In addition, large swaths of Reserve units — whose vaccination deadlines range from later this year to into next summer — have yet to get the shots.
Among those siding with faith-fueled refusals is Catholic Archbishop Timothy P. Broglio, the head of the Archdiocese for Military Services who also signed on to the board’s letter. Although many U.S. dioceses have refused to issue religious exemptions for Catholics, Broglio published a statement last month in which he insisted that denying religious exemptions to the vaccine would be “morally reprehensible.”
“Even if an individual’s decision seems erroneous or inconsistent to others, conscience does not lose its dignity,” he argued.
Broglio noted some Catholics have raised concerns about vaccine manufacturers’ use of cells believed to have been originally derived from tissue from an aborted fetus in the 1970s and 1980s. Nevertheless, taking COVID-19 vaccines crafted with the use of such cell lines — a common practice throughout the medical industry — was deemed morally acceptable by Vatican officials, and Swiss Guard troops tasked with protecting the Catholic city-state were subjected to a strict vaccine mandate this year.
Notably absent among the signers of the board letter was longtime Trump devotee Robert Jeffress, the firebrand pastor of First Baptist Dallas who has drawn controversy for his incendiary rhetoric and embrace of Christian nationalism.
Despite his close affiliation with Trump and his faith advisers, Jeffress has taken a decidedly different stance on the question of religion and COVID-19 vaccines: He told The Associated Press in September via email that “there is no credible religious argument against the vaccines.”
He added: “Christians who are troubled by the use of a fetal cell line for the testing of the vaccines would also have to abstain from the use of Tylenol, Pepto Bismol, Ibuprofen, and other products that used the same cell line if they are sincere in their objection.”
Some religious leaders have challenged vaccine mandates or the COVID-19 vaccines themselves, but faith groups have also been among the most vocal supporters of COVID-19 vaccination. Religious leaders participated in COVID-19 vaccine trials and opened up their sanctuaries to assist with vaccine rollout, and Pope Francis has described getting vaccinated against the novel coronavirus as “an act of love.”
This article originally appeared here.