It disgusts us to have to write this, but religious exemptions are being denied by Nevada universities for reasons like, “religious conviction not adequately demonstrated,” and “inconsistent with previous vaccination status”.
To be clear, religious exemptions are protected under Nevada state law for school children through college as well as in Nevada administrative code. Believe me, we will be fighting this legally. But for now, we are advising to go through the process and appeal if needed.
Here are some tips for your wording:
- Be vague about your exact religion. The Catholic, Jewish and Mormon churches have OFFICIALLY come out in support of the vaccines. The people reading your exemption know this.
- You DO NOT NEED a pastor/priest to approve or sign your exemption. This is a personal, deeply held conviction that you follow that does not have to coincide with any established church.
- We recommend explaining why injecting these substances goes against your “practice” of keeping your body clean, holy, a temple, whatever verbiage you choose.
- These vaccines ARE made using aborted fetal tissue in their development
- If you are being denied because you’ve had other vaccines, discuss how this one is different, may alter your body’s DNA, has never been used before and is not a typical vaccine, etc, etc. Use your own ideas, these are just a few.
- God and your “belief” might also support bodily choice and autonomy
When responding to a denial, address the reason for the denial. But stay vague.
Here is an excerpt from one student who was accepted. This is beautifully written! But we do not think you need to write this much. We just wanted to share some of these ideas.
“This statement is provided to the _____ upon my right to be granted an exemption from a mandated vaccine requirement. I am specifically exercising my right to be exempt from a Covid-19 vaccine. The First Amendment of the Constitution guarantees me the right to exercise my religious freedoms, and I do believe that further questioning violates not only my first Amendment rights but also my sincerely held religious beliefs and my medical right to privacy. I have chosen to set forth herein an explanation of my sincerely held religious belief regarding the Covid-19 vaccine: however, I do not waive the right to hold the recipient of this statement, and the recipient’s agents and affiliates liable and accountable for discrimination based on my religious beliefs and my rights to medical privacy. I am concerned about discrimination from my peers and professors regarding this decision. I expect this private piece of medical information to remain confidential.
I have several objections based on sincerely held religious beliefs and deep, personal beliefs of taking the Covid vaccine. First, my Christian beliefs are opposed to abortion and the harming of a fetus of human life in any manner whatsoever. Not only were fetal cell lines used in developing the Covid vaccines, which is against my Christian faith, I would like to get married and have children in the future. If I were to become pregnant, a Covid vaccine could harm my ability to get pregnant and to carry a child to term.
Second, the vaccine itself carries multiple side effects and the long term effects are unknown. I am not elderly or any other risk category and do not believe as a Christian that I should allow fear to motivate me to participate in this vaccine. Instead, it is my sincerely held Christian belief that Lord Jesus Christ will provide for me in my day to day life, which includes protecting me from the complications caused by viruses as the Lord’s sovereign hand dictates. I am not opposed to all vaccines, but I believe that my Creator gave me the ability to choose based on the scientific data over time and my health risks.
Finally, I sincerely believe that my body is created in the image of the Holy Creator and that taking the Covid Vaccine is not an act of worship. I sincerely believe that all decisions made in my life, including those involving medical decisions, should be an act of worship and praise for the One who created me.
My Protestant faith does not dictate each and every medical decision that I make but instead recognizes me as an independent member of Christianity. As an independent member of the Christian Faith I have unique needs and circumstances as well as the right to medical privacy. The Protestant Church encourages individual Christians to spend hours reading God’s Word allowing each and every member to make his/her own medical decisions as they deem appropriate for his/ her best interest and to honor God. I have attached an affidavit, which is my sworn statement that these are my sincere religious and personal beliefs, under penalty of perjury.”
If denied, appeal. Then contact us so we can sue them- especially if you are denied the 2nd time.
And for deeper understanding of Nevada law and federal protections, here is the Ceases and Desist Letter we wrote to UNR.
Re: Notice to the University of Nevada Reno, Attorney Mary Dugan, Melissa Choroszy and All Participating Faculty, Staff, and Regents. UNR’s Policy of Reviewing Students’ Medical and Religious exemptions; and Refusing to enroll student’s who claim a medical or religious exemption Violates Nevada Revised Statute NRS 392.437 and NRS 392.439, (2) NAC 441A.755 and NAC Chapters 392, 394, 432A, 3) Violates Federal Law under Americans for Disability Act, and 4) Violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act (which prohibits discrimination based on race, color, national origin, religion, and sex, including pregnancy).
