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LDS Church tells California leaders to not approve religious exemption to COVID-19 vaccine mandates

"Agency" does not make override law, leaders say
President Russell M. Nelson of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints receives his first dose of a COVID-19 vaccine.
Posted at 4:04 PM, Sep 10, 2021
and last updated 2021-09-10 18:23:07-04

SALT LAKE CITY — The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints will not be granting religious exemption to COVID-19 vaccine mandates in California, according to a report Friday from The Salt Lake Tribune.

The question has been brought up because California now requires vaccines for health care workers, teachers and others.

The Tribune reports that some Californian members of the faith (which is headquartered in Salt Lake City) have asked their local leaders to support their applications to receive religious waivers from their employers.

The Tribune obtained a letter written by the church's Area Presidency to local leaders in California, which tells them to not sign such faith-based exemption applications.

“No church official can sign any kind of document supporting the notion that church doctrine/teaching is opposed to vaccination or that the church is opposed to vaccination mandates,” the letter reads, in part. “As to the former, the opposite is true [the church not only supports but also encourages vaccination]; as to the latter, the Brethren [top officials] have not taken a position.”

Last month, the church's top leaders urged members to get the COVID-19 vaccine.

And while a fundamental teaching of the faith is "agency," or the freedom to choose, the letter states that this "does not provide a religious basis for disobeying the law or demanding special exemptions from it.”

The letter even says if leaders sign such exemptions, it could be considered perjury.