Do Vaccine Mandates Violate Religious Freedom? Rethinking the Religious

I read the piece, and it is pretty good.

The author (Dr. Faust!) summarizes the current state of knowledge to be the following:

*Second doses of Pfizer will cause approximately 107 cases of myocarditis per million recipients among males 16-29, and perhaps as many as 150 cases per million among the peak risk group of men 25-29. The risk from a third dose isn’t quantified, but is implied to be somewhat higher than a second dose.
*The CDC initially estimated that a booster vaccine would prevent approximately 100 hospitalization per million young men (16-29), Dr. Faust disagrees because 2 doses of the vaccine work incredibly well (see below); therefore, there is very little additional protection provided by a booster, at least for this demographic.
*The most recent data show that a 2 dose regimen of Pfizer is still 95.5% effective (against a hospitalization endpoint), even in areas with rampant Delta. Further the protection hasn’t waned, the groups with the earliest vaccination had a VE of 93%, and the effectiveness numbers actually increased in September.
*The cost/benefit analysis he is looking at is only for individual risk, it isn’t taking into account changes to community spread.

The one line I would take issue with is this: “In case it isn’t clear yet, these vaccines were not designed to, nor do they provide, long-lasting protection against infection; they were designed to provide long-lasting protection against severe illness and, so far, they do.” This seems like goal-post shifting to me, the original vaccine trials had symptomatic Covid as the clinical end-point, not hospitalization.


It looks as though the CDC is contemplating relocating individuals in order to establish a shielding approach using green zones where households, entire neighborhoods, or optionally the more eerily termed “camps” would house high risk individuals exclusively for their protection from COVID-19.

I’m seriously beginning to think we all might owe Jesse Ventura an apology. He kind of called it more than a decade ago on TrueTv. His episode about FEMA camps that look a lot like prisons (if you ignore the childrens playgrounds behind the razor wire), but it’s for the “residents” own good.

I’ll attach a PDF of the CDC article in case the page gets scrubbed.

Interim Operational Considerations for Implementing the Shielding Approach to Prevent COVID-19 Infections in Humanitarian Settings | CDC.pdf (108.6 KB)

Well, that might make more sense than trying to make the entire world safe from COVD-19.

It was last updated July 2020. I don’t think it will be scrubbed.

Quarantining the sick or the high-risk, instead of everybody was the drum that many conservatives were banging at that time.

Regardless, it’s not about what to do here. It’s about what to do in “humanitarian settings” which are described further as “camps, displaced populations and low-resource settings.” In other words, they are talking about what to do about Covid in refugee camps.

These places are already jails. Complete with fences. Not allowed to leave. Not allowed to work. It’s awful, but it’s generally better than being dead, which is typically why people flee to them.

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In the context of this discussion I’m surprised that no one is acknowledging the elephant in the room, high risk and low risk are completely subjective, and it would take nothing more than an executive order to declare unvaccinated individuals as high risk.

Don’t get too comfortable with the phrasing that sounds all acceptable, it’s the pudding that matters, not the jingle.

I did not read the whole thing, but it sounds like what proponents of the Great Barrington Declaration and other Covid doves/dissidents were saying when the pandemic began. People like me.

It may have been a better strategy, but in the short run, it looks to have been more expensive and invasive of the civil liberties of high risk people. Authorities decided to ask everyone to give up some civil liberties rather than ask some to give up more while others gave up none.

It’s important to remember that among Covid doves, including Jay Bhattacharya, who has publicly acknowledged this, the standard position was that letting the virus spread to achieve herd immunity while shielding vulnerable populations in designated locations was inevitable. We were going to have to do it because it was unrealistic to expect that an effective vaccine would ever be produced. Delay just meant prolonging the inevitable.

Well, that was very wrong. In fact, based on what Mr. Norris has told us, if not for red tape that vaccines may have been released even sooner than they were. Only those at the top or in specialized roles would have known about the vaccine development.

The effective vaccines render the debate about shielding and herd immunity moot. It’s important to acknowledge this. The vaccines also vindicate the strategy pursued by our civil authorities.

Edit: I may have to eat crow if vaccine effectiveness wanes over time, requiring boosters. Even so, I think I’m on solid ground saying that the vaccines, three of them, with demonstrated high effectiveness, changed everything about Covid, mostly for the good.


The other thing I will say is I heard someone (I think it was Jonah Goldberg) say that after 9/11 many liberals became hysterical about the new restrictions imposed on civil liberties following the attacks, as well as the costs of the wars entered into afterwards. Liberals were not adults about the new challenges posed in a post 9/11 world, and the hard choices that had to be made. They just called Bush and Cheney fascists.

Conservatives and Tea Partiers did the same thing with Covid. Given the political situation at the time, it was understandable. But even now, with the passage of time and all that we’ve learned, many will not step back and change course.

I’m dovish about everything. I despise security theater, car seat regulations, and homeschool mother level safetyism of all kinds. I don’t like our troops being everywhere and would rather they come home.

