US pastors, advocacy groups mobilize against Covid-19 vaccine mandates – Times of India

NEW YORK: From the surface, first harvest ministries in Waveland, Mississippi, may nearly be mistaken for a storage shed had been it not for the steeple.
From the modest constructing nonetheless, Shane Vaughn, the Pentecostal church’s pastor, has helped spearhead a web based motion selling private religion as a manner round office Covid-19 vaccine mandates.
He posts type letters for US staff looking for non secular exemptions which have been downloaded from his web site round 40,000 occasions, based on a display screen shot of internet site visitors he shared with Reuters.
“That is the one manner out,” stated Vaughn, 48, of the letters, which he makes out there free of charge, that blend Biblical scripture with warnings to employers of authorized fallout if they’re disregarded.
Because the Biden administration prepares a federal vaccine mandate and extra states and corporations impose them to assist speed up the pandemic’s finish, letter-writing efforts by non secular leaders are being bolstered by authorized advocacy teams similar to Liberty Counsel.
The group stated it has despatched greater than 100 letters to corporations together with United Airways Holdings Inc and Tyson Meals Inc vowing litigation in the event that they improperly reject non secular exemption requests.
United spokeswoman Leslie Scott stated the airline acquired the letter nevertheless it had no influence on the corporate’s actions. Tyson didn’t touch upon the letter.
United stated about 2,000 of its 67,000 US staff have requested non secular or medical exemptions. Tyson stated solely a “small proportion” of its greater than 100,000 staff had requested non secular or medical lodging forward of its November 1 deadline.
US employers are required by legislation to make affordable job modifications to accommodate an individual’s non secular beliefs, though they will search info to find out if the beliefs are non secular in nature and “sincerely held.”
Many employers need regulators to offer steering for scrutinizing exemption requests to assist shield them from lawsuits alleging they had been wrongly denied, stated Roger King, of the HR Coverage Affiliation, a discussion board for giant corporations.
Whereas few organized religions oppose vaccines, in accordance analysis by Vanderbilt College Medical Middle, US legislation defines faith very broadly to incorporate unfamiliar perception programs with few adherents.
‘Coping with them on a mass foundation’
Employment attorneys stated type letters taken off the web would possibly counsel an individual’s beliefs will not be honest, however it might be troublesome for an employer to find out that. Employers could possibly be on stronger authorized floor to reject exemption requests which are primarily based on verifiable false statements in regards to the vaccines, the attorneys stated.
“Spiritual exemption requests have over years been way more uncommon and now we’re coping with them on a mass foundation,” stated Kimberly Harding, an employment lawyer at Nixon Peabody, which advises corporations.
Temple College Well being System in Philadelphia, which employs 10,700 folks, has already acquired 180 non secular exemption requests, a major improve from what it normally will get for its annual flu shot requirement, stated John Lasky, the system’s chief human assets officer.
A few of the exemption request varieties included letter attachments that used related phrasing, which Lasky stated would possibly point out teaching, though he stated they weren’t a figuring out think about whether or not a request was granted.
What mattered was whether or not the particular person may articulate how their beliefs prevented them from getting the Covid-19 vaccine, similar to in the event that they “tied it to everlasting damnation,” Lasky stated.
In at the very least one case, an employer reversed its determination to disclaim a spiritual exemption after receiving a letter from Liberty Counsel.
Lehigh Valley Well being Community in Pennsylvania instructed a nursing pupil on September 7 it was rejecting her request as a result of it was primarily based on a “factually incorrect” hyperlink between vaccines and aborted fetal cells, based on correspondence disclosed by Liberty Counsel that redacted the coed’s identify.
Per week later, Liberty Counsel despatched a seven-page letter to Lehigh citing well being officers in North Dakota and Louisiana who stated there was a hyperlink between the vaccines and fetal cells. The group demanded Lehigh both approve the coed’s request or face “immediate litigation.”
It authorised the request the following day. Lehigh didn’t reply to requests for remark.
A Vaughn letter turned up in one of many few profitable lawsuits in opposition to a vaccine mandate. Western Michigan College granted an exemption to a pupil athlete who used his letter however was nonetheless barred from college sports activities till the courtroom intervened.
Harry Mihet, an legal professional with Liberty Counsel, stated the Christian group receives 1000’s of messages weekly from people claiming that they had an exemption request denied for improper causes. These embody that the particular person’s denomination endorsed the photographs or that the Pope was vaccinated, neither of which have bearing on a person’s beliefs.
“I feel these employers run the chance of being tied up in litigation till kingdom come,” Mihet stated.
Vaughn, who served a three-year jail sentence for fraud and had a stint working an auto dealership, stated he now spends 80% of his day serving to folks with employer requests for extra info, similar to describing how an worker’s beliefs battle with a hospital’s vaccine coverage.
Vaughn is inspired by corporations pushing again on his exemption letters. “They’re making it tougher and including layers to the method,” he stated. “It is proof it really works.”

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