☕️ Coffee & Covid ☙ Tuesday, August 24, 2021 ☙ Religious Exemption Primer

Today is a kind of special edition where I give you the law and some practical suggestions for navigation your employer’s “religious exemption request” process. We also cover a bunch of regular C&C news in our special C&C way.

🗞 *THE C&C ARMY* POST* 🗞

(*Not a “real” army with tanks and missiles and stuff, just community volunteers for political change; don’t panic!)

☎️ Thanks for all the help yesterday — it meant a lot to us. Today, we’re back to the regular plan — let’s get that special session! To sign up, text 5DAY to 43506 or enroll online at app.txtsignal.io/w/a5f1d78d. Leaving this message at each number: “I want you to convene a special session NOW to pass anti-mask and vaccine discrimination legislation. The time is NOW! Your constituents are suffering!” Should only take about 5–10 minutes.

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🗞*COVID NEWS AND COMMENTARY*

😷 Today, I’m applauding the Indian River School Board for voting to require parents to get doctors to sign medical exemption policy opt-out forms WITHIN SEVEN DAYS. Bravo gentlemen, ladies, and other! 👏👏👏 Thank you for courageously sharing your intellectual disabilities in public, despite the obvious humiliation, and in that way providing a terrific public example of the true failures of the public school system in Indian County. Don’t feel embarrassed because you don’t know that a county of parents won’t be able to get an appointment with a doctor in seven weeks, never mind seven days. It’s not your fault! You guys and gals have really done remarkably well, considering your mental handicaps. Look! You’re even in charge of a school system. Somehow.

💉 Whew! That was a close one. Moments before the safe and effective Pfizer vaccine’s plummeting efficacy could drop below the minimum 50% threshold for approval of a vaccine, the FDA formally approved the drug yesterday, clearing the way for even more vaccine mandates by private employers and government agencies. Because science, that’s why. Now that’s done, we won’t have to worry about Pfizer losing its EUA status by falling below the placebo threshold. It doesn’t matter if it works! You just have to BELIEVE it works.

People, calm down. It’s true that the safe and effective vaccines don’t prevent transmission. It’s true that the safe and effective vaccines don’t stop serious illness. It’s true that the safe and effective vaccines don’t prevent death. The point is, the safe and effective vaccines make serious illness and death less serious and less … well … okay, dead is dead, I suppose. But for SOME people with serious cases, their cases are somewhat less serious after the jab. We think. To some extent. We aren’t sure exactly how much. But we BELIEVE it. Really hard.

💉 Uh-oh! Famous civil rights leader Jesse Jackson and his wife Jacqueline are BOTH in the hospital being treated for serious cases of Covid-19. Oddly, they were both fully dosed with the safe and effective vaccines all the way back in January, when Jackson went on social media getting the jab. Darn that social media history, it just preserves all those embarrassing faux pas, doesn’t it?

Anyway, I imagine Jackson, laying under the ventilator, amidst the beeping and sighing of the machines. There’s a slight movement under the blanket — it’s his hand, fluttering feebly, trying to call for the nurse. Someone notices; a shout goes out; a nurse races to his side. He’s trying to speak. What’s he saying? With an enormous effort, Jackson turns his head a little, toward the nurse — as far as he can with that tube down his throat — and gasps, “tell them to take the safe and effective vaccines!”

💉 Last week, CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky said during a news conference there is “concerning evidence” that mRNA vaccine protection is “waning” against the so-called Delta strain. Yesterday, in one study published by the CDC and cited by CDC Director Walensky, the efficacy of BOTH of the safe and effective vaccines has fallen by HALF to 53.1 percent. So Walensky said that, since the safe and effective vaccines stop working after a few months, the federal government is “planning for Americans to receive booster shots starting next month,” saying that their initiative is designed to “stay ahead of this virus.”

She meant to say, “SAFE AND EFFECTIVE booster shots.” 😉 Fixed it for you!

And, golly, that was fast! Just last week the papers were running stories headlined, “CDC says booster talk is premature.” Well, I suppose it WAS premature. Last week.

💉 Earlier this month, one of the chief AstraZeneca vaccine developers, professor Andrew Pollard, said that gaining herd immunity with vaccines is “not a possibility.” Not possible. He said that researchers and governments need to pivot to treatment methods instead. Treatments? Do they have treatments for Covid? That’s weird, because Walensky’s never mentioned them. Ever.

Addressing the UK Parliament, Pollard said that what the virus “will throw up next is a variant which is perhaps even better at transmitting in vaccinated populations,” saying that this is “even more of a reason not to be making a vaccine program around [vaccine-induced] herd immunity.”

