.
Employees are legally protected from religious discrimination in the workplace under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Under this Act, employers must accommodate an employee’s religious beliefs or practices unless the accommodation would impose an undue hardship; that is, more than a minimal burden on operation of the business. A religious belief may be sincerely held by an individual even if newly adopted, not consistently observed, or different from the commonly followed tenets of the individual’s religion.
Your religious beliefs are yours and yours alone.
You do not have to belong to a denomination with a long-held opposition to abortion-derived vaccines to claim a religious exemption from vaccine mandate. If your church leadership has openly embraced the COVID-19 injections, you are still eligible for a religious exemption. You do not have to have a pastor or clergy member affirm your belief. And while such an affirmation may help strengthen your claim, it is unconstitutional for that to be a condition of exemption approval.
How to claim a religious exemption from a COVID-19 vaccine mandate
Step 1: Understand your rights and local laws.
- Look up the vaccination laws in your particular state or county, as well as any local or state health mandates. What are the stated consequences, if any, for failure to comply?
- If your state does not have a vaccine mandate or law in place for COVID vaccination or any other immunization, employers cannot rely on state law to claim they can require vaccination.
- The majority of vaccine mandates allow for both religious and medical exemptions. Check to see if yours does. Even if it does not, your religious liberty is protected by both the Constitution and the aforementioned Civil Rights Act.
Step 2: Print and sign our religious exemption form.
- The Personhood Alliance’s religious exemption form expresses your legal right to refuse medical treatment and explains the basis for a religious exemption from any policy that mandates an unethical vaccine. You can submit the form to your employer if they are mandating the COVID-19 vaccine, or to your college if they are requiring the vaccine in order to attend in person.
- Some employers and colleges require a religious exemption form to be signed by your pastor or priest. However, this is a risky legal position that also violates Title VII of the Civil Right Act of 1964. It is particularly important to know your rights in this situation, because many priests are being forbidden by church leaders from signing exemption forms.
- Some employers and colleges require a religious exemption form to be notarized. If this is the case for you, find a notary public in your area and wait to sign the form until you are in the presence of the notary.
- Please understand that using our form, like any exemption form, is not a guarantee that an employer or college will approve your request. To increase chances for approval, we vetted our form legally, medically, and with pastors.
Step 3: Gather any other required documents or supporting information.
- If you have a medical reason to avoid a COVID-19 vaccine, you may want to provide documentation from your medical provider verifying this—though medical exemptions from COVID-19 mandates have been difficult to obtain. You can file both a medical and a religious exemption at once. You do not have to choose between them. It could strengthen your case against forced vaccination to submit both.
- Oftentimes, employers and colleges have their own exemption submission process, whereby people are asked to fill out their exemption form. We suggest doing so, but also adding our form as a supplement, as it contains legal references that support your rights and details regarding the rejection of abortion-derived medicines.
Step 4: File your exemption request.
- Submit your exemption form along with any other required/supporting paperwork with your school or employer.
- Keep a copy of all paperwork submitted.
Step 5: Follow up to ensure reasonable accommodations are made.
- Once you are granted a religious exemption, the law requires your employer or college to make reasonable accommodations for you.
- Ask your employer or school what kind of accommodations are they providing and are those accommodations reasonable?
What to do if your religious exemption request is denied at work
Some employers are not allowing religious exemptions to be filed (especially in the healthcare field), or they are accepting them and denying them without comment or process for appeal. This is a violation of your rights.
- If your request for religious exemption has been denied, you can file a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). The complaint form must include a description of your religious accommodation request (you can use the religious exemption form you submitted to your employer), along with the employer’s response and termination date, if applicable. Notify your employer in writing that you have filed a compliant with the EEOC.
- Do not resign from your job. Continue to show up at work even if a deadline has been issued. Many employers cannot afford to lose their employees and will be hesitant to terminate workers over vaccine refusal.
What to do if your religious exemption request is denied at your college
Some colleges are denying religious exemption requests without comment or process for appeal. This is a violation of your rights. If you are facing this situation:
- Remind your school’s administrators that they may be placing themselves at legal and financial risk if vaccine mandates lead to death or disabilities, according to the Public Readiness and Emergency Preparedness (PREP) Act of 2005.
- Consider whether distance learning at the college is a reasonable accommodation for you. If you feel it is not, you may want to seek education at a different institution.
Next steps: Legal help
Many legal experts are predicting a wave of lawsuits from employees and students who are denied their rights. Fortunately, there are organizations who are providing help right now:
- Liberty Counsel is a non-profit ministry that operates a pro bono litigation program to provide assistance and representation for situations involving religious freedom, the sanctity of life, and the family.
