Should religious exemptions be allowed amid alleged Pfizer fetal cell use?

Lisa Ferdinando

Fact Box

  • On October 6, 2021, Project Veritas released a video featuring whistleblower and Pfizer manufacturing quality auditor, Melissa Strickler, showing internal emails between officials discussing the alleged use of fetal cell lines in the COVID-19 vaccine program, and the decision not to include such information in communications. 
  • On August 12, 2021, Conway Regional Health System provided a “religious attestation form” for those requesting religious exemption that included a list of 30 general medications developed by fetal cell lines: acetaminophen, aspirin, ibuprofen, Tylenol, Pepto Bismol, Claritin, and others. 
  • After abortion was legalized in the US Supreme Court Roe v. Wade decision in 1973, fetal tissue research has been a topic of religious values-based bipartisan tension; however, the research is regulated by federal laws.
  • According to a September 2021 Pew Research Survey, White evangelical Protestants are less likely to be vaccinated for COVID-19 than other religious groups (Catholics, Atheists, and Agnostics). 
  • The FDA approved the first COVID vaccine, Pfizer - BioNTech, on August 23, 2021. Based on the results of 22,000 vaccine recipients and 22,000 placebo recipients, the vaccine was 91% effective in preventing the disease. 
  • The US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) states that EEO laws “do not prevent an employer from requiring all employees physically entering the workplace to be vaccinated for COVID-19,” but employees also have the right to request reasonable accommodations, which include religious exemption.

JessiRae (No)

There have been 44.1M US COVID-19 related cases, as of October 8, 2021. Medical professionals and researchers are combating the virus and have used fetal cells as part of the Pfizer vaccine. As vaccine mandates become the new gold standard for businesses, workers around the country are attempting to bypass vaccine mandates by claiming religious freedoms. CEO of Conway Regional Health System granted 44 religious exemptions on the basis of fetal cells. In the healthcare scope, religion has no standing in the face of a deadly pandemic.

Those who do not wish to use the Pfizer vaccine are free to choose another vaccine option. Therefore, exemptions are unnecessary. James Lawler, an infectious disease expert and practicing Catholic, states first-hand, 'COVID-19 vaccines do not contain any aborted fetal cells,' calling claims utilizing aborted fetal cells 'dishonest sensationalism.'

The impact this pandemic has had on the US is staggering; several hundred thousand American deaths have occured within minority communities alone. Now more than ever is the time to act. The Vatican itself sanctions the use of the vaccine, calling it 'morally acceptable,' and Pope Francis has called taking it an 'act of love.' Moreover, the accusations of the use of aborted fetal cells have not yet been confirmed. 

The Vatican urges vaccine scientists to continue working on vaccines without ingredients causing discord. As COVID-19 deaths continue to pile up, we must use every available avenue to stop the spread. Every method of prevention and protection from COVID-19 at our disposal is critical for American safety. Rabbis and pastors in discussion about morality and necessity agree 'the benefits of the vaccines outweigh other concerns.' Consequently, fetal cells are used in common vaccines, including chickenpox, hepatitis A, and rabies

Curtice (Yes)

US citizens are granted religious liberty; it exists without question in the First Amendment: 'Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof,' etc. The recent revelations that Pfizer used fetal cells to develop and test its COVID-19 vaccine has validated concerns amongst some throughout varying faith communities. This revelation shows at best Pfizer tried to side-step the issue or was being purposefully deceptive in communications for public consumption. That alone should give one pause. 

People can have legitimate religious-based concerns for using fetal cells in the research or testing of any product. Those with such concerns are well within their right to ask for and receive religious exemptions from any COVID-19 vaccine mandates. Neither government—whether local, state or federal—nor private companies or institutions should be permitted to trample on those legitimate religious-based concerns. Likewise, what has become of the still-popular mantra used by abortion advocates, 'my body, my choice?' As some are rightfully pointing out, taking medicine should remain one's choice. Terminating the life of a living human should not. Does that not apply to situations outside of abortion, especially if advocated for deeply held religious reasons?

For much of our country's history, differences of opinion and strongly held convictions were respected and, if not condoned, at least not condemned. Today, the government prefers to strong-arm those who disagree, even for constitutionally protected religious reasons. Remember the Obama administration's legal battle with the Little Sisters of the Poor, where they attempted to force Catholic organizations to provide “some or all forms of contraception” under Obamacare. Religious liberty still matters in the US, and no person should be coerced into taking medicine they consider immoral.

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