Religious Rights

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission says employers must provide reasonable accommodations for workers who have sincerely held religious beliefs — unless doing so poses an undue hardship.

It’s been in the news a lot lately with anti-vaxxers hoping that they can use this religious loophole to avoid vaccine mandates and, thus, save their jobs.  Good luck, I say.  I’ve been trying unsuccessfully to get a religious exemption for decades because I have long believed that my acceptance of marijuana as a Rastafarian sacrament should allow me to be able to get high legally and spiritually.

It turns out that I cannot get a religious exemption, and that’s not simply due to the fact that I am a professed Atheist, but because religious exemptions do not apply to substances that the Federal Government considers illegal.  So, knowing this section of the law, I never bothered to try and grow dreadlocks in case I might have to make a court appearance.

Fortunately, the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania does allow medical marijuana, and my hip pain qualifies me for a medical exemption, so long as I scream bloody murder whenever a doctor touches my leg, and I tell them that on a scale of 1 to 10 my pain is at least an 11.

My Pain Level when asked

Religious exemptions work differently from Medical Exemptions, though.  You cannot just get a note from your, priest, rabbi, iman, minister, Pope, ayatollah, witch doctor, or shaman.  This wouldn’t work, anyway since all major religions have recently encouraged their flocks to get vaccinated.  No Church wants to lose parishioners, especially not the parishioners who put paper money in the collection plate.  Pope Francis even says that getting vaccinated is a sign of love.  Christian Scientists, who notoriously believe in the power of prayer over medicine and medical care, do not ban vaccinations. 

God works in mysterious ways, though.  There are new religions springing up, that will give anti-vaxxers a letter promoting a religious exemption, as long as you demonstrate your devotion to the religion by making a good-faith contribution to their church. 

Even this doesn’t always work, though.  Before granting an exemption, employers may probe whether an employee’s religious belief is in fact sincere. They may ask questions about your vaccination history or church attendance.  Those Christians, who only see the inside of a church on Easter and Christmas, don’t qualify.  If the employer determines that your belief is not sincere, it may deny the exemption request.  Getting a Religious exemption now is harder that getting a Conscientious Objector deferment from the Army during the Vietnam era.

Even if an employee’s religious belief is determined to be sincere, it’s still the employer who decides what the reasonable accommodation will be. It does not have to be the accommodation you want.  It could be that they will allow you to remain employed by the company, but you will be put on unpaid leave until either the mandate is changed, or you get vaccinated.

There is another way, though, to get a “reach-around” Religious exemption.  You can claim on high moral ground that you do not put anything in your body that used fetal cells in the research, testing, or production of the product.  The current vaccines all used fetal cells in the research, even though they did not actually use fetal cells in the production of the vaccine.  So, easy peasy, right?  Not so fast.

There’s a big gotcha in this approach to a Religious exemption.  Your employer can force you to sign a sworn statement attesting to the consistent strength of your conviction.  You must state that you do not use ANY products that used fetal cells in the research, testing, or production of the product.  No big deal, you might think, but fetal cells have been around for decades, and they were used in the research or testing of acetaminophen, albuterol, aspirin, Benadryl, Claritin, Ex-Lax, ibuprofen, Lipitor, Motrin, Maalox, Pepto Bismol, Preparation H, Prilosec, Sudafed, Senokot, Tums, Tylenol, Zoloft, and maybe even Flintstone vitamins.  I’m still “researching” that one on my own.  Before you sign that sworn statement, are you sure that none of these items ever appeared on your credit card statement?  Remember that CVS or Walgreens might even have you in their database with a list of every drug they ever sold you.

Think about it.  It reminds me of that car rental scene with all the “F-Bombs” in Airplanes, Trains, and Automobiles?

If you’ve ever taken a Tums for the tummy, you’re f**ked.   Your employer can deny your Religious exemption on the grounds that your objection to fetal cell research is bulls**t. 

Okay, let’s say that your employer believes that you should be granted a religious exemption, they can still deny your case if it causes them undue hardship, and thanks to the tireless work of the Republican party, anything that costs a corporation money is considered an undue hardship.  So, in that case, take another look at the above graphic.  You’re still f**ked.

So, anti-vaxxers, who refuse to wear masks, I leave you with the immortal words of Harrison Ford in the movie Air Force One, “Get off my plane.”

Peace and Love, and all of the above,

Earl

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