The sticky problem of 'religious exemption' from vaccine mandates

Will vaccine mandate loopholes spark a religious war?

(Image credit: Illustrated | iStock)

Vaccine mandates, many quickly enacted in the wake of the full approval by the FDA of the Pfizer COVID vaccine, have started running into predictable and fierce opposition. Public employee unions in Washington state, Chicago, and elsewhere have voiced objection and even filed lawsuits to keep their members' jobs secure even if they refuse to be vaccinated. California lawmakers withdrew a plan for a state-wide mandate on both and private sector employees, while in Ohio lawmakers prepared a bill that would forbid schools, businesses, and other institutions from requiring employees to get the shot.

I'm modestly optimistic that this reaction will mostly fail. Business groups are strongly in favor of allowing businesses to impose vaccine requirements, and mandates have already proliferated in higher education. The court system has looked favorably on vaccine mandates by schools and hospitals where there is ample precedent from prior vaccines, and will likely stand up for the rights of other businesses and institutions as well against overreaching state governments. And the military has longstanding and clear authority to require those in uniform to receive a vaccine, to threaten them with court martial if the order is refused, and even, if necessary, to force them to do so. Unions and protestors may drag out the process for a while, and deep-red jurisdictions may refuse to impose them, but vaccine requirements are likely to continue to spread nonetheless.

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Noah Millman

Noah Millman is a screenwriter and filmmaker, a political columnist and a critic. From 2012 through 2017 he was a senior editor and featured blogger at The American Conservative. His work has also appeared in The New York Times Book Review, Politico, USA Today, The New Republic, The Weekly Standard, Foreign Policy, Modern Age, First Things, and the Jewish Review of Books, among other publications. Noah lives in Brooklyn with his wife and son.