Religious liberty is dead in the United States and it died when churches were told to shut their doors and they happily ceded this authority to the government. Moreover these same churches groveled at the government’s feet to reopen and return to the government’s new normal. Yet The Gospel Coalition has a lawyer argue that we should not seek religious exemptions for fear of spoiling religious exemptions for the next fight. John Melcon writes Why Your Employer Can Deny Your ‘Religious’ Vaccine Exemption.
To be clear: I’m not arguing Christians should be vaccinated, or that Christians should necessarily acquiesce to employer vaccine mandates. I’m only arguing Christians shouldn’t demand religious exemptions if they choose not to be vaccinated.
I’ve reviewed many of these vaccine exemption requests. Few, if any, plausibly assert that receiving the vaccine would violate the employee’s sincerely held religious beliefs. Under current law, that’s enough for employers to turn them down.
Melcon believes that the law is the operating principle here and that could not be further from the truth. Judges are politicians, a fact lawyers seldom admit. Everyone of the Supreme Court Justices, for example, is a politician just like a Senator. There minds on whether or not vaccine mandates are legal and where religious exemptions fall in line is predetermined, because we are dealing with an issue with religious fervor. Branch Covidianism has infected all areas of life and government. The courts have not proved to be an exception, institutionally speaking. A Branch Covidian judge is unlikely to agree with a religious exemption because Christianity is a hostile religion to their newfound faith.
If an employer wants to impose a vaccine mandate, they will. If they want to deny a religious exemption, they will. If they don’t want to fight the issue, they won’t. Whether or not the Is are dotted and the Ts are crossed is secondary to the religious convictions of those determining the validity of the exemption.
Melcon itemizes his general objections to religious exemption arguments, and while we cannot defend those, we do recognize that the religious exemption found on the Evangelical Dark Web Hub, written by JD Hall, does not fall into his criticisms.
There’s more at stake here than whether any particular “religious” exemption request is approved or denied (no doubt many employers are rubber-stamping these simply to avoid labor shortages). The real problem is that when Christians present contrived demands for religious exemptions, they risk jeopardizing the whole undertaking.
Treating religious exemptions like a wildcard to be played whenever we don’t like the rules cheapens the concept and encourages backlash. Indeed, courts are already rebuffing COVID-related religious-exemption requests, creating a harmful precedent that will be used against Christians in future cases.
This is the “cultural capital” mentality we have seen for years. Melcon believes that this is not the hill to die on, so he wants Christians to not try to keep their jobs via religious exemptions. This is cowardly thinking. The Branch Covidian believes every hill is a hill to kill on, which is why they never want to let go of the self righteous feeling they get by imposing their beliefs on their fellow man despite the harm it has caused to their neighbors and the death toll of their failure.
Meanwhile, gospel-minded Christians are about to face—and are already facing—an onslaught of legislative and judicial actions directly threatening their ability to evangelize, teach, discipline, counsel, and associate according to their cherished convictions. Why imperil the vitality of religious exemptions when they’re about to be needed most?
“But we must stop government intrusion now,” some will say. Maybe so. Yet asserting flimsy demands for religious vaccine exemptions will have the opposite effect. It’s a shortsighted strategy that will end up fueling government overreach, not curtailing it. It’s like mowing over the dandelions in your grass instead of digging them up at the roots.
If you loathe COVID vaccine mandates—as many do—then engage in public advocacy, use politics, and vote with your feet. But if you care deeply about religious liberty, please think twice before demanding a “religious” exemption.
Melcon raises the Equality Act as the issue where religious exemptions will be needed, as though this bill has any chance of being passed in this legislative session. But Melcon is callously arguing that Christians should take the L and retreat from the issue. This remains the year of no retreat, and this is a hill to die on.