The Freedom From Religion Foundation, a state/church watchdog based in Madison, Wis., has written to its home school district thanking it for requiring employees to be vaccinated, but warning that a religious exemption is counterproductive. The association of freethinkers now numbering over 35,000 nationwide is also urging the Madison Metropolitan School District board to mandate student vaccinations.
In a letter to Superintendent Carlton D. Jenkins and other board members, FFRF Co-Presidents Dan Barker and Annie Laurie Gaylor advise the school board that the religious loophole is legally and medically problematic. With significant positive tests and recent quarantines occurring in local schools, and many younger students as yet ineligible for vaccination, “all district staff members without a valid medical exemption should be vaccinated as soon as possible to combat this wave.”
FFRF points to frequent abuses of the religious exemptions, as well as the fact that no major religious denomination outright opposes Covid-19 inoculation, with the pope encouraging Catholics to be vaccinated and even Christian Scientists accepting the vaccines.
“Furthermore, religious exemptions are not necessary,” FFRF writes. “For over a century, courts have upheld mandatory vaccination laws without religious exemptions under the Free Exercise Clause and Equal Protection Clause. There is a compelling government interest in requiring vaccination against a deadly infectious disease, and the district need not accommodate an employee's religious beliefs if the accommodation compromises workplace safety.”
FFRF also urges MMSD “to follow the lead” of Los Angeles, Culver City, Calif, and two San Francisco Bay Area school districts by requiring all eligible students to be vaccinated.
“We cheer public school boards with the guts and the foresight to require mandatory student vaccinations, but it should be a given to adopt a policy consistent with all other required student vaccinations,” write Gaylor and Barker. “MMSD has the opportunity to become a leader by likewise requiring that eligible students be vaccinated, and to model for other Wisconsin and public school districts around the country a policy based on reason, evidence and science to protect children.”
The Freedom From Religion Foundation was founded nationally in 1978 here in Madison, works to uphold the constitutional principle of separation between state and church, and has more than 1,500 Wisconsin members, including hundreds in the Madison area.