Letters to the Editor: Religious exemptions from vaccines? How about no faith-based exemptions for anything

People protest New York's repeal of the religious exemption to vaccination in Albany on Aug. 14, 2019.
People protest New York’s repeal of the religious exemption to vaccination in Albany on Aug. 14, 2019.
(Associated Press)

To the editor: Your editorial calling for the elimination of religious exemptions from vaccination against COVID-19 was correct. However, there is a deeper problem in providing only religious objectors with special rights to avoid getting vaccinated.

The religion clauses of the 1st Amendment were meant to ensure that believers and nonbelievers were equal before the law. If the legal system provides special rights for only those with religious objections to avoid complying with otherwise generally applicable laws, then the government is unconstitutionally favoring believers over nonbelievers.

Even if religious objectors had a fundamental right to a vaccine exemption, which they don’t, that right could still be overcome by a compelling government interest. Such an interest clearly exists as the government fervently tries to eradicate the pandemic by requiring everyone to be vaccinated.


One’s religion should not allow a person to contribute to the spread of a virus that jeopardizes public health.

Edward Tabash, Los Angeles

The writer is a constitutional lawyer and chair of the Center for Inquiry’s board of directors.


To the editor: What gives? Our state’s public school kids, unlike their teachers, aren’t old enough to claim a religious exemption from COVID-19 vaccination mandates. Yet these youngsters are subjected to a daily ritual that conflates patriotism with religion.

By effectively being compelled ever since 1954 to say “under God” in the Pledge of Allegiance, they are indoctrinated with the notion that belief in a solitary anthropomorphic deity is prerequisite to good citizenship in a nation that champions freedom of religion.

Elimination of teachers’ vaccine exemptions will do more than help protect their students’ health. It will give them some hope of having fewer illogical and mixed messages to ponder.

P. Jane Weil, Sacramento


To the editor: According to your reporting on Gov. Gavin Newsom’s reluctance to mandate vaccination for prison guards, 76% of California’s incarcerated population has been fully vaccinated against COVID-19. Yet in one facility, only 29% of the employees have been.

This is truly a situation where the inmates should be in charge of the asylum.

Lewis Cohen, Riverside


To the editor: I find it both sad and ironic that our Democratic governor, who rightly trumpets his COVID-19 response measures, declined to impose vaccinations on prison guards, while the Republican governor of Massachusetts has imposed vaccinations on all state employees, including a very resistant state police force.

Chris Brewster, San Diego