This letter services as official notice to the University of Nevada Reno, (UNR) that UNR, Student Health Services, Legal Counsel Mary Dugan, the legal team, the Associate Vice President, Enrollment Services and Registrar, Melisa N. Choroszy, Ph.D and all Regents, Supervisors, faculty, and staff involved in the development and implementation of UNR’s policy of reviewing student exemptions and denying students registration while this process occurs, directly opposes state law. The policies which demand that UNR conduct a “review process” for religious and medical exemptions to the covid-19 vaccinations is in direct violation of Nevada revised statues and Nevada Administrative codes. Additionally, putting students’ accounts on hold so they are unable to register for Spring 2022 classes, while they wait for you to undergo this lengthly and tedious process is putting them under duress and is discriminatory. We are writing to alert you to this, and to request an immediate and thorough investigation and remediation of the same.
To be clear: UNR must immediately cease and desist its Policies and unfreeze student accounts so they can register upon receipt of this letter. UNR must cease and desist its policy of reviewing students’ exemptions and holding the student hostage to this illegal process. Nowhere in statute is UNR given the power to accept or deny these exemptions. To freeze student accounts for weeks or months while you attempt to verify the validity of the forms is cruel and discriminatory. UNR must issue a public retraction and corrected statement of said policy on the UNR website and internal communications no later than Friday October 29, 2021, and unfreeze student accounts immediately or otherwise face heavy fire in the courts of law, courts of public opinion, and with the very public upon whom its funding depends. Newly adopted Nevada administrative codes state clearly that “the university shall not refuse to enroll a student” who has submitted a religious or medical exemption. There is nowhere in the administrative code that provides for a review process, an application process, a provisional acceptance or an acceptance or denial process. Students who have submitted their exemptions/waivers, are being denied the ability to register for classes while the “review process” takes place. As existing students (most of them) these students should be given the benefit of the doubt for having turned their form in, and allowed to register. They have been accepted into UNR and have achieved all the requisites that UNR requires to date. They should be afforded the respect of an existing member of the UNR student body, not treated like an offending outsider. If UNR wishes to take the time to verify the information given, they can do this on their own time and address any corrections or missing information as it is discovered. But to punish these students simply for requesting an exemption and to make THEM wait while you conduct this lengthly, excessive and questionable process is unfair and warrants legal action. This is clear discrimination of medically exempt and religiously protected students who may not get the classes they need due to this delay in registration. Putting a “hold” on their accounts while UNR illegally “reviews” their exemptions is not only directly against NRS and NAC but a violation of these students’ rights to protection from discrimination. UNR shall further ensure that the UNR Staff understands that neither religious nor medical exemptions to vaccine requirements are up for review. The student has only to submit the prescribed form, and according to the letter of the law, cannot be denied.
Further, Nevada administrative code does not require additional paperwork nor explanation of religious beliefs; simply the form to be filled out stating that they are exercising their right to religious exemption per Nevada Revised Statues and Nevada Administrative Code NAC441A.755.
UNR’s CURRENT IMMUNIZATION EXEMPTION POLICIES
The instant problem arises from the fact that students are being asked to submit their exemptions, and then being told they will have to wait up to 3 weeks to find out if their exemptions are approved. Students are not allowed to register for classes during this window, which is discriminatory and increases the likelihood that they won’t get the classes they need. This also risks scholarships for students who have them. It puts their education a risk. This is discrimination of students based on religious beliefs and medical conditions. This is illegal according to the Americans with Disabilities Act and Title VII of the Civil Rights Act (which prohibits discrimination based on race, color, national origin, religion, and sex, including pregnancy).
The clear problem with this policy is that, not only is a review process against NAC 441A.755, but refusing to allow the student to register while this process is conducted is inhumane and unacceptable. The student cannot be denied enrollment. Holding off enrollment is a clear violation of all above stated laws. If UNR wishes to comb through the forms and confirm all the information is there, fine. But let it be clear, UNR is given no authority under state law to do anything but collect these exemption forms. Let it also be clear that religious exemptions should have nothing whatsoever to confirm, scrutinize, or “approve”. A mere glance that the religious form is complete should suffice. Nor does UNR have the authority to verify a doctors signature. However, again, if UNR chooses to spend time inspecting these forms, you should do so at your own cost of time, personnel and effort and not hold the students hostage to this process. This could take weeks or months. To call it a review process and give the impression that the student may not have their exemption accepted is wrong and needs to end now. It is illegal, unconstitutional, discriminatory and cruel treatment of an existing, already-accepted member of the University.
Newly revised NAC from August 2021
While there are new revisions to the NAC, passed both in December of 2020 and amended in August of 2021, none of the newly amended NAC allow for a review process of students’ medical or religious exemptions.
AUTHORITY: NRS 441A.120; NRS 233B.0613 Section 1.
NAC441A.755 is hereby amended as follows:
NAC 441A. 755 University, Community college, and State college students: Proof of immunity to certain communicable diseases required; exceptions; exclusion from university, community college, state college. (NRS 441A.120J
1. Except as otherwise provided in subsection 11 or unless excused because of religious belief or medical condition, a person shall not attend a university until he submits to the university proof of immunity to tetanus, diphtheria, measles, mumps, rube Ila, and any other disease specified by the State Board of Health. The Division shall establish the immunization schedule required for admission of the student.
