The Alabama Legislature approved a bill Thursday that would allow for employees to file for medical or religious exemptions to the COVID-19 vaccine.
The religious exemption gives employees an exception simply for “sincerely held religious beliefs.”
So not very many Alabamians should be checking that box.
A Pew Research Center study of religious demographics among adults found that 86 percent self-identify as Christians while 12 percent identify as unaffiliated.
A 2013 study by Vanderbilt University found almost no Christian faiths have a theological objection to vaccines (before COVID-19 politics could taint the figures).
The denominations that do have theological objections to vaccines include the Dutch Reformed Church, Faith Tabernacle, Church of the First Born, Faith Assembly and End Time Ministries.
In the Pew Research Center study, these rare religious offshoots don’t even warrant mention alongside other faiths accounting for less than 1 percent of the population.
But if you are one of the rare practitioners of any of those faiths, congratulations! Go get your religious exemption with a clear conscience.
Otherwise, you shouldn’t be checking that box.
Now, to be fair, the legal precedent for religious exemptions has historically not been the overarching religious sect, but an individual’s “deeply personal faith.”
I’ve been a part of several different churches throughout my life. I was raised Baptist (the single biggest denomination in the state), attended a Methodist church for some time, have sat in on several Presbyterian services, and spoken at length with many Catholic and Episcopalian believers about a variety of issues.
You know what’s never even come up?
It is true that some members of the Christian faith have been jumping on the anti-vaxx train for their own personal reasons. Much of the movement has been attributed to a growing number of people believing a discredited study that links vaccines to autism.
So the objection to vaccines is not based on religion, but on bad science.
And yet, why do I suspect that we will see a flood of these religious exemptions now that this is law?
Because people are desperate to avoid these vaccines. Many of them are simply afraid that, despite all science pointing against it, these vaccines could have some kind of long-term health effects that outweigh the benefits of protection against COVID-19. Plenty of them oppose the vaccines because they believe there is a colluded effort by the left to use the vaccines to somehow exert control over American citizens.
Many of those people are on the Republican side of the aisle.
And with no other way to avoid the vaccines while keeping their jobs, some of these people will check that religious exemption box knowing full well their objections have nothing to do with religion.
But it seems many Christians have forgotten the third commandment: “Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain.”
The typical understanding of this commandment in my experience is an aversion to the phrase “oh my God.”
But the much more serious implication of that commandment is putting God’s name on that which He has not said.
Search the Bible all you want. I’m no Bible scholar but I can assure you there is no passage that remotely supports refusal of a vaccine on any religious grounds.
Maybe you fit one of the medical exemptions listed in the bill. Or maybe you will check one of those fraudulently. After all, the government has given you an out to do so with no means of verifying the information. Besides, fraudulently filing the exemption to avoid termination is punishable, at worst, by … termination. There’s nothing to lose.
Except, maybe, something that Christian conservatives have long touted themselves to be — honest people with strong principles.