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Religious exemptions for not getting COVID-19 shot not likely to stand up in court: Lawyer

WJLA – Washington D.C. logo WJLA – Washington D.C. 5 days ago Adrianna Hopkins
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Some people may have medical and religious reasons which prevent them from getting a vaccine -- but what about the COVID-19 vaccine?

7News previously explored your chances of getting a medical exemption, but, how likely are you to be granted a religious exemption from a government agency or company’s COVID vaccine mandate? 

Anchor Adrianna Hopkins spoke to a lawyer who’s taken religious exemption cases to the Supreme Court. Most recently, he successfully defended the baker who refused to make a wedding cake for a gay couple in Colorado based on his religious beliefs. 

Douglas Laycock is the Robert E. Scott Distinguished Professor at the University of Virginia School of Law and is a staunch supporter of religious exemptions. However, he does not support a religious exemption to COVID vaccine mandates for many reasons and he thinks the courts would agree.

SEE ALSO | Texas governor orders ban on private company vaccine mandate

Laycock says one reason is, religious exemptions to this vaccine mandate “endanger the lives of other people around the person who’s been exempted.” 

The other major problem is “the extreme difficulty of determining whether the objection is really religious and sincere. When we get one or a few religious exemptions and we’re not sure about sincerity, the courts tend to let it go, they’re reluctant to inquire about sincerity. But when we get thousands or millions of exemption claims the sincerity is in doubt. Then the judicial reaction is just to deny all of them. That’s why you can’t get a religious exemption when we say it’s against your religion to pay taxes,” he explained. He explained, based on research “we do know that most of these claims are not sincerely religious. The anti-vaxxers fake religious claims. They have tips on how to claim religious exemptions when they’re not really religious. No major religious teaches opposition to vaccine.”

When asked whether it’s reasonable for a government or company to offer a religious exemption in a pandemic, Laycock said “no! Certainly not doing this pandemic where it’s killed 700,000 people.”

He also said he doesn’t foresee any successful challenges to vaccine mandates that don’t offer or grant religious exemptions. 

“Anything is possible and maybe the judges are so polarized right now that they’ll change the law. But courts have always rejected exemption claims to vaccination mandates. The law has been settled for a very long time. It makes sense under very clearly stated principles that there’s a compelling government interest in requiring vaccines. They don’t just protect you, they protect all the people around you," Laycock said.

Watch the full interview below: 

Caption: 7News Anchor Adrianna Hopkins spoke to Douglas Laycock, a lawyer who’s taken religious exemption cases to the Supreme Court. (7News)

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