Christian student fights back against university’s vaccine mandate, cites religious exemption

A medical assistant injects a vaccine in a file photo.
A medical assistant injects a vaccine in a file photo. | Reuters/Michael Buholzer

A Christian student at the University of Alabama-Birmingham has challenged the university's mandatory vaccine policy after being blocked from registering for classes this semester despite having been allowed to register past semesters with no vaccinations. 

Jackie Gale has never had a single vaccination because she believes that the Bible commands Christians to honor God regarding how the care for their bodies and not inject extra chemicals into one's body, according to a letter to UAB President Ray L. Watts and the university's lawyer John Daniel from First Liberty Institute attorney Christine Pratt. 

Gale, who's a sophomore at the university, had no trouble registering for classes when she was admitted as an entering freshman. But as her second semester was about to start and she attempted to add another class to her schedule she found that the school had put an administrative hold on her record, the letter explained. 

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The university told her that she had to submit proof of her immunizations in order to register for classes. In response, Gale uploaded a state-issued religious exemption certificate that she had used previously. She was then told that the certificate was not valid at institutions of higher learning, but the university relented and removed the administrative hold and she was able to enroll and classed and finish the semester in-person with no issues.

Yet when she tried to register for fall classes for her sophomore year she encountered the same hurdle, only this time the university refused to allow her to proceed. A UAB official reportedly told her that the university wouldn't recognize her religious exemption. When she attempted to speak with someone else in administration she was told that she should expect to receive a call, but only received a one-line message that said: "Please refer to our website for more information."

UAB's website states that exceptions to the university's immunization policy "may be made in limited circumstances for students who can document medical and/or other contraindications to the vaccine."

Only those students enrolled in online classes are exempt from those requirements, it reads. 

 First Liberty Institute contends in its letter to UAB that "Jackie Gale is entitled to continue receiving a religious exemption to UAB’s mandatory vaccine policy so that she can register for and attend in-person classes."

"UAB’s refusal to recognize Ms. Gale’s religious exemption violates both federal and state law, and UAB should revise its policies to provide religious exemptions to students who hold such religious convictions," First Liberty Institute adds. 

The institute further argues that UAB's policy — which requires proof of immunity to measles, mumps and rubella, requiring two MMR shots; tetanus; diphtheria; acellular
pertussis; chickenpox/shingles, requiring two VZVIgG shots; meningitis; in addition to proof she had been screened for tuberculosis — violate both the free exercise clause of U.S. Constitution and the Religious Freedom Amendment in the Alabama Constitution, which prohibits any state-imposed burden on the free exercise of religion.

 The university has been asked to respond to the letter by May 27.

The letter comes amid documented hesitancy among some Christians and others in the general population about the newly-developed COVID-19 vaccines and increased scrutiny over what are known as vaccine "passports," documented proof that a person has either tested negative for the novel coronavirus or been vaccinated.

Some doctors have warned that people who've been infected with COVID-19 and still have antibodies might be harmed by the vaccine. 

Retired surgeon Dr. Hooman Noorchashm told Fox News Tucker Carlson on both his evening show, "Tucker Carlson Tonight" and his daytime show on Fox Nation: "it’s not a one-size-fits-all."

"I am very strong supporter of this vaccine," Noorchashm said. "I believe that Operation Warp Speed delivered to America in under a year the equivalent of putting a man on Mars, frankly. And this vaccine is probably going to be the most powerful and effective vaccines we have ever made."

"Just like any other medical therapy and treatment, it’s not a one-size-fits-all. And if we attempt to make one size fit all, we will almost certainly cause harm," he added. 

Last week, South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster signed into law a measure that both banned the use of such passports in the southern state and prohibited public schools and local governments from issuing mask mandates. 

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