What Constitutes a “Sincerely Held” Religious Exemption to a Vaccine Mandate?
September 13, 2021
Sweeping new vaccine mandates could force millions of vaccine holdouts to become inoculated against COVID-19, but individuals with earnest religious beliefs or disabilities that interfere with inoculation may still be exempt from getting jabbed.
It is new territory for many employers navigating the issue, given how risky a proposition it is to allow unvaccinated employees to mingle with, and possibly infect, colleagues in the workplace.
Many large corporations already require COVID-19 vaccination to keep employees safe from the virus, and must, under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, offer exemptions to individuals with either a disability or “sincerely held” religious belief that prevents them from getting the vaccine.
The Biden administration’s broad prevention measures announced Thursday expand vaccine mandates further, affecting roughly 100 million Americans and shining a new light on exemption claims and how employers can verify their legitimacy.
No major religious denomination in the U.S. opposes vaccination outright. But an individual’s “sincerely held” religious belief does not have to be part of an organized-religion mandate to be considered a valid reason for exemption from getting the vaccine.
“It can be a personal, sincerely held religious belief which arises from the very nature of freedom of religion articulated in the First Amendment,” said Domenique Camacho Moran, a labor attorney at New York-based law firm Farrell Fritz.
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