💊 Florida-based sports-supplement maker REDCON1 announced yesterday it is dropping all its sponsorships of Arnold Schwarzenegger after he told people who don’t want to take the safe and effective vaccines, “screw your freedoms.” Except he didn’t say “screw.” Anyway, REDCON1 apparently took issue with his anti-American tone, and told Arnold, “screw your sponsorships.” So.

🔥 Michigan’s legislature is considering a vaccine anti-discrimination bill. The bill would provide attorney’s fees and treble damages to any person whose employer discriminates against them for failing to take any of three types of vaccines, including Covid and influenza. The public hearing last week was attended in force by medical personnel, many wearing scrubs — who were IN FAVOR of the bill. In other words, healthcare workers. They don’t want the safe and effective jabs. For some reason.

🔥 According to a breathless report, some religious figures, doctors, public officials and other community leaders are trying to help people circumvent Covid-19 precautions. Can you believe that? It reports that an Oregon school superintendent is telling parents they can get their children out of wearing masks by citing federal disability law. And, a pastor at a California megachurch is offering religious exemptions for anyone morally conflicted over vaccine requirements. And, Louisiana’s attorney general has posted sample letters on his office’s Facebook page for folks trying to get around that state’s governor’s mask rules.

There were some choice quotes in the article. “The majority of my parents are skeptical and are no longer believing what they’re told,” said Oregon superintendent Marc Thielman. I mean, c’mon man! Why would ANYONE be skeptical of the CDC? Just because its been wrong so many times? How about a little forgiveness?

⛪ *PRIMER ON RELIGIOUS EXEMPTION REQUESTS* ⛪

A lot of people have been asking me about religious exemptions to the safe and effective Covid vaccines. I’ve spoken to folks in hospitals, in upper management at vaccine developers and big pharma, firemen, lineworkers, politicians, and other lawyers. Lots of lawyers.

I think everybody’s missing the point.

Here’s what I see going on. Most big employers are providing online forms for employees to “request” a religious exemption. The forms don’t give any instructions or say what should be in the request. Watch out. These forms are a kind of a trap; what the employers are really doing is gathering evidence.

If I were an unethical federal lawyer planning how all this would be rolled out, I would say that the first step would be to get people to commit to their religious exemption story in writing before anyone catches on. The second step would be to bring them into HR, one by one, without counsel, and interrogate employees about what they said in the form. You’d want HR to have a religious expert and a doctor in the room to help with the interrogation.

The HR meeting is not to try to approve the exemption request. It’s to protect the employer by developing evidence that your religious belief isn’t really sincere. It will go like this. The employee will say something like, “I’m pro-life and there are fetal stem cells in the vaccines.” Then the doctor will say, “well, did you know there aren’t any stem cells in the vaccines? That’s misinformation,” and he would pull up some website. Then — all while being recorded — they’d ask the employee, “so, you don’t REALLY have an objection, do you?” I guess not, the employee will say, and bingo, just like that, the employer is covered, with evidence, if there’s a lawsuit later.

So, let me tell you what the REAL standards are. And first, let me say that I do NOT encourage anyone to assert a fake religious exemption request. It must be legit. But, the first principle you need to know is that a qualifying sincerely-held religious belief can be recently acquired. There’s no particular amount of time you must have held that belief. It could have popped into your head ten seconds ago. For example, in EEOC v. Ilona of Hungary, Inc., 108 F.3d 1569, 1575 (7th Cir. 1997), the court found that a Jewish employee had proved her request for leave on Yom Kippur was based on a sincerely held religious belief, even though she had never in her prior eight-year tenure sought leave from work for a religious observance, had even conceded that she generally was not a very religious person, but the evidence showed that the recent birth of her son and the death of her father had strengthened her religious beliefs.

So, get your head right, your butt to church, and start reading your Bible. Which you should be doing anyways.

Next, you don’t have to be devout or even openly religious. The law is clear that a sincere religious believer doesn’t forfeit his religious rights merely because he is not scrupulous in his observance or had never openly demonstrated those beliefs in the past.

The Supreme Court has found that a qualifying religious belief is one that is “sincerely” held. This is critical: it doesn’t have to be tied to any particular scripture, fact, or reasoning. In Anderson v. U.S.F. Logistics (IMC), Inc., 274 F.3d 470, 475 (7th Cir. 2001), the court held that an employer could not stop an employee from using the phrase “Have a Blessed Day” as a greeting in her work emails, even if the use of the phrase was not expressly required by her religion (Christian Methodist Episcopal) and was totally unique to her.

