American employers are now conducting religious inquisitions

With increasing numbers of businesses forcing employees to take an injection that is almost entirely ineffective against the predominant strain of COVID in the U.S. today and that may have negative effects on those with natural immunity, the only way out for some people is to point to their faith as a basis for their objection. American businesses are now conducting minute inquiries into people’s faith—and one Ohio hospital, after engaging in this type of inquisition, then told one employee that it wasn’t interested in what she had to say. Its explicit message was that she must get the shot or face discriminatory treatment at work.

One of the primary reasons many early Europeans came to America was to escape religious oppression in their own countries. Most famously, the Pilgrims came to America to worship freely at a time when their faith was severely oppressed in England, which then granted full rights only to Members of the Church of England. (Even today, the Queen of England is the titular head of the Anglican Church.) Catholics founded the Colony of Maryland for the same reason. This religious discrimination continued into the 18th century.

The Founders wanted to keep the government from interfering in people’s faith or discriminating against them. So, the first clause in the First Amendment explicitly orders the government to stay out of religion:

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof....

This prohibition has since been extended to the states and to individuals. Thus, Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibits employers from discriminating against individuals because of their faith (or lack of faith). However, thanks to COVID, employers are doing exactly that.

One of our readers is employed at Nationwide Children’s Hospital (“NCH”), a pediatric acute care facility in Columbus, Ohio. The hospital has mandated that all its employees must take the COVID vaccination. It is doing so even though Israel’s experience shows that the vaccination is almost entirely ineffective against Delta, which is now the predominant strain in America. The vaccine is less effective than having COVID antibodies. Some of the vaccines use fetal cells as part of their development and manufacturing, which is a serious moral issue for many people of faith. And of course, there’s that problem with serious side effects.

Ostensibly, the only “out” that NCH allows is for those employees who have “sincerely held religious beliefs” that conflict with “the Hospital’s mandatory COVID-19 vaccination policy.” Employees making this claim must fill out a form requiring them to describe not only their beliefs, but the length of time for which they’ve held them, the reason they believe the vaccine conflicts with those beliefs, and whether they’ve taken past vaccines. It is a religious values inquisition that, under Title VII, has no place in the American workplace.

Our reader nevertheless carefully filled out the questionnaire, explaining that her faith demands that its followers act in accordance with their conscience. Her conscience says it is sinful for her to be forced to inject a potentially harmful, minimally tested substance into her body.

NCH’s inquisitors, having demanded that she spell out her beliefs for them, then announced that they didn’t care. Exempting her from the requirement would impose “an undue hardship on NCH” as well as directly threatening others.

In evaluating your request, we have not reached a determination as to whether your request is based upon a sincerely held religious belief or whether there exists an actual conflict between your religious beliefs and NCH’s vaccine policy. This is because we have determined that regardless of the basis, exempting you from this requirement imposes an undue hardship on NCH and poses a direct threat to others. Having unvaccinated employees jeopardizes the health and safety of our patients, families, and visitors, and of the thousands of people who work here. Requiring that all of our employees, volunteers, vendors, and students receive the COVID-19 vaccine is critical to our efforts to help keep everyone safe during a pandemic.

NCH further informed her that failing to take the vaccine would mean that she must wear a mask all the time, get regular, invasive testing, and forfeit merit-based pay increases.

In other words, NCH conducted a religious colonoscopy on one of its employees for what was a pretext and a sham.

America’s employers are not allowed “to make windows into men’s souls.” And despite Joe Biden’s insistence that employers do what the government cannot (force people to inject still experimental substances into their bodies), the fact is that the Civil Rights Act establishes that employers cannot do what the government itself cannot do—namely, condition people’s employment or otherwise discriminate against them based upon their religious beliefs.

Image: Galileo facing the Roman Inquisition by Cristiano Banti. Public domain.

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