When the founders of our nation guaranteed freedom of religion in the First Amendment, they wanted the government to never define or enforce religious orthodoxy. It was never their intention that meaningless allegations of religious offense exempt people from laws that are necessary to achieve compelling government interests. Yet this appears to be the issue in question in the lawsuit brought by healthcare workers for exemptions from hospital and clinic rules that require them to be vaccinated against COVID-19 (“Healthcare workers from the ‘State Prosecute for Warrant’, September 29). The rules apply to all healthcare workers in facilities that receive Medicare or Medicaid funding.
These regulations clearly have the secular intent to protect healthcare clients from exposure to the virus. Under the current interpretation of the Restoration of Religious Freedom Act, the courts unquestionably accept claims of “sincere religious belief”. The vaccination requirements, however, were enacted without bias against religious beliefs. Today, there are many reasons to suspect that the motivation for opposing the vaccine demand is entirely political.
The sincerity of the claims of religious beliefs cannot be out of the question. What is the religion of the applicant who prohibits vaccination? If the belief is individual rather than institutional, has the applicant ever received any other vaccines?
There is no alternative to vaccination that far approaches its effectiveness in preventing COVID infection. Requests for religious exemption should be rejected.
George Francis Kane, Saint-Paul
I am appalled that health care workers are challenging the requirement to be vaccinated. As a patient, I would expect all staff in a clinic, hospital, or care facility to be vaccinated. In fact, I would have expected this to be the case in the past six months.
Judy Gibson, Saint-Paul
How sad and disheartening it is to see thousands of healthcare workers, most of whom have done yeoman a favor with COVID-19 patients throughout the pandemic, being laid off from their vital jobs because they refuse the vaccination mandate. Estimates indicate that 16% of these people, deeply familiar with the reality of the virus, will not submit to their employer’s mandate. Leave aside their motivations. The practical effect on the health care of our country is that we are already experiencing a severe shortage of qualified medical personnel to meet the needs of the country. Meanwhile, the Secretary of Health and Human Services acknowledges that at least 20% of the hundreds of thousands of illegal migrants crossing our non-existent southern border each month arrive with undiagnosed illnesses. Never mind the reality that we have absolutely no idea of their background, legal or otherwise. We have promised them the full panoply of free government services. Is this a country serious about its existence?
Mark H. Reed, Plymouth
MASKING IN SCHOOLS
I absolutely agree with the general sentiment expressed by an author of a September 27 letter regarding the importance of wearing masks to protect children from contracting COVID. However, I don’t know why she ends her letter by saying that “it is time for the governor to stand up and do his job”. I think Governor Tim Walz would agree 100% that there should be a mask warrant in all schools. However, from the first day he exercised his emergency powers, he faced demands for resignation, threats of impeachment and personal threats against him and his family. Republican members of the legislature demanded that he relinquish his emergency powers. I think it is unfair to put the blame on his shoulders.
Kathleen Breen, Shoreview
As a licensed short-term substitute teacher, I do not disagree with the substance of the September 27 letter regarding masks and other safety precautions in schools. However, one of the author’s statements makes incorrect assumptions. At the end of the letter, the executive and judicial branches of the state government of Minnesota are grouped together and labeled “politicians who value re-election” over the safety and education of Minnesota students.
I am also a licensed lawyer. Minnesota judges are not politicians. They are not affiliated with any political party and are held to a standard that requires them to make decisions based on the law and the facts without considering re-election concerns. This standard significantly distinguishes the judicial branch of government of the State of Minnesota from the other two branches and requires clarification.
Cindy Hazelwood Lutz, Eagan
HIDE IN GENERAL
When will it end? I’m almost past the point of worrying if someone is anti-mask, anti-vax, anti-anything. There is only one way for COVID to leave us. I studied epidemiology in graduate school and am amazed how many people use the term ‘herd immunity’ as if they understood what it means (or my favorite – ‘heard immunity’). Until the vast majority of us catch COVID or are vaccinated, this will continue over and over again. And, no one knows what the exact number is – 75%? 90%? Let’s stop arguing about it. We are all tired. Please. To get vaccinated. Or, get COVID. I would prefer you to get vaccinated.
Ron Pearson, Saint-Paul
It’s fall and the media remind students that sport is the most popular activity in high school. Media coverage of high school sports compared to any other activity is ridiculously lopsided. Even average football teams get more coverage than Theater, Group, Debate, DECA, and Academic Olympics combined. For example, the Minnesota High School Mathematics League state tournament plays host to some of the state’s brightest minds, but rarely receives media coverage. How many people even know that Minnesota has an all-state math team that competes in national competitions? The three co-captains are all National Merit Scholar semi-finalists with perfect ACT scores who volunteer their time to help younger students excel in math. Guess what they’re missing is hockey hair.
We know that participating in sports increases grades, overall school attendance, and team building skills, but so do the group, robotics, drama, academic Olympics and more. the DECA.
Unfortunately, it is not just the media that is conveying this message to students. Governor Tim Walz once named the Minnesota Olympic gymnast and his Twitter posts are full of kudos for the athletes, but he ignored the Minnesota students who won the national speeches and debates, a gold medalist member of the US Physics Team, and the winners of the US Science Bowl. I cannot find any recognition from him for our state’s National Merit Fellows since he took office. Could this explain why our country ranks 31st in the world for math literacy and eighth for reading? Children are constantly shown that sport is valued over academics.
Rena Erickson, Lake Elmo
Reading the September 30 article “Dollar Tree to buck $ 1 buys all mantra” reminded me of when I was growing up in South Minneapolis. We had a dime store (Woolworth) nearby on Franklin Avenue. That didn’t mean everything in the store was a dime. In fact, I bought peanuts once for five cents.
Eleanor Hattery, Northfield, Minn.
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