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Religious scholars: Getting vaccinated is an act of love for thy neighbor

Those looking in the Bible for a reason to not get vaccinated likely won’t find it
Published: Aug. 24, 2021 at 7:44 PM EDT|Updated: Aug. 24, 2021 at 8:07 PM EDT
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LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WAVE) - A common exemption to mandatory vaccinations is an individual’s religious beliefs but those looking in the Bible for a reason to not get vaccinated won’t find it, according to religious scholars. In fact, they said by looking closely enough, the opposite would be found.

To say it is a person’s right to refuse getting vaccinated against COVID-19 because of their religious beliefs, according to scholars, is contrary to the teachings of Christianity.

“But there really is no basis for that in scripture,” Bellarmine University theology professor Gregory Hillis said. “There’s no basis for that in tradition. In fact, the tradition itself emphasizes the need for the common good.”

Hillis references both the old and new testament where the Bible repeats the verse, “thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself.” The words are the foundation for the Judeo-Christian belief in working for the greater good, an idea not exclusive among world religions.

“There is no major religion that opposes the vaccine,” Hillis said. “And in fact, from a Catholic perspective, the Pope has been very clear about this that there is a moral obligation to receive the vaccine, that it’s an act of love.”

Following the Food and Drug Administration’s approval of the 2-shot Pfizer vaccine for COVID-19, all Bellarmine students and staff have 45 days to get vaccinated. However, people are still allowed to request an exemption based on religious beliefs and requests are reviewed by a committee.

“I think this is a place where culture and Christianity are in conflict,” New Testament Professor Susan Garrett at the Louisville Presbyterian Theological Seminary said. “We have a long tradition of people valuing the rights of the individual over the rights of other people, and over … the gospel command to care of one another.”

If someone is denied an exemption, going to court could be an option to prove religious discrimination. However, University of Louisville law professor Samuel Marcosson said it would not be an easy case to win.

“The employer would be able to say we respect your religious beliefs, but we can’t accommodate those beliefs without endangering our customers, without endangering our business,” Marcosson said. “Because people will be reluctant to come in if they don’t feel safe. And therefore, it would be a hardship for us to accommodate you.”

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