Many people call and ask our office whether they can avoid an employer’s mandate to be COVID-19 vaccinated by claiming a religious exemption. It is true that New Jersey’s Law Against Discrimination prohibits, “any employer to impose upon a person as a condition of obtaining or retaining employment, including opportunities for promotion, advancement or transfers, any terms or conditions that would require a person to violate or forego a sincerely held religious practice or religious observance … unless, after engaging in a good faith effort, the employer demonstrates that it is unable to reasonably accommodate the employee’s religious observance or practice without undue hardship on the conduct of the employer’s business.” N.J.S.A. 10:5-12(q)(1) (emphasis added). This means that if an employee can demonstrate they are an observant member of a religion who’s sincerely held religious belief forbids them from receiving vaccines they should be able to legally require their employer to accommodate their alleged need for a vaccine exemption, and instead, have the employer apply methods of mitigating the spread of the coronavirus such as requiring periodic proof of negative test results and social distancing in the workplace. However, this begs the question as to whether the tenet of any recognized religion prohibits their followers from receiving vaccine shots. A non-exhaustive search reveals that none of the major recognized religions prohibits vaccinations.
The Christian faith consists of multiple different denominations which may differ in theological approach to vaccines. However, the great majority of Christian denominations have no objection to vaccination including the following: Roman Catholicism, Eastern Orthodox, Oriental Orthodox, Amish, Anglican, Baptist, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (Mormon), Congregational, Episcopalian, Jehovah’s Witness, Lutheran, Mennonite, Methodist (including African Methodist Episcopal), Quaker, Christian Scientist, Pentecostal, Presbyterian, Seventh Day Adventist, and Unitarian-Universalist. www.vumc.org/health-wellness/news-resource-articles/immunizations-and-religion.There are certain Christian denominations which object to vaccinations including the Dutch Reformed Congregations (however, others within the faith accept immunizations as a gift from God), and certain faith healing denominations such as the Faith Tabernacle, Church of the First Born, Faith Assembly, and End Time Ministry. Id.
Notwithstanding no protestant based religious proscription on doing so, 45% of white evangelical adults said they would not be vaccinated, according to a Pew Research Center survey conducted earlier this year. According to Dr. Andrew Wong in his opinion piece published in USA Today this summer, “That amounts to more than 45 million Americans or 14% of the population, based on the 2020 Census of American Religion. If this group alone accepted the COVID-19 vaccine, we could begin to close in on herd immunity and move beyond this painful and deadly season.”
As to Catholicism, in 2017, The Pontifical Academy for Life issued a Clarification on the medical and scientific nature of vaccination in collaboration with the Italian Bishops’ Conference and the Association of Italian Catholic Doctors which concluded by stating, “We believe that all clinically recommended vaccinations can be used with a clear conscience and that the use of such vaccines does not signify some sort of cooperation with voluntary abortion. While the commitment to ensuring that every vaccine has no connection in its preparation to any material of originating from an abortion, the moral responsibility to vaccinate is reiterated in order to avoid serious health risks for children and the general population.” mycatholicdoctor.com/our-services/vaccines. In response to the COVID-19 vaccines, The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops published two new documents affirming these concepts. Id.
Judaism supports vaccination as an action to maintain health, as well as a parental responsibility to protect children against future infection. www.vumc.org. The use of vaccines is “judged based on concepts of medical law contained in halachic codes” and is therefore encouraged. www.verywellfamily.com/religious-exemptions-to-vaccines
Islam has no prohibition to vaccination. The Organization of Islamic Conference and 15th annual conference of the International Fiqh Council both concluded that vaccination is acceptable under Islam. www.vumc.org. The Islamic Organization for Medical Sciences concluded that porcine gelatin used in vaccines is acceptable. Id.
None of the four major branches of Hinduism are opposed to vaccines. verywellfamily.com
In an interview for BeliefNet, Rev. John Carmichael of the Church of Scientology stated that there are no precepts or strictures about vaccinations within Scientology. www.vumc.org.
If you believe you are the victim of discrimination because your employer refuses to reasonably accommodate your medical condition or sincerely held religious belief, call the attorneys at Mashel Law, LLC for immediate help or fill out the contact form on this page. At Mashel Law, LLC, located in Marlboro, New Jersey, we are dedicated to protecting the rights of employees.