In Heller v. EBB Auto Co., 8 F.3d 1433, 1438 (9th Cir. 1993), even the liberal Ninth Circuit said this:

To restrict the act to those practices which are mandated or prohibited by a tenet of the religion, would involve the court in determining not only what are the tenets of a particular religion, . . . but would frequently require the courts to decide whether a particular practice is or is not required by the tenets of the religion. . . . [S]uch a judicial determination [would] be irreconcilable with the warning issued by the Supreme Court in Fowler v. Rhode Island, 345 U.S 67 (1953) ‘[I]t is no business of courts to say . . . what is a religious practice or activity.’

That doesn’t mean you can come up with any old crazy idea like the Flying Spaghetti Monster told you so. The belief must have at least SOME religious foundation in order for it to qualify as a sincerely held religious belief that is required to be accommodated. Apart from that, the sincerely held belief will be very broadly interpreted and shouldn’t be investigated for TRUTH. In United States v Ballard, 322 U.S. 78 (1944), for example, the U.S. Supreme Court held that whether a religious belief is true or false should NOT be taken into consideration.

Another important source of law in this area is the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA). You might scan it so you know what your rights are under that act.

🚨 Remember: the religious exemption request “form” you are being asked to fill out is designed to gather evidence AGAINST YOU. Here’s what I suggest you consider including in such a request:

— Even though you aren’t required to have been actively religious, if you have been, tell them. How often do you go to church, read your bible, pray? How much have you tithed or donated over the years? When were you baptized? Are you a member of a church? Do you attend a bible study class? Did you previously request a religious exemption for your kids relating to school vaccines?

— Tell them your general beliefs about having been Created perfectly and living your faith by trusting in God and not man.

— You don’t have to cite ANY scripture. Especially any scripture about vaccines. If you ARE going to cite scripture, you might consider focusing on verses having to do with making moral choices and about avoiding evil people.

— You DON’T need a note from a pastor. It might be helpful if you can get it, but it is not necessary. I was astounded yesterday when someone told me that, when they asked, their pastor said, “there are religious exemptions?” Pope Francis apparently said that Catholics can take vaccines if they believe it is moral. All that tells me is that priests and pastors have their own religious convictions about vaccines. But they aren’t the final authority. God is.

— Do NOT try to be an armchair theologian. It is enough if you prayed about it and determined that God doesn’t want you to take the safe and effective vaccines. You don’t have to prove your encyclopedic biblical knowledge.

— While — as you guys know — I am a Christian, in no way are religious rights and liberties limited to christianity.

🚨 Next, here are some thoughts for how to handle the inevitable HR meeting to discuss your religious exemption request:

— Be confident and upbeat. Fear is the enemy. Pray before or even during the meeting.

— Emphasize the sincere and unwavering nature of your religious belief.

— Don’t let them talk you out of your sincerely-held belief with facts. Truth or falsity of the belief isn’t the issue when it comes to spirituality. For His own reasons, God won’t let himself be “proven” to exist. Beliefs aren’t things that even CAN be proven true or false. People believe all kinds of crazy things against evidence. For example, some people even believe that Fauci is a sentient, moral being. See?

— Don’t engage in theological debates with anyone. Agree to disagree. THEIR beliefs are irrelevant. It’s YOUR beliefs that matter.

— If your belief is newly-acquired, admit it. Just stress how sincerely held it is. Maybe offer the reason that you recently acquired the belief: was it watching so many people live in fear? Something on the news? A death or illness in your family or circle of friends or co-workers?

— Always remember that the interview is being held to gather evidence to defend your employer against a subsequent lawsuit for religious discrimination. It’s not about the form, or “approving” your request. They aren’t trying to help you. So pick your words carefully, thoughtfully, and don’t talk too much.

— Tell the truth.

— Remember facts aren’t final. If you previously said your belief was about fetal cells, and it still is, stick to your guns. Don’t let some doctor or website tell you something different than your religious belief.

— Finally, if you’re an evangelical like me, this meeting would be a great opportunity to witness. Those people need to be saved more than anybody. And you’ll have their rapt attention and their focus on spiritual issues. I’m convicted that He wants us to try to use this chance to save a few more souls. So go for it like we’re in Revelation 6 or something.

The religious exemption is the most powerful weapon in your arsenal. Religious liberty is fundamental in this country. If your employer fires you, or discriminates against you in ANY BURDENSOME WAY because of your religious belief that you aren’t supposed to accept the safe and effective vaccines, then you can sue them for substantial damages and recover your attorney’s fees. Don’t let them steal those rights from you through clever wordplay or tricks.

Have a terrific Tuesday! I’ll be back tomorrow for more triple-roasted Coffee & Covid.

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