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Claiming a Religious Exemption (RE) from An Employer

Timing of a Claim of Religious Exemption

  1. Wait until the mandate is announced before claiming an exemption. A premature claim could put a target on your back unnecessarily. Also, if you wait until the policy is announced, you will have additional information about what the standard will be to approve REs.
  2. Look to see if there is a RE form provided and how it is to be submitted.
  3. Ask around to find out what others are doing. If other REs are approved, or if some have been denied, that is useful information.

 

Form of Religious Exemption

  1. If a form is provided, use that. Otherwise, the following can guide the development of a letter RE. Keep a record of the filing of the RE, and a copy of the RE and response received.
  2. Simply asserting that you have a "sincerely held" (using the language of Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act) religious basis for refusing a vaccine may be enough for some employers. There, the less said, the better. For most, however, an explanation of the theological basis for the exemption may be required.
  3. Some employers may ask for a letter from your church or try to contradict your claim with a published statement from your church. A RE need notbe supported by the view of a church you attend. It could be in opposition to the view of that church. What matters is your sincerely held belief.
  4. The RE could be a letter, or an affidavit signed before a notary.  If a notarized form is required, certainly it should be provided.

 

Contents of Religious Exemption

  1. It is wise to state that you have a "sincerely held religious belief."  That is the language of Title VI, and the requirements of the EEOC.
  2. When giving reasons for your RE, use your own words.
  3. Avoid statements that are political, legal or scientific in nature. Stick to your religious beliefs.
  4. Objections could be made to those claiming a RE to the COVID-19 vaccine, based on the person having previously received other vaccinations.  There are several ways to anticipate and address this claim.
    • Unlike all other vaccinations, many people hold a sincere religious belief this injection is based on experimental gene therapy.
    • Unlike all other vaccinations, many people hold a sincere religious belief that this injection appears to be a precursor to the Mark of the Beast, reducing the inhibitions of persons to take that mark when we get to that point.
    • All three COVID-19 vaccines were developed, tested or manufactured using cell lines derived from aborted fetal tissue. This is also true of many other vaccinations, but if this is new information to the person in question, it can provide the basis for a RE.It is better to assert an RE, than to request a RE.
  5. Claiming that the vaccine is neither safe nor effective would seem not to be the basis of a RE. Again, stick to your religious reasons.
  6. Some have asked about having a lawyer write a letter to support a RE claim, but it would seem better to wait until the employer asks for more information or denies the RE.

Adding Other Legal Arguments

  1. Adding legal arguments dilutes the RE.  They may be relied on later.
  2. It is better NOT to request an accommodation, which uses the language of Title VII.   https://www.eeoc.gov/laws/guidance/section-12-religious-discrimination
  3. It is possible to assert that the Free Exercise Clause of the First Amendment (and/or the constitutions of certain states, such as Virginia) is a jurisdictional barrier to government to intrude on a part of your life which is outside the control of the state. However, this understanding of the Free Exercise Clause is not widely accepted.

Accommodation: Testing, Masking and Distancing

It is probably best to defer assertions of exemption from burdens imposed on those obtaining RE's – such as testing, masking, and distancing – until the RE from the vaccine is granted.

DisclaimerThe observations in this blog are not intended to provide and do not constitute legal advice. Rather, they are general principles that may be helpful. Please be informed that there is no attorney-client relationship between us until and unless we have both signed a written retainer agreement. If you have a legal problem, consult a lawyer practicing in your jurisdiction.

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