What an excuse for people to find religion.

Campbell County Health finds itself in a position where it is alarmingly short-staffed and could become dangerously so if its employees start quitting because they have to choose between getting a COVID-19 vaccine by Dec. 6 or losing their jobs.

Those vaccines are mandated by the Biden administration for workers in health care organizations that receive federal Medicare and Medicaid money. To gain a religious exemption, the new federal guidelines require employees to demonstrate a sincere religious opposition to the vaccine that is not just a political, social, economic, personal or non-religious view.

It isn’t simply a matter of telling the feds to shove it. In order to survive, CCH must follow the rules or lose its license.

To keep a staffing crisis from becoming a staffing catastrophe for the hospital, clinics and nursing home, the hospital board and administration see the religious exemption as perhaps the only out for employees who refuse to get vaccinated. Most employees won’t qualify for a medical exemption, but maybe they can be nudged into declaring a religious exemption instead.

CCH will not require employees to name their religion, but they will have to explain on the exemption application their religious grounds for not receiving the vaccine.

It puts the hospital in a devil of a dilemma.

It is a health care facility that should promote good health — things like vaccines. And a hospital or nursing home is almost a sacred place, as anyone who has been in an emergency in a health care facility can attest to. They are places where lives are saved and lives are lost. Either way, there’s a lot of praying going on.

So in order to survive in a community where vaccines are as unpopular as the president himself, the hospital has to delicately dance between the good and the bad. In the process, it just gets ugly.

Religion, in the world we should live in, should be the last thing to be politicized. Yet, here we are, where it is viewed as an escape and a savior, not for our souls but for our outrage.

It is clear that the trustees have struggled. At a time when we need a hospital more than ever, tribalism could shut it down if unvaccinated workers were to leave.

The ability to use the religious exemption clause is viewed a way to get to whatever comes next in the courts after multiple states (including Wyoming) have filed suit against the mandate.

“The only thing we have to verify is that you say that your religious belief is against it and it’s a sincerely held belief. You could adopt this religion today and file for an exemption tomorrow,” hospital board Chairman Adrian Gerrits said this week.

A sad statement even if it’s true.

Trustee Alan Stuber was more comfortable with doing nothing — basically willing to call the federal government’s bluff. “I feel morally and ethically this is very wrong,” Stuber said Tuesday, later adding that “you’re using religion almost in a wrong way.”

Another sad statement.

Not so long ago, this country would have come together for the public good. That’s part of the religion it was founded on. And when that happened, they gave up some of the personal freedoms so publicly touted now to remain united.

Gillette News Record

Nov. 13

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