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Religious Exemptions for COVID Vaccinations

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Some people are attempting to avoid mandatory vaccination by requesting an exemption on religious grounds. These mandates range from those set by employers to those set by governments. While those more cynical than I might think that many people are trying to use the religious exemption tactic in bad faith, this matter is philosophically interesting. As always, I will endeavor to consistently apply principles that I have argued for in other essays. As a general point, if a religious exemption is being seriously considered to a mandate, then it is worth considering whether the mandate is justified at all. While not all mandates have the force of law, they presumably do involve a coercive element—otherwise there would not be any need for an exemption. In the case of employer mandates, the coercive element can extend up to firing the employee for a failure to comply with the mandate. My general principles governing such coercive elements include the critical requirement that the coercion be warranted and that what is being coerced is both effective and ethically acceptable. If a person’s religious objection would warrant exempting them from the mandate, then this would seem to indicate that the mandate fails to meet these conditions. Put a bit crudely, allowing an exemption would be like saying “this is important enough to warrant compelling people unless they have strong beliefs about not complying.” This would also apply to what people call philosophical objections as well.  But this characterization can be seen as unfair and perhaps even something of a straw man. So, let us turn to a better justification for exemption. As I have argued in other essays, I usually follow the principle of harm when it comes to public policy and large-scale decision making. On this view, a mandate would be warranted on utilitarian grounds: if the mandate does more good than evil, it would be morally acceptable. This approach does allow for exceptions by considering the relative harm. . .

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News source: A Philosopher's Blog

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