PEORIA – There’s no question that President Joe Biden’s COVID-19 vaccine mandate is a complicated proposition for businesses in the region, and a proliferation of religious exemptions has the potential to make matters worse.
Since most businesses typically assess each exemption request on an individual basis, a high volume of requests could overwhelm some businesses. If those requests are accepted, then businesses must make accommodations that could potentially be distressing, said Monica Hendrickson, administrator of the City / County of Peoria Department of Health.
“The amount of testing, the type of testing – right now a lot of our testing is nasal. Some religious groups add that they cannot do nasal testing because that is also part of the same moral obligation, this which is really difficult because the saliva tests are very, very limited. I think there is not much we can do about accommodation, “she said.
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Companies currently developing policies to deal with the new mandate have asked the PCCHD for help, Hendrickson said, but it’s an issue the Department of Health – which is also an employer – is also grappling with. , she said.
“These are things that we are working with at the state level, and the state is working with their legal department to interpret that, as well as locally with all of our legal advisers as well,” she said.
Here are the answers to some frequently asked questions about religious exemptions to COVID-19 vaccination.
Are companies required to accept religious exemptions from COVID-19 vaccination?
No. Most employers will review exemption requests, but acceptance is not guaranteed.
Title VII under the Civil Rights Act of 1964 requires employers to provide accommodations for an employee’s sincere religious belief in regards to vaccine requirements. But the law provides for exceptions when it comes to undue hardship for the employer. The employer could say no based on the fact that hosting a person could potentially put the workplace at significant health risk from the spread of COVID-19, said Daniel Conkle, professor at the Maurer School of Law at Indiana University, in an interview with the Indianapolis star.
“And my feeling is that the courts would probably agree with the employer in those contexts,” Conkle said.
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How do employers in the region handle requests for religious exemptions?
At Bradley University, personal and philosophical reasons for not getting the vaccine are insufficient and will be denied, said university spokeswoman Renee Charles.
“Each request will be carefully considered on a case-by-case basis against established guidelines and contraindications,” she said. “Each case must be supported by specific documentation.”
OSF HealthCare and UnityPoint Health, organizations that announced required COVID vaccinations ahead of the federal mandate, are also reviewing each exemption request on a case-by-case basis. OSF requires statements and documents to prove sincere religious beliefs, practices and observances, according to a statement released by the hospital. UnityPoint Health examines each case by committee “to ensure a consistent and fair application of Title VII,” according to a statement issued by its head office.
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Why would vaccination be a religious concern?
The fact that fetal cell lines were used in vaccine development has been a sticking point for people with certain religious beliefs. Some religious leaders have also cited other reasons for avoiding the vaccine, promoting the idea that it is not tested or that it is dangerous.
However, a large number of religious leaders have actively promoted the vaccine. Reverend Robert Jeffress, a major figure in the pro-Trump evangelical community and head of the Dallas First Baptist Church, which has 12,000 members, recently said there was no credible religious argument against vaccines, according to Newsweek . Jeffress later told The Associated Press that his staff did not provide religious exemptions for church members seeking to avoid the vaccination warrant.
Locally, Northwoods Community Church in Peoria recently offered to help their members’ religious exemption requests through a form on their website.
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For some religious leaders, getting vaccinated is another way of “loving your neighbor”. Pope Francis recently joined bishops from North and South America for a video encouraging church members to get vaccinated against COVID-19.
“Getting vaccinated which is authorized by the respective authorities is an act of love,” Francois said in Spanish on the video. “Getting vaccinated is a simple but profound way to take care of each other, especially the most vulnerable. I pray to God that each of us can make our own little gesture of love. No matter how small, l love is always great. Small gestures for a better future. ”
Leslie Renken can be reached at (309) 370-5087 or [email protected] Follow her on Facebook.com/leslie.renken.