The University of Alabama-Birmingham has been accused in a letter from First Liberty Institute of violating the Constitution’s requirement protecting free exercise of religion because it grants other exemptions from its vaccine requirements for students, but not for religious students.
“UAB’s policy triggers, and subsequently fails, strict scrutiny under recent Supreme Court precedent interpreting the Free Exercise Clause,” explained a letter from the institute. “In addition, UAB’s immunization policy impermissibly burdens Gale’s religious exercise under the Alabama Religious Freedom Amendment. To conform with both state and federal legal protections, UAB should provide Gale, and other students like her with religious objections to UAB’s mandated vaccines, a religious exemption to its immunization policy.”
The letter to the school was on behalf of Jackie Gale, a sophomore at the school who previously was allowed to register and attend classes without meeting the school’s vaccine requirement policy.
The vaccines at issue are not COVID vaccines.
At issue are vaccinations for “Measles, Mumps, and Rubella (which would require two MMR shots), Tetanus, Diphtheria, and Acellular Pertussis (requiring one Tdap shot), Chickenpox/Shingles (requiring two VZVIgG shots), Meningitis (requiring one Menactra, Menveo, or Mennomune shot), as well as proof that she underwent a Tuberculosis screening.”
The letter states, “Ms. Gale’s Christian faith prohibits her from receiving vaccines because of her understanding of the biblical commands that Christians must honor God in how they take care of their bodies and that Christians should not participate in medical treatments that rely upon abortion. Due to these religious convictions, Ms. Gale has never had a vaccine injected into her body. Ms. Gale believes the Bible commands Christians to honor God in how they take care of their bodies, which leads her to maintain an active lifestyle, to eat a healthy diet, and to refrain from injecting extra chemicals into her body. Ms. Gale believes that she would be profaning her body, and therefore dishonoring God, by receiving any vaccines. Ms. Gale also believes she has a duty to object to vaccines that are connected, whether in development or in testing, to abortion. Two of the vaccines required by UAB, the MMR and chickenpox vaccines, were developed using cell lines from aborted fetal tissue. Many additional vaccines are tested using cell lines from aborted fetal tissue.”
“Jackie takes her faith very seriously and is simply asking UAB to respect her sincerely held beliefs,” said Christine Pratt, counsel at First Liberty Institute. “Alabama’s constitution ensures that Jackie’s sincerely held religious beliefs cannot be dismissed by UAB. It is appalling that UAB is demanding that Jackie violate the deeply held religious beliefs she has honored her entire life.”
She has attended school in Alabama from second grade on with her state religious exemption card.
The letter noted the school “provides exceptions from its vaccine mandates for students who can document medical and/or other contraindications to a vaccine,”
But it refuses similar allowances for religious students.
“Both the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution and the Religious Freedom Amendment of the Alabama Constitution protect Ms. Gale’s religious exercise right to refuse to take UAB’s mandated vaccines. UAB is a public university that provides exemptions to its immunization policy for medical, but not religious, reasons. As such, UAB’s policy triggers, and subsequently fails, strict scrutiny under recent Supreme Court precedent interpreting the Free Exercise Clause. In addition, UAB’s immunization policy impermissibly burdens Gale’s religious exercise under the Alabama Religious Freedom Amendment.”
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