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Southern Seminary and Asbury Seminary work with noted anti-abortion, anti-LGBTQ legal group to claim federal vaccine mandate intrudes on ‘personal health decisions’

Southern Seminary and Asbury Seminary work with noted anti-abortion, anti-LGBTQ legal group to claim federal vaccine mandate intrudes on ‘personal health decisions’

Southern Seminary and Asbury Seminary work with noted anti-abortion, anti-LGBTQ legal group to claim federal vaccine mandate intrudes on ‘personal health decisions’

A Southern Baptist Convention seminary and a Wesleyan seminary in Kentucky are jointly challenging the Biden administration’s federal mandate on COVID-19 vaccination by claiming a religious liberty violation.

A Southern Baptist Convention seminary and a Wesleyan seminary in Kentucky are jointly challenging the Biden administration’s federal mandate on COVID-19 vaccination by claiming a religious liberty violation.

Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Ky, which is the largest of the six SBC seminaries, and Asbury Theological Seminary, a nondenominational seminary in the Wesleyan tradition, together filed a with the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit on Friday, Nov. 5.

The petition asks the court to review a policy published the same day by the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration and the Labor Department requiring employers with 100 or more employees to take specific steps to avoid the spread of COVID-19. The published federal rule says: “Covered employers must develop, implement and enforce a mandatory COVID-19 vaccination policy, with an exception for employers that instead adopt a policy requiring employees to either get vaccinated or elect to undergo regular COVID-19 testing and wear a face covering at work in lieu of vaccination.”

On Saturday, Nov. 6, a three-judge panel of the U.S. Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals temporarily the vaccine mandate, in response to appeals from a coalition of Republican-led states and private businesses.

According to the two seminaries and the nonprofit law firm representing them, the new OSHA rule is “unlawful” and “compels employers” to “intrude on their employees’ personal health decisions and divert resources from their important mission of training future ministers,” said Ryan Bangert, senior counsel for Alliance Defending Freedom.

Farris also played a key role in the effort to illegally overturn Donald Trump’s loss in the 2020 presidential election.

Alliance Defending Freedom is a conservative law firm headed by Michael Farris, who also is a founder of Home School Legal Defense Association and Patrick Henry College. Farris also played a in the effort to illegally overturn Donald Trump’s loss in the 2020 presidential election. Farris and Alliance Defending Freedom are prominent in the conservative Christian battle against and .

The considers Alliance Defending Freedom “the largest anti-LGBTQ legal group in the U.S.” It has been a driving force pushing state legislatures to pass laws that discriminate against LGBTQ persons and especially transgender persons.

While the group — like the Southern Baptist Convention — adamantly denies women reproductive choice, it believes evangelical Christians must be afforded individual choice on COVID-19 vaccines.

“The government has no authority to unilaterally treat unvaccinated employees like workplace hazards or to compel employers to become vaccine commissars, and we are asking the 6th Circuit to put a stop to it immediately,” Bangert said.

The lawsuit alleges that the Biden administration lacks jurisdiction to dictate employment practices to religious institutions, lacks constitutional and statutory authority to issue the employer mandate, and that the mandate failed to meet required procedural hurdles.

While the group — like the Southern Baptist Convention — adamantly denies women reproductive choice, it believes evangelical Christians must be afforded individual choice on COVID-19 vaccines.

“In short, the federal government cannot coerce individuals nationwide to undergo medical treatment, and it lacks authority to conscript employers to compel that result,” a news release said. “The lawsuit takes no position on any COVID-19 vaccine or whether any person should make the personal decision to receive it.”

Al Mohler

Southern Seminary President Al Mohler, a prominent leader within the SBC, added: “It is unacceptable for the government to force religious institutions to become coercive extensions of state power. We have no choice but to push back against this intrusion of the government into matters of conscience and religious conviction.”

Whether or not to receive a COVID-19 vaccine is a “private health decision,” Mohler asserted.

Asbury President Timothy Tennent said his , meeting in executive session last week, approved the seminary joining the lawsuit with Southern Seminary and Alliance Defending Freedom.

Timothy Tennent

“Asbury Seminary strongly affirms vaccines and encourages every single member of our community (who is able) to receive a vaccine,” Tennent said. “But our trustees believe our personal medical decisions are private, and we will not be deputized by the state to divide our community.”

Although Asbury is not one of the 13 official seminaries affiliated with the United Methodist Church, it is an approved seminary for UMC clergy preparation and produces the largest number of clergy of any seminary feeding into UMC congregations. Its roots are in the Wesleyan tradition, and its website describes the school as a “multi-denominational, evangelical seminary serving nearly 100 different denominations.”

 

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