Catholic university makes employees reapply for religious exemptions

Employees at the University of St. Thomas and two Catholic seminaries on campus were told that their existing religious exemptions are no longer valid.

This photo shows key points from St. Thomas’s recent email to its staff, including those who work at the on-campus seminary. (Foreground: Email/screenshot; Background: University of St. Thomas/Instagram)

Employees at the University of St. Thomas, a Catholic school in St. Paul, were told this week that their previous applications for religious exemptions to the COVID-19 vaccine are no longer valid and they must reapply.

“Any employee seeking a religious exemption (including those with current religious exemptions on file) must complete a new request form,” the school wrote to employees this week, noting that these new forms will not be available for “weeks.” The forms will also be different from the original ones — exactly how they will change remains unclear.

“To comply with the more stringent requirements of being a federal contractor, St. Thomas must require all employees to be vaccinated unless they meet legal requirements for medical or religious exemptions,” the university said.

Additionally, the school will no longer “offer Conscientious Objector vaccine exemptions to employees. As a result, the university will remove the Conscientious Objector option from its COVID-19 vaccine exemption list for employees and students.”

The school claims these changes were made in response to President Joe Biden’s sweeping vaccine mandate and Minnesota’s “requirements for state contractors.”

These updated rules also affect those who work at the Seminaries of St. Paul, two Catholic seminaries located on the St. Thomas campus.

The Catholic Church maintains that forced vaccination is morally questionable.

“It is important that we reflect on the gravity of the violation involved in coercing a person to do something that he or she believes to be wrong,” said Archbishop Joseph Naumann. “Currently, all available COVID-19 vaccines have used abortion-derived cell lines to a greater or lesser extent,” he noted. Despite this, the Church permits the faithful to receive the shot if they do so by their own volition.

This stance is affirmed by other high-level Catholic authorities, including Archbishop Bernard Hebda of the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis, who is theoretically in a position to provide religious guidance to St. Thomas.

“It is an individual and personal decision whether to receive a COVID vaccine, and although the Church does support the right of a person to seek an exemption from vaccine requirements on the basis of their conscience, that is an individual decision that should not be dependent upon an attestation by a member of the clergy,” Hebda said in an August statement, affirming that “vaccination must always be voluntary.”

Meanwhile, left-leaning secular authorities seem to view the religious community as nothing more than a barrier to a 100% national vaccination rate. U.S. Department of Justice attorney Marty Lederman, for example, was caught on a leaked phone call doubting the sincerity of religious objectors and strategizing about ways to obfuscate their claims.