Religion and a COVID-19 Vaccine—a Complex Question with Complex Answers

Dr. Renae Barker is a Senior Lecturer in the Faculty of Arts, Business, Lawand Education at the University of Western Australia

An earlier version of this blogpost appeared at The G20 Interfaith Forum Blog.

As the world edges closer to viable vaccines against COVID-19, attention is turning to how that vaccine will be rolled out. Central to this question is the extent to which states may make the vaccine mandatory. Australian Prime Minister, Scott Morrison, has indicated he would like to see a 95% vaccination rate once a vaccine is available. In Australia, debate has recently turned to the ethics of the vaccine being developed at Oxford University and the implications for freedom of religion should this vaccine prove to be the most viable candidate.

The vaccine being developed at Oxford University uses cell lines originally taken from an aborted foetus from the 1970s. While the practice of using cell-lines taken from a foetus is generally accepted by the scientific community as ethical, this does not allay religious concerns with the practice.

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Masterpiece Cakeshop: And the winner is … pluralism?

Elizabeth A. Clark is Associate Director of the International Center for Law and Religion Studies at Brigham Young University’s J. Reuben Clark Law School. She joined an amicus brief of 34 legal scholars in support of the cakeshop in this case.

No one seems pleased with the result in Masterpiece Cakeshop, Ltd. v. Colorado Civil Rights CommissionIn significant ways, both those supporting Jack Phillips, the baker, and proponents of Charlie Craig and David Mullins, the same-sex couple, lost. On the one hand, the Supreme Court refused to grant unqualified protection to those who conscientiously object to providing goods and services to same-sex couples, and at the same time the court shut down efforts to assert that all forms of discrimination affecting same-sex couples should be labeled mere bigotry. The court pushed for a more pluralist approach, noting both that “gay persons and gay couples cannot be treated as social outcasts or as inferior in dignity and worth,” and that “[a]t the same time, the religious and philosophical objections to gay marriage are protected views and in some instances protected forms of expression.” (more…)

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