What Constitutes a Religious Exemption from Vaccination?

Under current law, Emergency Use Authorized (EUA) products like COVID 19 vaccines and COVID testing tools cannot be mandated. According to US Code, individuals who are offered or administered these products must be informed of the option to accept or refuse administration of the product,…”

https://uscode.house.gov/view.xhtml?req=(title:21%20section:360bbb-3%20edition:prelim) 21 USCS §

360bbb-3 (Section 564(e)(1)(A)(ii)(III).

Thus the recent mandate from the University Systems of Maryland or orders from employers requiring one to be vaccinated with a COVID 19 vaccine is against the law. For those who want to decline COVID vaccination,the first argument in support of your position is the Federal Law cited above.

At some point, under pressure, the FDA will likely fully approve the COVID vaccines, especially the mRNA ones. In the past that approval has been minimally about two years after EUA approval, but it may be expedited. However, there are still options for one to legally opt out of vaccination based on a medical or religious exemption with reasonable accommodations. This is sanctioned both by Maryland state law and by the Civil Rights Act. The religious accommodation is addressed below.

Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibits employers with at least 15 employees,from retaliation or discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex, and national origin.

  1. What is “religion” under Title VII?

Title VII protects all aspects of religious observance and practice as well as belief and defines religion very broadly for purposes of determining what the law covers. For purposes of Title VII, religion includes not only traditional, organized religions such as Christianity, Judaism, Islam, Hinduism, and Buddhism, but also religious beliefs that are new, uncommon, not part of a formal church or sect, only subscribed to by a small number of people, or that seem illogical or unreasonable to others. An employee’s belief or practice can be “religious” under Title VII even if the employee is affiliated with a religious group that does not espouse or recognize that individual’s belief or practice, or if few – or no – other people adhere to it. Title VII’s protections also extend to those who are discriminated against or need accommodation because they profess no religious beliefs.”

Religious beliefs include theistic beliefs (i.e. those that include a belief in God) as well as non-theistic “moral or ethical beliefs as to what is right and wrong which are sincerely held with the strength of traditional religious views.” Although courts generally resolve doubts about particular beliefs in favor of finding that they are religious, beliefs are not protected merely because they are strongly held. Rather, religion typically concerns “ultimate ideas” about “life, purpose, and death.” Social, political, or economic philosophies, as well as mere personal preferences, are not “religious” beliefs protected by Title VII.”

For more information go to : https://www.eeoc.gov/laws/guidance/questions-and-answers-religious-discrimination-workplace?emci=775e4a2a-5aa8-eb11-85aa-0050f237abef&emdi=b435f684-70a8-eb11-85aa-0050f237abef&ceid=11866629

Under Maryland Health Code Section 18-403 – Religious exemption:

(a)…the Department may not require the immunization of an individual if:(1) The individual objects to immunization because it conflicts with the individual’s bona fide religious beliefs and practices; or(2)The individual is a minor and the individual’s parent or guardian objects to immunization because it conflicts with the parent or guardian’s bona fide religious beliefs and practices.”


Chancellor Perman, speaking for the University Systems of Maryland, has said with regard to the recent COVID vaccination mandate, “we’ll comply with all federal and state laws in granting appropriate exemptions for medical or religious reasons.”[1] One wonders why they are not complying with Federal law and that should be the first line of challenge. If the policy is not reversed to comply with Federal law, one may need to apply for a religious exemption. How does one write a religious exemption?

Create a Personal Letter to Apply for a Religious Exemption

  • Do not use templates or form letters

  • Consult EEOC guidance above defining, What is religion?

  • For a no-cost review of your letter, send the written vaccine policy noted in this article including exemption options, a description of your religious beliefs, including religious text quotes (if applicable), your religious upbringing and any other information about the accommodations you are requesting, to [email protected]
  • Consider what kind of reasonable accommodations could be made to honor your exemption.
  • An employer can deny a request if they can establish that the request was not made for religious reasons. In Fallon vs Mercy Catholic Medical Center, Fallon alleged that it was his sincerely held belief that the vaccine “may do him more harm than good.”The employer denied the claim and the court found that Fallon’s belief, although sincerely held, was not religious because it 1) did not “address fundamental and ultimate questions having to do with deep and imponderable matters,” 2) were not part of a comprehensive belief system, and 3) were not manifested in formal and external signs. The court determined the belief was medical and not religious in this case. https://www.natlawreview.com/article/flu-shots-religious-beliefs-and-employee-rights-navigating-complex-intersection?emci=775e4a2a-5aa8-eb11-85aa-0050f237abef&emdi=b435f684-70a8-eb11-85aa-00

One might want to start to prepare a letter requesting a religious exemption but use it only if the policy that violates Federal law is not reversed. The state should be honoring Federal law with regard to choice for EUA experimental COVID vaccines.

We hope this helps those negatively affected by this mandate to know that they have options. It may require legal action for the University Systems of Maryland to change their mandate to a recommendation. Be patient, don’t panic and stand your ground for health choice. Contact your legislators to get them involved and join with others such as the members of this group to stand up for your rights. The law is on your side.

Other References:

[1] https://www.usmd.edu/newsroom/news/2154

[2] https://avoiceforchoiceadvocacy.org/