I could be wrong. One thing I do know: I would not have wanted to make the decisions that Gov. Holcomb or President Biden had to make. It’s a high responsibility. I feel sorry for both of them.

Edit: on the 20th anniversary of 9/11, some documentaries were produced for the occasion on two streaming platforms. I watched them. I was struck by how, in the midst of the carnage, chaos and incredible national anger over what happened, George Bush and Dick Cheney had to decide what to do, and all the options were bad. So they chose their way to fail, and we’ve all been complaining about it since.

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That ship has sailed, Ben. Biden already has his booster, doesn’t he?

They were right. What else can be said at this point? It’s easy to have sympathy for Bush and Cheney in the midst of the dynamic situation of an attack, but the reality is that we have had to live with the bad decisions they made for a very, very long time, with some (taking shoes off anyone?) likely to persist for the duration of the regime itself.

It’s clear to me that America’s National government has almost zero ability to course correct on a bad policy. Kudos for Biden for getting us out of Afghanistan, but that was a pretty near-run thing and he had to drag the entire establishment kicking and screaming. (And it’s possible that like the Iraq withdrawal, the disastrous way in which it was executed may prove to be a huge strategic blunder.) Kudos to Newt Gingrich for getting rid of the national 55 mph speed limit. After that, examples of the national government course-correcting on bad policies start to get pretty thin on the ground.

In light of that, it seems that a less-is-more policy is the most prudent.

We elected a President with poor judgment and we have been paying for it ever since. That their legacies would show that they had poor judgment is the least we could ask for it.


The one thing that has been consistent for 20 years is that there is no exit strategy. Based on the risk standard of the latest CDC guidance, we will be wearing masks forever. Getting vaccinated does not matter. Children in school will be wearing masks forever because blue cities and suburbs have to stick it to Trump and Trump supporters.

Everything is Afghanistan.


Close. It would take a CDC description, and yeah, the President could lean on them.

But it would take more than an executive order to turn the USA into a refugee camp.

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Well put.

Ten characters.

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Well my wife just brought this to my attention. Apparently Pfizer has been sending internal emails instructing employees to not reveal that their COVID19 vaccine actually contains aborted fetal tissue.

An auditor for the company took a leave of absence upon the revelation and decided she needed to go public. When confronted with question about the emails, the higher ups are clearly panicked.

Rethinking religious exemptions….?

What actually constitutes a religious exemption?
I keep get hung up on this. You say believing vaccine mandates are a risk to my health or are a tyrannical overrreach do not constitute a religious exemption. They are political or health concerns you might say but not religious. But does not my religious beliefs drive my political and health concerns? They do for me. I could be wrong in my religious beliefs but I don’t see how these areas of life are separated from sincerely held religious beliefs.

In other words I have a hard time compartmentalizing my religious beliefs from the rest of my life. I believe my faith ought to drive all the other areas.

Help me understand then what exactly constitutes a religious exemption?

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I’ll take a swing at it.

When I first began pastoring I looked into the Religious Exemption from Social Security. At the time the basic gist was that you had to be religiously opposed to receiving public benefits. The wording made it quite clear that it couldn’t be a conscientious objection.

Well, I was pretty sure then and remain convinced today that I could have invested that 15.2% in a more wise and helpful manner than the government. I was also convinced then that I didn’t think it wise for the government to be involved in things such as compulsory payment into such a program. I also was convinced that the ill-advised direction of the government to help since FDR was a series of worse and worse decisions. If I were a member of Congress I would work to repeal those things.

In other words, I think it is wrong that I must pay 15.2% for the government to give me back some (or all, or more) than that at the end of my life. They have no business in it to begin with but they are certainly out of line to require it.

But, the wording made it very clear that the exemption wasn’t for those who thought it unwise, but for those who were religiously opposed to receiving government assistance. That is a much harder case to make. You’d have to be opposed to government backed loans for housing, school, and a host of other things. You would have to think them not just unwise but striking at the heart of religion.

It is hard to make such a case with the Old Testament sitting there with pagan governments paying for religious works. It might not be a good decision, but it isn’t anti-God.

But the problem is, my understanding of what is wise is Biblically informed. I didn’t learn it in a secular ethics course. I came to those beliefs because of the Bible.

So, am I opposed to government backed insurance? Yes. It is not good in an ultimate sense. Am I religiously opposed? No, because God has put sovereigns over me that say to pay the tax. And that tax, they tell me, is for my good. I think they’re wrong. But they have commanded and it is not wrong to pay it. The government is trying to help its many children, many of whom would be utterly destitute if not for SSA, to have a bite of bread before they did.

Now, back to vaccines. There are differences, to be sure, but as has been demonstrated before, vaccine mandates are not new. The government may be wrong in its administration of its medicine, but it is trying to keep its citizens from dying.

Have you ever told your son to walk it off only to find out his foot is broken? (I have.) Have you ever resisted taking your child into the doctor and when you did find out they had a simple ear infection and they could’ve been made well days ago? (I have.) Have you ever forced the doctor to see your child because you were concerned and it turned out to be nothing? (I have.) Has a doctor ever missed something life threatening and wanted to send your infant home to their death? (Ours did.)

