Religious Liberty and Religious Leadership in the Vaccine Wars

The Supreme Court recently struck down a federal “test-or-vaccine” mandate on businesses with more than 100 employees. Despite this ruling, many Americans must still receive a COVID-19 vaccine before resuming in-person work. Some have taken to exploring religious exemptions to vaccine requirements; as Mansee Khurana explains, this has at times posed a problem for religious leaders:

Religious exemptions from vaccines are currently allowed in 44 states and Washington, DC, and they typically require an employer to provide reasonable accommodation for “sincerely held” religious beliefs. But no objective test determines whether an individual’s request is genuine, which leaves the judgment entirely up to companies. Given the value that a co-sign from a religious leader can provide, I asked Brian Strauss, the senior rabbi at Congregation Beth Yeshurun, a synagogue in Houston, about his approach to talking with people looking to obtain an exemption. . . . Avoiding the vaccines, Strauss contends, contradicts Jewish tradition.

Strauss’s position echoes the attitude that several states have adopted. Personal-belief exemptions in the United States were formalized in the 1960s, after some constituents pressured state legislatures to pass them in response to compulsory-polio-vaccine laws. After a measles outbreak in California in the winter of 2015, the state banned faith-based exemptions. Five more states—including New York, Mississippi, and Connecticut—have disallowed them as well.

Though many clergy are pro-vaccine, they often feel paralyzed or confused talking with congregants about their own stances, according to Curtis Chang, a consulting professor at Duke Divinity School. . . . While about 90 percent of evangelical faith leaders say they would encourage others to get inoculated, less than half of evangelical congregants are in favor of it.

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Read more at Atlantic

More about: American Religion, Coronavirus, Freedom of Religion, Medicine

How China Equips the Islamic Republic to Repress Its People

In its dedication to bringing totalitarianism into the 21st century, the Chinese Communist party has developed high-tech forms of surveillance using facial-recognition software, a vast system of “social credit,” and careful control over its subjects’ cellular phones. Even stricter and more invasive measures are applied to the Uyghurs of the northwestern part of the country. Beijing is also happy to export its innovations in tyranny to allies like Iran and Russia. Playing a key role in these advances is a nominally private company called Tiandy Technologies. Craig Singleton describes its activities:

Both Tiandy testimonials and Chinese-government press releases advertise the use of the company’s products by Chinese officials to track and interrogate Uyghur Muslims and other ethnic minorities in China’s Xinjiang province. According to human-rights groups, Chinese authorities also employ Tiandy products, such as “tiger chairs,” to torture Uyghurs and other minorities.

Iran has long relied on China to augment its digital surveillance capabilities, and Tehran was an early adopter of Beijing’s “social-credit” system, which it wields to assess citizens’ behavior and trustworthiness. . . . Iranian government representatives have publicized plans to leverage smart technologies, including AI-powered face recognition, to maintain regime stability and neutralize dissent. Enhanced cooperation with China is central to those efforts.

At present, Tiandy is not subject to U.S. sanctions or export controls. In light of Tiandy’s operations in both Xinjiang and Iran, policymakers should consider removing the company, its owner, and stakeholders from the international financial system and global supply chains.

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Read more at FDD

More about: China, Human Rights, Iran, Totalitarianism, U.S. Foreign policy