2. Except as otherwise provided in subsection 11 or unless excused because of religious belief or medical condition, a person shall not enroll in courses at a university, community college, or state college on or after November 1, 2021, unless the person submits to the institution proof of a completed COVID-19 vaccination series.
3. Except as otherwise provided in subsection 11 or unless excused because of religious belief or medical condition, a person who:
(a) Is less than 23 years of age; and
(b) Is enrolled as a freshman; -. shall not attend a university until he or she submits to the university proof of immunity to Neisseria meningitidis. The Division shall establish the immunization schedule required for admission of the student.
4. Except as required by subsection 2, student may enroll in the university, community college, or state college conditionally if the student, or if the student is a minor, the parent or legal guardian of the student, submits a record of immunization stating that the student is in the process of obtaining the required immunizations, and that record shows that the student has made satisfactory progress toward obtaining those immunizations.
5. The university, community college, and state college shall retain the proof of immunity on a computerized record or on a form provided by the Division.
6. The university, community college, or state college shall not refuse to enroll a student because he has not been immunized if the student, or if the student is a minor, the parent or legal guardian of the student, has submitted to the institution a written statement indicating that his religious belief prohibits immunizations. The institution shall keep the statement on file.
7. If the medical condition of a student does not permit him to be immunized to the extent required, the student, or if the student is a minor, the parent or legal guardian of the student, must submit to the institution a statement of that fact written by a licensed physician. The institution shall keep the statement on file.
8. If additional requirements of immunity are imposed by law after a student has been enrolled in the institution, the student, or if the student is a minor, the parent or legal guardian of the student, shall submit an additional proof of immunity to the institution stating that the student has met the new requirements of immunity.
9. If the health authority determines that, at a community college, state college, or university, there is a case having a communicable disease against which immunity is required for admission to the university, and a student who has not submitted proof of immunity to that disease is attending that university, the president of the institution shall require that:
(a) The student be immunized;
or (b) The student be excluded from the institution until allowed to return by the health authority.
10. A student shall not attend a university, community college, or state college from which he is excluded until allowed to return by the health authority. The parent or legal guardian of a student, if the student is a minor, shall not allow the student to attend a university, community college, or state college from which he is excluded until allowed to return by the health authority.
11. Any student who is enrolled in a program of distance education and who does not attend a class on campus is exempt from the requirements of this section.
12. As used in this section:
(a) “Postsecondary educational institution” has the meaning ascribed to it in NRS 394.099.
(b) “University” means any university within the Nevada System of Higher Education or any private postsecondary educational institution.
(c) “Community college” means all of the community colleges within the Nevada System of Higher Education.
(d) “State college” means all of the state colleges within the Nevada System of Higher Education.
(e) “Institution” means any university, community college, or state college as described above.
In sum, we hereby demand that UNR immediately:
- Cease and desist with the “review process” and
- Immediately release student accounts so that students can register for classes for the Spring semester, 2022;
- Cease and desist policies, emails, statements or other expressions related to the above-cited, inaccurate, unlawful review process;
- Issue written letter to the entire UNR Community by e-mail and regular mail
- Retracting all such statements,
- Explaining that students are ONLY required to fill out the required medical or religious exemption form and turn it in,
- That NO OTHER action is necessary and that the students MUST not be told that their exemption is pending review;
- Giving notice that UNR will comply with the NRS, federal law and NACs chapters 392, 394, 432A and 441A and other applicable laws, and not mandate any policy which demands more than is plainly stated in the law by requiring such burdensome policies as reviewing legally executed exemptions and discriminating against said students by making them wait to register.
Failure to do so will result in a lawsuit on behalf of my clients seeking an injunction to force your compliance with the applicable state and federal law. We thank you for your attention to the above and look forward to receiving a response no later than Tuesday, October 26, 2021.
The religious exemption forms are now provided by the health department for all students. The schools will provide these. For some reason, the forms vary slightly or college and university. Currently, the form requires parents to initial 4 statements. The first two are incriminating and we suggest not signing them. The last 2 are simply stating what the statute and regulations say, so you’re probably ok to sign them. Obviously, we all feel that we should not ever have to use an exemption since vaccination should just always be a choice. Also, there is the argument that the fact that this form created by the Health Department is required is only a Nevada Administrative Code and not Law- so we should not have to sign it. We should only have to do what the LAW says, which is write a simply statement that you are exercising your right to religious exemption according to NRS 392.437. You do what you feel is right. In the currently climate, we are fighting just to have RE’s accepted at colleges, and NOT go through a review process. So fighting that we shouldn’t even need an exemption at this stage of the game seems like a long shot to me (personally) at this point.
Religious exemptions for adults
As for religious exemption for adults, that is more complicated. Here are the best resources for going about this.
~ In Power and Liberty, HFN