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  • Heather E. Kimmel

Can a Church Require Its Members to Disclose Whether They've Been Vaccinated?

Heather Kimmel, General Counsel of the United Church of Christ, shares with Conference Ministers a response to a question she has been receiving from many: “Can a church require a member to disclose whether the member has been vaccinated?” (Or even, can a church require its members to be vaccinated?)

The answer is yes, a church can require that. A church is a private membership organization and can impose any requirement on its members (within reason). A church is also not subject to HIPAA (except in very specific circumstances such as when it has a parish nurse program or is providing licensed counseling services under the auspices of the church or maybe dealing with medical information of employees—who are not under consideration here).

But just because we can do something under the law doesn’t mean we should do it. Frankly, it’s not the church’s business whether a person decides to get vaccinated or why, and requiring disclosure of that status will create two classes of members who will be treated differently—is that what the church wants to do? If someone says “no,” then what will the church do? Say “why?” That gets into pretty private territory.

I understand some churches want this information so that they can return to in-person worship. That decision may be better made based on the conditions in the community as a whole, including continued compliance with CDC guidelines. That way, the church can say “we are worshiping in person, socially distanced, with precautions in place; attend if you are comfortable,” and not need to concern itself with whether a member has chosen to protect themselves by getting vaccinated.

Heather E. Kimmel

General Counsel

United Church of Christ

700 Prospect Ave. East

Cleveland, OH 44115-1100

(216) 736-2138


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