The Other Religious Objection to the Vaccine Mandate

The Other Religious Objection to the Vaccine Mandate September 17, 2021

Crux reports on a group of Christian healthcare workers fighting New York’s COVID vaccine mandate because there is no religious exemption.  The article observes, as others have elsewhere in this debate (including some friends whose opinions I value greatly), that multiple states don’t offer religious exemptions for vaccination in general, and that this lack of such protection has been held up in court.

Well, okay, there we are.  And yet . . . I’m still an American of a certain generation, married to the Bill of Rights and not planning to give up arguing for religious freedom just because the courts aren’t protecting it.  US law has a long and deplorable history of failing to live up to the ideals of its founding documents, and I am grateful to the many, many people who have sacrificed in the never-ending wave after wave of movements to correct various injustices over the past couple centuries, some of them far more egregious than what I’m about to write about, others less so.

So anyway, like Fr. Matthew Schneider, I accept the argument from reputable Catholic bioethicists about remote cooperation with evil.  Furthermore, reminding you: I’m vaccinated, and hold the general opinion that you probably should be too (but I’m not your doctor, and I am far, far too aware of what it’s like to be a medical anomaly to delude myself that there aren’t exceptions to that probably).

What I want to say is this: There exists another class of people who have serious religious or conscientious objections to Biden’s vaccine mandate even if we have no objection to the vaccine itself.  I’m one of them.

What is it that violates my conscience? Being expected to force other people to receive an unwanted medical treatment.


I have no problem with parents requiring their minor children to undergo reasonable medical treatment against the child’s will.  That’s the legitimate authority of a parent to make such decisions.  Been there, held the kid down while the pediatrician drained the abscess.  Not every ten-year-old is equipped to make such calls.

I have no problem with the state putting a minimum of safeguards, with an appeals process and civil rights protections in place, to intervene in cases of gross negligence or abuse by anyone tasked with making medical decisions for someone else.  That’s reasonable.

I have very serious objections to the state requiring me as an employer, manager, or colleague, to be involved in forcing another worker to receive a medical treatment they do not wish to receive.

I know some of y’all do exactly that for a living.  You’re gonna tell me it’s no big deal.

Nope.  It’s a big deal.

Many of us don’t go through life forcing other adults (or their children) to receive, as a matter of bureaucratic policy, medical interventions they object to.

Yes, I fully support Good Samaritan laws that protect amateur and professional medical care providers who are making snap decisions under duress.  Totally reasonable, likewise, if someone is resisting  emergency lifesaving treatment because they (temporarily or not) lack the capacity to think rationally, that a care provider make a good faith assessment about whether and how to proceed in the patient’s best interest.  Attempting to save another’s life often occurs in situations where there is not time for reasoned discussion and reflection.  We do the best we can.

If someone is declining on-going lifesaving treatment because they are experiencing intractable pain or severe depression?  It is reasonable for healthcare providers and family members to attempt to mitigate the person’s suffering so that they can make their decision in a better state of mind.  These are difficult situations and I understand that there isn’t a blanket protocol that can properly balance all the many factors at stake in any one case.

But. But.  Yes.  Many of us, religious or not, belonging to a particular faith or not, have serious conscientious objections to being coerced, under threat of grave financial penalty, to be party to forcing a medical intervention on someone for whom we have no medical guardianship whatsoever.

The fact of my being your supervisor, your HR specialist, your office admin, your CEO, or your company’s stockholder does not make me qualified to make medical decisions for you.  Requiring me to actively participate in forcing such a decision on you is wrong.

Again: Based on the information currently available, I personally think getting vaccinated against COVID is the better medical decision for most adults and for many minors.  I personally have no religious objection to the vaccines themselves, or I wouldn’t have gotten vaccinated.  I have no objection to public health policies that promote vaccination as part of a larger, multi-pronged strategy to mitigate the effects of the pandemic.  There are many public health interventions that I consider morally sound.

I do, however, have grave moral objections, founded in both my  formal religious beliefs and my deeply held philosophical beliefs, against forcing medical treatments on others.

The Biden vaccine mandate creates a massive class of persons who otherwise have zero medical responsibility for their colleagues or employees, and yet are obliged to participate in enforcing the vaccine mandate.  I think a plain reading of the US Constitution provides for a religious exemption for those of us who have conscientious objections to coercing others to undergo unwanted medical treatments.

File:Bill of Rights Car.jpg

Time to post the Bill of Rights car again, CC 2.0.  One of these days I’m going to have cleaned my house, caught up on my backlog of paperwork,  perhaps even gotten the laundry done, and then I, too, might go out in the yard and starting copying the Bill of Rights onto my vehicle.  And then I will have arrived.

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