Religious Freedom or Communal Safety

Religious Freedom or Communal Safety
Discussion Post – “Religious Freedom or Communal Safety”
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In a world now marked by the shadow of a public health pandemic, many individuals have and will continue to look to modern medicine as a means of providing a degree of safety amidst such uncertainty. However, with the development of new treatments and the wide availability of COVID shots, debates rage on as to whether the need for such treatments should or can be foisted upon the public. In the United States exemptions for vaccines fall into one of three categories: Medial, Religious, and/or Philosophical (sometimes called personal beliefs). Medial exemptions allow people to avoid vaccinations because they are usually allergic or the vaccine would likely cause harmful side effects. Philosophical exemptions have largely been eradicated in the U.S. Only about 15 states still allow personal belief exemptions. Thus, leaving Religious exemptions as the most common method of denying vaccinations in the country. Though there has been a rise in people claiming a religious exemption to vaccination, there are well documented cases of outbreaks in the North American continent of highly preventable infections. For example:

At least 158 cases of measles in Quebec in an outbreak that originally started when un-vaccinated members of an anti-vaccine eugenics community group took a trip to Disneyland.
Nearly 400 cases of measles in British Columbia that has been linked to a religious group called the Netherlands Reformed Congregation
At least 16 people in Texas with measles who are linked to Eagle Mountain International Church, described as “anti-vaccine” and “vaccine-refusing” and which is a part of Kenneth Copeland Ministries
Over 500 people, mostly connected to Orthodox Jewish communities in Borough Park and Williamsburg, Brooklyn developed measles—the largest outbreak in the United States since the endemic spread of measles was eliminated
At least 21 people in North Carolina with measles who are linked to Prabhupada Village, a Hare Krishna community
At least 2,499 cases in the Dutch “Bible belt” with at least one case of measles encephalitis and one death (a 17-year-old girl)
Given these instances and the highly contagious and deadly impact of COVID-19, should the government consider developing an additional boundary of the free-exercise of a person’s religious beliefs by preventing them from denying the COVID-19 vaccine? Or would you view this be an impermissible extension of government power, even if the resulting action kept people safe and reduced the transmission of the virus? Should public goods / resources like public schools limit attendance to students who have received the COVID-19 shot, or would this be again an illegal extension of government power? What about the converse, should we also be just as concerned about potential side-effects and the spread of those effects from people who have received the COVID shot?

Be certain to support your response with information from the reading and outside sources if necessary. Please cite any outside sources used to support your position.

Religious Freedom or Communal Safety

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