August 13, 2021 – updated
For good or bad, COVID-19 has changed the way we navigate the world and the way in which “we the people” exercise our rights. Those hoping to navigate this interconnected and highly technological world of contact tracing, vaccine passports and digital passes will find themselves grappling with issues that touch on deep-seated moral, political, religious and personal questions for which there may be no clear-cut answers.
While the courts may increasingly defer to the government’s brand of Nanny State authoritarianism, we still have rights. The government may try to abridge those rights, it may refuse to recognize them, it may even attempt to nullify them, but it cannot litigate, legislate or forcefully eradicate them out of existence. Among these, we have the right to bodily integrity, a right long been recognized by the U.S. Supreme Court. More relevant to the issue of forced vaccines is the recognition by courts that there is a constitutional right to bodily integrity that gives persons the right to refuse medical treatment.
Those in positions of power and authority have already sought to leverage that power to coerce members of the public to receive COVID-19 vaccinations. Daily, growing numbers of public and private employers are requiring employees to be vaccinated against COVID-19 and using the threat of termination to force acceptance of the vaccine.
Unfortunately, legal protections in this area are limited. While the Americans with Disabilities Act protects those who can prove they have medical conditions that make receiving a vaccination dangerous, employees must be able to prove they have a sensitivity to vaccines. The requirement established by Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 that employers provide religious accommodations may be invoked by employees who have sincere religious beliefs against receiving vaccinations. But an employer’s duty of accommodation is not absolute, and if it can show that accommodating the worker’s objections to vaccinations will interfere with its operations or workplace safety, the employee may face the choice between keeping her job or violating her religious beliefs.
The following “Know Your Rights” fact sheet will provide some background and guidance to those seeking to request a religious accommodation for COVID-19 vaccine mandates in the workplace.
The Rutherford Institute, a nonprofit civil liberties organization, provides legal assistance at no charge to individuals whose constitutional rights have been threatened or violated and educates the public on a wide spectrum of issues affecting their freedoms.