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Here's who qualifies for a religious exemption to Washington's COVID-19 vaccine mandate

"Sincerely held" religious beliefs are one way an individual can request an exemption from a COVID-19 vaccine mandate in Washington.

MERCER ISLAND, Wash. — Religious beliefs remain one of the very few ways people under a state-mandated COVID-19 vaccine requirement might be able to request an exemption in Washington.

Most state employees, health care workers and K-12 school staff will be required to be fully vaccinated by October 18 or potentially face losing their jobs.

Per Gov. Jay Inslee's emergency proclamation announced in August, exemptions from the requirement are "allowed for those individuals who are entitled to a disability-related reasonable accommodation or a sincerely held religious belief accommodation."

Those requesting a religious exemption must include a statement explaining how their beliefs and practice conflict with the requirement, according to the proclamation.

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Among the religious groups that have traditionally considered such exemptions is the Church of Christ, Scientist.

"Christian Scientists and the Christian Science church as a whole, strongly support the goal of public health," said Christian Science Committee on Publication Lance Matteson.

Matteson said the church does not dictate whether to decline the vaccine and that it is an individual choice.

"Those who do choose to exercise that privilege of exemption do so not because of some church dogma, but because of their experience," said Matteson.

Such experiences include the power of prayer in meeting health care needs, according to Matteson.

"It’s a deeply considered spiritual practice and way of life that has meant a lot to us over the years. So we’ve appreciated vaccination exemptions and sought to use them conscientiously and responsibly when they have been granted," according to a statement posted on Christianscience.com.

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Other denominations that focus on faith healing include Faith Tabernacle, the Church of the Firstborn, and Faith Assembly, according to a compilation by the Vanderbilt University Medical Center.

Most religions, however, do not hold specific objections to vaccination.

In an address in August, Pope Francis said it is morally acceptable for Catholics to receive COVID-19 vaccines. Leaders with the Church of Jesus Christ Latter-day Saints also urged Mormons to limit the spread of COVID-19 by getting vaccinated.

Matteson said cooperation is also a part of Christian Scientists' perspective on vaccination in regards to the spread of variants and in protecting those who remain vulnerable to the coronavirus, such as children who cannot yet get vaccinated.

"We respect their concerns and fears, and we want to do all we can to allay those fears, up to the point for many of my fellow members, of getting vaccinated," said Matteson.

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