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  • David Popham

What Makes an Exemption "Religious?"

Originally published in the Coconut Wireless, January 12, 2022.


In the January 5 Wednesday Conversations this question was raised. What emerged from the conversation were parameters and boundaries which might help us navigate what makes a religious exemption:

  1. There are multiple reasons to not seek vaccination – philosophical, medical, political, cultural, etc. There is nothing wrong with these reasons; however, they are not religious reasons.

  2. Work from a point of view that regardless of the type of reasoning, the belief is sincere to the individual and the real question to raise is, "Is it religious?"

  3. Some items to think about in terms of a criteria for "religious belief":

    1. Can it be theologically articulated? What is the source of the teaching and its history within the faith community of the one asking for an exemption? How is the belief lived out by the faith community the person is a part of?

    2. Religious practices are communal. Therefore, we should ask the question is this an item the community has spoken directly about or an item that is articulated through non-direct indicators? What practices around this belief are shared by the community of faith? How is the belief lived out in the denomination the person is a part of?

    3. Is the belief historically recognizable? What history of the person can be pointed to that indicates the belief is an active part of their spirituality? Is there a history of consistent practice of this belief by the individual? Does the belief engage ultimate ethical concerns of the person?

There is no way to fully answer the question of what makes a belief "religious." Hopefully what was articulated by pastors and lay leaders can provide guidance for further discussions within your church.


You can find the Hawai'i Conference COVID Recommendations HERE.


David K. Popham, Conference Minister

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