Attorney: Most religious exemptions for mandatory vaccines will fail

CHARLOTTE — More companies and governments are requiring employees to get the COVID-19 vaccine.

In fact, on Wednesday, President Joe Biden met virtually with chief executive officers from companies that are requiring the vaccine such as United Airlines, Kaiser Permanente and a small business owner in South Carolina. The president is encouraging more companies to do the same.

But as more companies make the requirement, some people are looking for a way to avoid getting the vaccine, including trying to obtain a religious exemption. Channel 9′s Ken Lemon spoke to an attorney that expects employers to push back against allowing this type of exemption.

Employment attorney Josh Van Kamp normally fights for the rights of employees against their employers. But Channel 9 showed him a social media post from someone with Freedom House Church, which has multiple churches in the Charlotte area, informing members about a religious exemption form that’s available to them for mandatory COVID-19 vaccines.

The post read that if you are a member, “we will write a religious exemption for you,” and advises that if your pastor refuses to do the same then “find a new church.”

A post by the Cathedral of St. Patrick in Dilworth did not offer to write a letter but directed followers to a link with a form letter created by a group called the National Catholic Bioethics Center.

Van Kamp said he believes those letters will fail in 99% of cases.

“You better get ready to back it up,” he said.

Van Kamp said employers may fight religious exemption letters because if an unvaccinated person infects a coworker, the company may be liable.

“I would be more concerned about employees suing me for having a dangerous workplace,” he said. “It can’t just be a personal belief. It has to be based specifically on the teachings of that person’s church.”

He said if members of your faith have been vaccinated or supported the vaccination -- such as the Pope -- then that can undercut your claim as well. In addition, if you had the flu shot then it’s unlikely you’ll be able to morally object to a COVID vaccination.

He said, most importantly, companies can’t put workers at risk.

“They have a duty to protect workers from recognized hazards and COVID-19 is a recognized hazard. It can kill you,” he said.

On Wednesday, the Catholic Diocese announced that the Pope had been vaccinated and that leaders of the church support the vaccination. They said the group that published that form letter caters to people of the faith, but they are not a direct part of the ministry.

(WATCH: CDC recommends masks be worn in schools regardless of vaccination status)

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