We make mistakes with everything even when we are trying to be godly. The government makes mistakes all the time with the authority it has been given. That doesn’t mean it is religious because you’d do it differently. It just means they are wrong. If that is the test of whether to obey then we’re all sunk.

(It should be noted that the SSA Religious Exemption is dramatically different than just a few years ago. I’m assuming because of The Affordable Care Act, you have to be opposed to public and private insurance. And it has to be documented historically. See here: SSA Handbook � 1128)


The Religious Exemption for Social Security is not the correct paradigm for evaluating a religious exemption for something like a vaccine mandate. The controlling statute is Title VII of the Civil Rights Act. And that statute specifically identifies moral and ethical beliefs as falling under the definition of “religious.”

I found this summary helpful:

Sometimes whether a particular observance or practice is “religious” may be disputed. Religious practices and observances are generally considered "to include moral or ethical beliefs as to what is right and wrong which are sincerely held with the strength of traditional religious views."5 The belief does not need to be accepted by any religious group and does not need to be accepted by the religious group to which the individual belongs in order to qualify as religious under Title VII.6 Courts have upheld this understanding that a religious belief does not need to meet objective tests of reasonableness, but instead must be a sincerely held belief of the individual regardless of its broader acceptance.7

I think perhaps that we are also forgetting that the issue of preserving life, even our own, is a uniquely Christian duty.

The Westminster Standards equate the failure to do so as murder and/or self murder. Scripture assigns blood guilt for those that don’t provide prophylactic measures around the upstairs patio, if someone where to fall and die. And so even passive negligence in the preservation of life is a religious expectation, not a civil one.

My personal belief is that if authority is used to press someone into taking a particular risk without consideration of the risks for that person, if the person dies there is blood guilt.

The magistrate, whether Christian or not, is still obligated to punish the wicked and reward the righteous. The pastor is called to stand between his flock and those that would devour them.

The inverse of such things means the magistrate is no longer acting as the Lord’s minister, in the same way that a Pastoral minister is not a minister if they do not perform the duties of a minister or meet its qualifications.

Are we to give pastoral honors to Benny Hinn simply because he has a title, or any number of other false teachers who lead the flock astray.

No one’s authority is absolute, we even severe parental rights when their duties are neglected.

This doesn’t mean that all pastors or all ministers or all parents only maintain their authority by the whims of public opinion, but it does mean that they don’t maintain it mere threat of force, or claims to divine ordination, or even appeals to individual sovereignty.

They must in fact maintain the authority of their station by their own works, not by others.

The draft, which has been used in the U.S. since the Civil War, asks men to put their lives on the line to fight in wars not necessarily of their choosing.

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Sure, but your political and health concerns aren’t the exact same thing as your religious beliefs.

I expect that you could land on a different position regarding the Covid vax without changing religions, right? Or even denominations or churches? Would you be disciplined by your elder board if you decided taking the vax was worth the risk, or because you were ordered to by an authority?

Would you/have you disciplined anyone in your church for taking the vax? Or for encouraging others to take the vax?

Do you see how this is different than something like idol worship? Or even paying taxes?

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If the circumstances were different, then yes my faith would move me to a different position.

I’ll be completely honest, I find the discussion of what constitutes a religious exemption to be rather arbitrary and the distinctions being made to actually not be all that helpful. I also don’t find any of it biblical. The closest thing I can find to a religious exemption in the Bible is Daniel asking their overseer to let them eat their own diet. But rather than this being g some principle for all time, I see it as God’s providential care for his people that gave them favor while in captivity.

I don’t see religious pluralism as a principled biblical position but rather believe the civil magistrates have a duty to uphold the one true religion and honor Christ. We should be calling them to bow the knee to Jesus.

That said if a pagan civil government in God’s providence gives favor to Christians through what they call a religious exemption than so be it.

As mentioned above the legal definition of a religious exemption does seem to be very individualized. My main concern in this discussion is that we don’t separate our faith from ethics and politics. A Christian should make sure all they do is to the glory of God alone. Decisions made about vaccines should be made as a Christian exercising wisdom and faith. Yes two different Christians may based on different aspects come to a different decision but neither decision should be separated from their religious principles.


My guess is that if we all woke up tomorrow and found that we were living under a government that explicitly acknowledged the Lordship of Christ and legislated purely according to biblical principles, Pastor Spurgeon would still find that his religious freedom was being violated in one way or another (that is, unless he had been put in charge).

I see no reason why a theonomic government could not come down on the side of vaccine mandates out of biblical principles. So it’s not really about tyranny by a secular government but rather whether Pastor Spurgeon should be allowed to opt out of laws and mandates he doesn’t agree with. Prudentially, I might agree with Pastor Spurgeon, and what’s lost here, I think, is that the argument is really over prudential matters, however informed by religion, rather than a strict matter of conscience.