Religion Unplugged

To vax or not: Religious response is complicated

By Bobby Ross Jr. | Religion Unplugged

Editor’s note: Every Friday, “Weekend Plug-in” features analysis, fact checking and top headlines from the world of faith. Subscribe now to get this newsletter delivered straight to your inbox. Got feedback or ideas? Email Bobby Ross Jr. at

Want to be smart? Avoid simple narratives.

That’s especially true on the still-timely subject of religion and the COVID-19 vaccines.

For evidence, check out these recent stories:

“As vaccine mandates become a reality, politicians, pastors and even the pope are speaking out against faith-based exemptions,” the Deseret News’ Kelsey Dallas reports.

But here’s the twist: “In many cases, those who claim a religious exemption are part of a denomination that doesn’t share their concerns, although many faith leaders do support making exemptions available.”

“Does respect for human life mean vaccine mandates?” asks a story by the Washington Post’s Michelle Boorstein.

The answer? It’s complicated.

“In recent days, with a handful of organizations from Facebook and Google to the University of Virginia announcing vaccine mandates, religious leaders and organizations have considered their own teachings and values on the question of how to show respect for life,” Boorstein writes. “And their conclusions vary widely.”

This news, via USA Today, jumps out at you: “Florida church vaccinates hundreds after 6 members die from COVID-19 in 10 days.”

“It’s just been ripping our hearts apart,” the senior pastor says in the story by Marina Pitofsky.

It’s probably no surprise that social media pounced on the church for waiting until members died to promote vaccinations.

Except, as anyone reading the entire report learns, it didn’t: “The church vaccinated about 800 people in March at a similar event as COVID-19 vaccines became widely available in the U.S.”

Read the full column.

This column appears in the online magazine Religion Unplugged.

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