As the remaining vaccine mandates for medical workers get to set be implemented this week in 25 mostly conservative states, it is once again becoming clear how widespread the use of religious exemptions is in the U.S. as a workaround to complying with such requirements.
At one rural hospital near Yellowstone National Park, about 200 of the 620 staffers have put in requests for religious exemptions, most of which have been granted. Montana Gov. Greg Gianforte pledged his support to the unvaccinated last week and urged them to consider seeking exemptions.
Gianforte said he would be “defending Montanans against discrimination based on their vaccination status.”
And West Virginia lawmakers have advanced a proposal that would allow workers who are denied an exemption and then quit, to collect unemployment.
Dr. Randy Tobler, the CEO of Scotland County Hospital in Missouri said, “We’re not going to have a Spanish inquisition with Torquemada deciding if your religious exemption is granted or not by the Grand Inquisitor.”
Scotland County Hospital in Missouri still has about 25% of its 145 employees who still remain unvaccinated, and 30 of those have been granted religious exemptions.
“For people that want to judge what we’re doing in rural America, I’d love them to come and walk in our shoes for a little while, just come and sit in the desk and try to staff the place,” Tobler said.
Hospital president and CEO Troy Buntz explained what goes into the selection process for exemptions saying, “If it’s a complete, like, essay on the science behind why this shouldn’t be allowed, or a complete essay on why a certain political party or political figure is an idiot, which we’ve seen, we don’t go with that because that’s not religious at all.”
Buntz said, “We do push back on those, but I don’t know if other people are even reading the exemptions as much as they probably should be.”
Dr. Chris Beyrer, an epidemiologist at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health said, “If you are not going to be vaccinated and you’re going to be caring for the frail, the elderly, you should get out of health care.”