Washington, D.C. — Maine has one of the highest vaccination rates against COVID-19 in the country. The state also recently eliminated religious and philosophical exemptions for vaccine mandates for schoolchildren, health care workers, and day care employees.
That decision had the support of the Maine Council of Churches, which is composed of seven member denominations representing 437 congregations in the state. In a new column, the Center for American Progress interviewed Rev. Jane Field, the council’s executive director, to discuss why religious leaders in the state supported removing the religious exemption for school vaccinations.
“Although we are firm proponents of an individual’s right to exercise their religion, we believe that when such exercise of religious freedom promotes a risk to public health, it becomes antithetical to the very core of our deepest-held beliefs,” Rev. Field said. “That God calls us to love our neighbors as ourselves; to protect the weak, marginalized, and vulnerable; and to make sacrifices on behalf of others.”
She said there also was a concern that parents might use the religious exemption simply to evade vaccination laws once the philosophic exemption was eliminated. “To have religion used as a pawn in the service of deceit is deeply offensive to us,” she said.
“Maine’s high vaccination rate is a testament to public officials working together with religious leaders to make sure that public health is a priority,” said Guthrie Graves-Fitzsimmons, a fellow at CAP. “Faith leaders should not misuse the doctrine of religious freedom as an excuse to evade vaccination requirements.”
Read the column: “Maine Provides Leadership on Religion and Vaccines” by Guthrie Graves-Fitzsimmons
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