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Loyola law professor: ‘Covid vaccine exemptions should not exist’

A professor and program director at a prominent Catholic law school argues against religious exemptions for Covid vaccines, saying they should not exist.

Jessica Levinson is a clinical professor of law at Loyola Marymount Law School in Los Angeles and director of its Public Service Institute.

The professor recently wrote a column for MSNBC headlined “Covid vaccine exemptions should not exist. Here’s Why.”

“As far back as the late 19th century, the Supreme Court has acknowledged it would be absurd to allow people to opt out of many generally applicable laws by simply claiming their religious beliefs compelled contrary action,” she wrote.

“… The Supreme Court concluded in 1940, ‘Conduct remains subject to regulation for the protection of society.’”

Levinson, in her column, also quotes an extreme position by a Supreme Court justice from a case argued back in 1879 to prove her point, Reynolds vs. United States.

“Suppose one believed that human sacrifices were a necessary part of religious worship; would it be seriously contended that the civil government under which he lived could not interfere to prevent a sacrifice?”

The professor argued that the Constitution in fact “is not a roadblock for such vaccine mandates.”

Professor Levinson indicated in an email to The College Fix that she does not engage in activism promoting her anti-religious exemption stance at the law school campus.

However, Levinson said she does feel as though Covid vaccinations should be a prerequisite to studying on a college campus.

Presently, Loyola Marymount University does offer the religious exemption option for students. That opportunity, like many universities, came with a deadline for enrollment for the fall semester, according to the university website.

When asked whether religious exemptions should inherently exist at religious institutions of higher education, Levinson responded in putting forth the proposition that Covid vaccines should be treated like any other vaccine, and thus be mandatory in spite of religious liberties.

“I believe the Covid-19 vaccines should be treated like all other mandatory vaccinations in California for children to attend public and private school. There are no religious exemptions for those required vaccinations. Similarly there are no religious exemptions to many other health and safety laws,” she said via email.

Levinson noted in her column that when it comes to student vaccination laws, several states — including California, New York, Maine and Mississippi — do not offer religious exemptions.

The law professor argued that the larger issue is that people who are not religious will take advantage of the exemptions citing a faux devotion to a certain faith in order to avoid receiving the vaccine based on personal choice, and thus for personal reasons.

In other words, to Levinson, the religious exemption law is merely a loophole: “Certain members of our society are seeking to avoid [vaccine mandates] by seeking religious exemptions.”

She pointed out that no major religious institution has publicly opposed or rejected the vaccines, and that Pope Francis has encouraged Catholics to get vaccinated.

“The law allows for vaccine requirements without religious exemptions. Not only that, but morality mandates it,” she wrote. “Therefore, we should abolish religious exemptions for vaccine mandates. Religious objections to vaccines are not a license to kill.”

Loyola Marymount University did not respond to multiple requests for comment.

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About the Author
Alexander Pease -- University of Massachusetts, Boston