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Biden admin. faces criticism over 'intrusive' questions on COVID-19 vaccine religious exemption form

Biden and vaccine
U.S. President Joe Biden delivers remarks on the Covid-19 response and the vaccination program at the White House on August 23, 2021, in Washington, D.C. |

The Biden administration is facing criticism over a questionnaire included in their form for federal employees seeking a religious exemption from the COVID-19 vaccine mandate.

The Safer Federal Workforce task force website posted an updated template on Friday for the federal government to use when assessing whether an employee can qualify for a religious exemption.

Questions asked on the form include a request to “describe the nature of your objection to the COVID-19 vaccination requirement” and an explanation for how being vaccinated would “substantially burden your religious exercise or conflict with your sincerely held religious beliefs.”

The form also requests any possible additional information, including: “How long you have held the religious belief underlying your objection,” “Whether your religious objection is to the use of all vaccines, COVID-19 vaccines, a specific type of COVID-19 vaccine, or some other subset of vaccines,” and “Whether you have received vaccines as an adult against any other diseases (such as a flu vaccine or a tetanus vaccine).”

Before the updated version was added to the website on Friday, the religious exemption form template received criticism from some who believe the questionnaire is problematic.

Andrea R. Lucas, a Republican commissioner at the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, told The Federalist her concerns about the form.

“The law does not provide a pandemic-related exception for disregarding the rights of religious employees,” Lucas said. “No matter the context, intrusive questions presuming insincerity from the start, seeking to ‘catch’ an employee in an inconsistency, and looking for any reason to deny a religious accommodation request, are inappropriate.”

Earlier this month, U.S. Sen. Josh Hawley, R-Mo., sent a letter to the leadership of the Safer Federal Workforce Taskforce arguing that the questions showcased a “contempt for religious liberty.”

“The complete list [of questions] evinces a skepticism and indeed a hostility to applicants who harbor sincerely held religious objections to the COVID-19 vaccine,” stated Hawley. “I fear this will chill applications by civil servants to apply for religious exemptions.”

In September, President Joe Biden issued an executive order requiring federal employees to get a COVID-19 vaccination unless they have a valid medical or religious exemption.

“It is essential that federal employees take all available steps to protect themselves and avoid spreading COVID-19 to their co-workers and members of the public.  The CDC has found that the best way to do so is to be vaccinated,” stated Biden in the order.

The Biden administration has been dealing with much backlash regarding their overall effort to implement a COVID-19 vaccine mandate on various entities, including major businesses, federal contractors, the military, and some healthcare providers, among others. The mandate on businesses would require companies with 100 employees or more to fire employees who are not vaccinated or pay a fine of $14,000 for each employee who is not vaccinated. 

Earlier this week, Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey signed an executive order telling state agencies to resist the implementation of federal vaccine mandates.

“The federal government’s outrageous overreach has simply given us no other option, but to begin taking action, which is why I am issuing this executive order to fight these egregious COVID--19 vaccine mandates,” said Ivey in a statement.

“Alabamians — and Americans alike — should and must have the choice to roll up their sleeves to get this shot and certainly not forced by government. While President Biden laughs at the idea of protecting your freedoms, I will continue fighting for Alabama businesses and their employees.” 

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