Health care workers eye Oct. 12 deadline for mandate’s religious exemption
With vaccine mandates now in effect for New York health care workers, some looking to get a religious exemption are not having an easy time.
Natalie Camp is Catholic who works at the Peconic Bay Medical Center. She says she was denied a religious exemption and is now prepared to lose her job because she won’t get the COVID-19 vaccine.
“I wrote [what's] in my heart, my beliefs, and they denied it. So here I am, just hoping it makes a difference,” Camp says.
A U.S. district court judge handed down a temporary restraining order blocking the state from implementing a vaccine mandate without a religious exemption. There is now an Oct. 12 deadline for health care workers who have made “legitimate requests for religious exemptions.”
Labor and employment attorney Jon Bell says it won’t be easy for workers to get approved for a religious exemption.
“There has to be a bonafide belief to get this, to be entitled to this exemption from your employer,” Bell says. “So, you have to request a reasonable accommodation. You have to provide documentation and you have to answer certain questions.”
He says that someone does not have to be part of an organized religion or agree with their religious leaders to request a religious exemption.
Bell says if employers find that the person had other types of vaccinations or had their children vaccinated, they will be taken out of consideration for exemption.
Rita Palma, of the group My Kids, My Choice, says that’s not true. She cites a 1987 case law where a parent who vaccinated a child previously had a change of heart.
“There are thousands of different reasons why people change their actions regarding their religious beliefs,” Palma says. “So, they say it’s difficult to prove? Well, I think it’s difficult to disprove…How can you disprove that it’s against my religious belief?”
State officials opposed to the religious exemption for the vaccine say the state has vaccine mandates for measles and rubella with no exemptions.