Exemptions to the COVID-19 Vaccine: And an update on the federal vaccine mandates

I’ve had a ton of questions about the status of the various federal COVID-19 vaccine mandates (OSHA, federal contractors, CMS). In this post I’ll explain (1) the status of these mandates; and (2) strategies for filing medical/religious exemptions. If you have questions on mandates or exemptions, comment and I’ll do my best to answer.

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I think ultimately the best Buddhist religious no-vax position is simply, No, it is against my religion, against my sincere religious beliefs. If we are asked to “justify” this by someone with no understanding of Buddhism, it might be hard to explain. But there is nothing in federal law that says we need to do anything more than have a sincerely held belief and state that we do. In fact, we should not even need to appeal to federal law. The “unalienable” religious right stated (emphasized is the better word) in the US Constitution is enough. A new Kansas law makes this point very clearly:

Notwithstanding any provision of law to the contrary, if an employer implements a COVID-19 vaccine requirement, the employer shall exempt an employee from such requirement, without punitive action, if the employee submits a written waiver request to the employer stating that complying with such requirement would:

(2) violate sincerely held religious beliefs of the employee, as evidenced by an accompanying written statement signed by the employee.

(b) An employer shall grant an exemption requested in accordance with this section based on sincerely held religious beliefs without inquiring into the sincerity of the request.

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Note carefully the last clause: “without inquiring into the sincerity of the request.” This how it should be. I believe we should stand firm, politely declare no-vax is our sincere belief and more or less leave it at that. You will probably need to write something about right livelihood and Buddhist moral responsibility. If your employer fires you anyway, document everything and if you have the inclination sue them. Lawsuits, especially class-action ones, are the only way in our society to police interpretations of our laws. Employers do not want this burden, and thus are often checked by it. Major US car manufacturers have already backed off vax mandates for these reasons, among others. ABN

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