Arkansas's hospital is being swamped by so many requests from employees, it appears that they are calling their bluff.
The COVID-19 shot is increasingly being resisted by people who have religious objections.
It is likely to increase following President Joe Biden’s broad new vaccine mandates that cover more than 100,000,000 Americans, including executives branch employees and workers in businesses with over 100 people.
Although the administration admits that only a few Americans may use religious exemptions, others may try to take advantage of them. It stated that even minor improvements in vaccination rates could save lives.
Although it is unclear how many federal employees have requested a religious exemption for religious reasons, union officials claim that there will be many. According to the Labor Department, an accommodation cannot be denied if it places an undue burden upon the employer.
Although the requirements for masks and vaccines vary between states, most allow exemptions for certain medical conditions, religious or philosophical objections. These exemptions have been increasing in popularity, especially for parents who wish to protect their children's health.
This allowance was established by the 1964 federal Civil Rights Act, which states that employers must make reasonable accommodation for employees who object because of their "sincerely held" religious beliefs.
According to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, a religious belief doesn't have to be recognized by any organized religion. It can also be unusual, new or "seem unreasonable or illogical to others". It cannot be based solely on social or political ideas.
Employers are now faced with the dilemma of deciding what religious belief is legitimate and what is not.
The COVID-19 vaccines are not opposed by many major religious groups. The rollout of COVID-19 vaccines has provoked heated debates due to the long-standing role cell lines derived directly from fetal tissue played in the research and development and testing of many vaccines and other medicines.
Roman Catholic leaders in New Orleans, St. Louis and elsewhere went so far as calling Johnson & Johnson's COVID-19 shot "morally corrupted." J&J insists that the vaccine does not contain any fetal tissue.
The Vatican's doctrine office also stated that Catholics can receive COVID-19 vaccines based on research using cells from aborted fetuses. Pope Francis has stated that it would be suicide not to have the shot and has been fully vaccinated using the Pfizer formula.
New York state legislators have tried to make the vaccine compulsory for all medical workers. There are no religious exemptions. A federal judge stopped the state from enforcing this rule Tuesday to allow workers the opportunity to claim that it was illegal due to the absence of an opt-out.
Andrew Kurtyko is a registered nurse and is seeking a religious exemption from the vaccine. He is also planning to travel to Florida with his 18 year-old daughter.
Kurtyko stated that the U.S. vaccine requirements are "draconian". He was reminded of communist Poland, where he grew-up before he and his family immigrated from Poland in 1991. He believes that fetal stem cells were used in the creation of the vaccine. He called Pope Francis' advice to get vaccinated his "own opinion".
In the United States, officials, doctors, and community leaders are trying to help people avoid COVID-19 and other vaccine requirements.
Jackson Lahmeyer, a pastor in Tulsa, Oklahoma is providing a "religious exempt" form that can be downloaded from his church's website. He also provides links to suggested donations. The 29-year old is running as a Republican for the U.S. Senate.
Anybody interested can have the form signed by a religious leader. Lahmeyer may also sign the form if the person donates to the church. In just three days, more than 35,000 people downloaded and completed the form.
"We are not anti-vaxxers. Lahmeyer stated that they are just pro-freedom. "A lot of these people have already received the vaccine. They don't believe it's fair that someone else should be forced to take the vaccine or lose their job.
However, obtaining a religious exemption requires more than just signing a form. Some states have changed their policies in response to measles outbreaks at schools over the last decade. Instead of using an online form, some states now require a signed affidavit by a religious leader. California eliminated non-medical exemptions in 2015.
Some employers take a tough line. United Airlines informed employees last week, that religious exemptions would be granted and they will be placed on unpaid leave while new coronavirus testing procedures take place.
Michel Moore, the Police Chief in Los Angeles, said that he awaits guidance from the city's personnel department regarding how to handle exemption requests. Unless they are granted an exemption for religious or medical reasons, the city has ordered that all municipal employees be vaccinated before Oct. 5. The policy is being challenged by a group of LAPD officers.
Eric Garcetti, Los Angeles Mayor, issued a warning to those who are considering filing for exemptions. "We won't tolerate the abuses of these exemptions by people who just don't want vaccinated." Anyone considering filing disingenuous exemption requests, I urge you to reconsider.
A mandate from Gov. Washington applies to approximately 60,000 Washington state employees. Jay Inslee requires that all state employees be fully vaccinated before Oct. 18, or they will lose their jobs unless they receive a religious or medical exemption or an accommodation that allows for them to continue working.
More than 3,800 workers requested religious exemptions as of Tuesday. Officials stressed that while 737 exemptions have been granted so far, they do not guarantee continued employment.
After the exemption has been approved, every agency must evaluate whether the employee is able to continue their job while receiving an accommodation and ensuring safety at work. So far, seven accommodations have been granted.
Tara Lee, spokeswoman for Inslee, stated that the process could help to distinguish between a deeply held personal belief or a sincerely held religious belief.
Arkansas' Conway Regional Health System is privately owned and operated by 5% of its staff.
The hospital sent employees a form listing a variety of common medications, including Tylenol and Preparation H, as well as Preparation H, Preparation H, and Tums. It claimed that these medicines were created or tested with fetal cell line cells.
It asks for people to sign the form and attest that their sincerely held religious beliefs are consistent and true.
Matt Troup, Conway Regional Health CEO and President, stated that staff who are sincere should not hesitate to agree to the medication list.