- America’s Frontline Doctors is gathering information to provide legal help for people facing mandates.
- Siri Glimstad, a law firm on the East Coast, is providing legal help for students and employees. They have offices in several major U.S. cities and a page on their website to submit requests for legal help.
- COVID Legal USA is a paralegal and legal writing firm that assists pro se litigants with document preparation and navigational instructions through the U.S. legal system.
- LifeSiteNews has compiled a list of additional resources that may be of help to those navigating this ever-changing terrain.
What to do if you are facing mandatory COVID testing
If your religious exemption has been approved, and you are facing weekly COVID-19 testing requirements for unvaccinated persons, you are absolutely within your rights to push back. Under law and HIPAA regulations, you have a right to refuse.
- The safety and efficacy of COVID-19 tests have been in question, due in part to Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) testing swabs being sterilized in ethylene oxide, a known carcinogen. PCR tests have produced false positives, likely caused by cycle thresholds being set too high. These thresholds have recently been lowered, but only to test “breakthrough” cases for the vaccinated.
- The Emergency Use Authorization (EUA) that was issued for PCR tests to be used for COVID-19 detection will not be renewed, and the tests are scheduled to be phased out by December 31, 2021. The CDC is moving to adopt more effective tests that will better distinguish between COVID-19 and influenza.
- Keep in mind that, by the CDC’s own admission, the vaccinated can also transmit the virus. Therefore, it is discriminatory to single out the unvaccinated for weekly COVID-19 testing.
- It may be of value to make a written statement of your reasons for declining weekly testing and having this added to your religious exemption file.
What to do if you are facing a mandate on your business or private school
President Biden’s sweeping COVID-19 vaccine mandate, affecting millions of Americans and all businesses with more than 100 employees, leaves business owners “holding the bag.” It is businesses that are being required to ensure their employees are fully vaccinated or testing weekly. It is businesses that must file and track proof of vaccination and testing status. It is businesses that must present these records upon request. And it is businesses, ultimately, that are the only ones who can be held legally liable should an employee sustain life-threatening injury or death after being forced to receive a mandated injection. These are very big burdens for a business owner – particularly if the vaccination requirements you are mandated to enforce violate your sincerely held religious beliefs.
One possible course of action for your school or business might be to:
- Have your employees sign our religious exemption form and keep the forms and any other supporting documentation on file.
- In the event vaccine records are requested by state or local authorities, you can present the documentation.
If you own a restaurant or retail business and have been tasked with enforcing proof of vaccine status, remember that checking on patrons’ private medical information is far outside the scope of your job.
- Requiring business owners to become the “vaccine police” is unfair and discriminatory. You have the right to stand up against these orders.
- Such mandates are in violation of 42 U.S. Code § 2000a, which prohibits against discrimination or segregation in places of public accommodation.
- In New York City, where mandatory proof of vaccination in all public indoor spaces recently went into effect, small business owners have banded together to sue the city and the mayor.
- If you cannot in good conscience violate the rights of your customers by requiring proof of COVID-19 vaccination, we recommend consulting with legal counsel or utilizing the resources mentioned in above.
Taking a principled stand
As stated in tenet 8 of the Personhood Alliance’s official vaccine ethics position statement:
“Humans are made in the image and likeness of Almighty God (Genesis 1:26-27); We have a duty to honor and care for the body God has given us as a temple of the Holy Spirit (Romans 12:1, 1 Corinthians 3:16, 1 Corinthians 6:20, 1 Corinthians 10:31) and therefore, to force or coerce a person to administer a substance into their body against their will is a violation of their biblical personhood. Such mandates and coercions are also a violation of the dignity of the human person, because freedom of religion and freedom of conscience are fundamental to human dignity.”
These are unprecedented times. Many people feel overwhelmed and unprepared for the current attacks on our civil and religious liberties. Successfully navigating this time will require courage and conviction. We must stand on our principles regardless of the consequences we may face. The Personhood Alliance is standing with each of you as we weather this storm. We pray that God will make the way clear before you.
To learn more about how the Personhood Alliance stands for human life and human dignity, without exception and without compromise, subscribe to our email list.
Deborah Stilt is the vice president of Personhood Alliance Education and the social media coordinator for the Personhood Alliance. She has been active in pro-life media and foster care advocacy for several years. But most importantly, she’s a California mom who is fighting against the lies of the culture and for the protection of every human being without exception.