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Exercising Religious Exemptions in the Age of Mandatory Vaccinations

US religious freedom - We the People

Many Americans have already filed complaints with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) after President Joe Biden mandated vaccinations in the private sector. 

Some of the uncertainty comes because the administration's rules are still being written. It's leading to questions ranging from religious exemptions to testing options, to a timeline for making it all happen. 

Roger Gannam, assistant vice president of Legal Affairs with Liberty Counsel, says they're already helping people concerned about forced vaccinations find safe options to make their own medical choices. 

"It's unconstitutional as a matter of separation of powers," Gannam said. "The federal government has no business reaching into private employers and giving this kind of mandate." 

He explained how the president is pulling his power from OSHA, the Labor Department's safety enforcer, using the growing infection rate as a catalyst to mandate vaccinations.  

"We're seeing hundreds of people call us asking for advice on religious exemptions, many have filed their own complaints to the EEOC," Gannam said. "It's inevitable there will be a lot of litigation against not only the private employers but against the government itself because of this." 

Legal experts at Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) plan to do just that, saying, "Should these mandates encroach on the First Amendment freedoms and autonomy of religious institutions, ADF stands ready to challenge the administration in federal court." 

Their statement went on to say, "ADF has produced resources to help pastors and church members understand the current law as it relates to religious objections to vaccine mandates."

Last week, Biden said his mandate "is not about freedom or personal choice, it's about protecting yourself and those around you." 

The Biden administration also clarified that OSHA is still, "creating the rules." 

White House Press Secretary, Jen Psaki said in a press conference they would take religious exemptions into consideration, just as they did with the federal employee mandate. 

Gannam says those rights are protected in the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which requires employers to provide reasonable accommodations for employees who object to certain requirements based on "sincerely held" religious beliefs. 

He's encouraging anyone with a religious exemption to exercise their right to do so. 

"The employer cannot get a pastor or any other third part to validate their sincerely held religious belief," Gannam said. "Religious beliefs are personal and they don't require they be the same as someone else or approved by denomination.

Those companies which grant religious accommodations could require those unvaccinated employees to wear masks, be socially distant, and undergo weekly COVID testing, which could lead to an entirely new list of issues such as supply and who pays for the tests. 

Gannam says the decision to exercise a religious exemption is yours and your beliefs are personal, whether it be on the basis of your body being a Holy temple, or refusing to get vaccinated based on research that involved aborted fetal cells.

"If the employer denies the exemption or gives the employee a hard time about that, or if the offered accommodation is not reasonable, then the employee can file a complaint through the EEOC website," Gannam explained. "Often is the case, the employee will have similar protections under their own state's laws and can file a complaint through the state agency." 

For personalized legal counsel, you can go to the organization's website

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