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Noah Feldman

Freedom of Religion Means Freedom to Say No to Vaccines

When people say they are motivated by conscience, even implausibly, employers and government have no morally defensible choice but to take their word for it. 

Conscientious objector.

Conscientious objector.

Photographer: Tayfun Coskun/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

Whether you are religious believer or an atheist, it’s galling to realize that some people are feigning religious objections to Covid-19 vaccines to avoid compliance with mandates. And since the law requires that religious beliefs be “sincere,” it’s tempting to argue for strict policing of the legitimacy of requested objections.

On closer examination, however, the right course is actually for employers and government to defer to individuals’ claims of religious exemption, no matter how implausible they may seem. The principle of freedom of conscience means that the final judge of what’s in your conscience is, well, your conscience.