As Republican lawmakers rage against President Joe Biden’s sweeping vaccine mandates, the Associated Press reported that religious exemptions are becoming more widely used as a “loophole” to avoid getting a COVID-19 vaccine.
But a Trump-loving preacher at a Texas megachurch has decreed that there is “no credible religious argument” for turning down a shot, the Associated Press said.
The Rev. Robert Jeffress, a pastor at the 12,000-member First Baptist Church in Dallas, told the news agency that he and his staff are neither “offering” exemption letters nor “encouraging” members of their congregation to seek out religious exemptions from coronavirus vaccine mandates.
“Christians who are troubled by the use of a fetal cell line for the testing of the vaccines would also have to abstain from the use of Tylenol, Pepto Bismol, Ibuprofen, and other products that used the same cell line if they are sincere in their objection,” said Jeffress in an email.
Jeffress, who once suggested that he would vote for former President Donald Trump over somebody who embodies the teachings of Jesus, is one of many religious leaders who have recently opposed the use of religious exemption letters.
The AP reported that leaders of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America said Thursday that, aside from medical reasons, “there is no exemption in the Orthodox Church for Her faithful from any vaccination for religious reasons.”
Similarly, the news agency reported that the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and The Roman Catholic Archdiocese of New York have also said that they are not in support of exemption letters, according to the AP.
But not all churches share the same view. The AP said that some Catholic bishops, including those at The Colorado Catholic Conference, have made it easier to object to the vaccine on religious grounds by posting online templates for a letter that priests can sign.
One pastor in Tulsa has even said that he will sign a religious exemption letter if people donate to his church, The Washington Post reported.
According to a senior fellow for religious freedom at the Freedom Forum in Washington, religious exemptions are likely to be at the center of fierce legal battles in the coming months.
“As vaccine mandates continue to expand in schools and workplaces, there is bound to be more litigation on the issue of religious exemptions – especially in cases where no exemptions (except medical) are allowed,” said Charles Haynes in an email to The Washington Post.