Private universities navigate religious vaccination exemptions

Universities implement varying vaccination mandates.

Charlotte McKinley, Freelance Writer

Christian universities across the United States approached the coronavirus vaccine mandates differently. Liberty University in Lynchburg, Virginia, chose not to mandate the vaccine according to its immunizations page whereas Creighton University in Omaha, Nebraska, has mandated that all students be vaccinated. However, Creighton is in the midst of a lawsuit from its students for mandating the vaccine.

RELIGIOUS EXEMPTION

According to Harvard Law Review, religious exemptions highlight the protection of religious beliefs in the U.S. by allowing people to make healthcare decisions based on their convictions.

“In the Civil Rights Act of 1964 under Title Seven, [it] actually does say that you can have a religious exemption from the vaccine, under what is known as a “sincerely held belief” [which] has always been the standard,” junior political science major Richard Villarreal said. “So, if you have a sincerely held belief, you could technically be exempt.”

However, California does not have a religious exemption, but does have a medical exemption clause in its health code. Coronavirus religious exemptions fall under “Any other disease deemed appropriate by the department” in section 11.

PERSONAL CHOICE, NOT A MANDATE

A common precedent for mandated vaccines is Jacobson v. Massachusetts, wherein the Supreme Court held that Massachusetts legitimately exercised its power to protect the public health and safety of its citizens through health mandates. 

On Dec. 11, 2020, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration granted vaccinations for emergency use to combat COVID-19, but Villarreal remains skeptical. 

“I think that getting the vaccine has to be a personal choice that everyone has to make,” Villarreal said. 

BIOLA STUDENTS AND THE VACCINE

Biola strongly recommends the COVID-19 vaccine, according to the university’s Coronavirus Response website. However, clinical nursing students and nursing faculty are required to receive a vaccine to participate at certain clinical sites. Students enrolled in international study abroad programs are also required to receive the vaccine.

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