Inslee’s office told CNA in an email that the “state Office of Financial Management HR department is finalizing details on the process of applying for religious exemptions.”
A vaccination exemption request for the State of Washington must include a statement that articulates how the mandate conflicts with the “religious observance, practice, or belief of the individual.”
Before and as COVID-19 vaccines began to roll out, some Catholics raised concerns about the drugs’ remote connection to aborted fetal tissue. Those produced by Pfizer and Moderna were tested on cell lines likely derived from elective abortions decades ago, while the vaccine created by Johnson & Johnson was directly produced using the cell lines.
The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, echoing guidance from the Vatican, has since stated that all three vaccines approved for use in the United States are “morally acceptable” for use because of their remote connection with abortion, but if one has the ability to choose a vaccine, Pfizer or Moderna’s vaccines should be chosen over Johnson & Johnson’s.
In its December 2020 Note on the morality of using some anti-Covid-19 vaccines, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith stated that “vaccination is not, as a rule, a moral obligation” and “therefore, it must be voluntary.”
It said that “in the absence of other means to stop or even prevent the epidemic, the common good may recommend vaccination.”
“Those who, however, for reasons of conscience, refuse vaccines produced with cell lines from aborted fetuses, must do their utmost to avoid, by other prophylactic means and appropriate behavior, becoming vehicles for the transmission of the infectious agent,” the congregation wrote.
Bishop Daly said, “We would encourage people to follow their conscience on this. I do believe people will do the right thing. I think it’s going to be rare that a person in conscience will not seek vaccination.”
He also noted that people want to know the truth, and to be able to trust leadership in the medical field, politics, and the Church, and that occasional contradictory guidance from civic leaders during the pandemic— such as the closure of churches while leaving businesses such as liquor stores open— has left some Catholics confused about how to proceed regarding vaccination.
Bishop Daly says civic leaders’ “inconsistencies” have contributed to the angst of the overall situation.
Citizens “don't want to be lied to, and they don't want to be treated as if they're simpletons,” Bishop Daly said. “A lot of people’s reluctance has come from half-truths, misinformation, shaming.”
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Washington and Oregon both issued vaccine mandates for educators last week. In California and New Jersey, educators have the option of either showing proof of vaccination or being tested at least once per week. Some cities and school districts, such as New York City, Chicago, and Los Angeles also recently announced a vaccine requirement for all school employees.
Autumn Jones was a staff writer with Catholic News Agency through 2021. She is a graduate of Gonzaga University and the University of Colorado. She is based in Denver.
Jonah McKeown is a staff writer and podcast producer for Catholic News Agency. He holds a Master’s Degree from the University of Missouri School of Journalism and has worked as a writer, as a producer for public radio, and as a videographer. He is based in St. Louis.