Many Americans support religious exemptions. Fewer support people who claim them

Around 6 in 10 Americans question the sincerity of faith-based objections to COVID-19 vaccination, according to new research

Around half of Americans say COVID-19 vaccine mandates should include religious exemptions. But some of these same adults view vaccine refusers with suspicion.

That’s one of the key takeaways from a new survey on faith and vaccination released last week by Public Religion Research Institute and Interfaith Youth Core. Researchers found that many people have complex — and sometimes conflicting — beliefs about religion’s role in the COVID-19 crisis.

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Overall, very few U.S. adults see tension between supporting vaccination and living out their faith. In fact, nearly 6 in 10 say getting a COVID-19 vaccine is a way to obey the religious call to love your neighbors, the survey reported.

However, many Americans seem to recognize that some people don’t share these views. Fifty-one percent believe vaccine mandates should allow for religious exemptions.

“The share of Americans who favor allowing exemptions (today) is similar to the share recorded in June (52%) and slightly smaller than the share recorded in March, when 56% of Americans favored them,” researchers noted.

Members of certain faith groups and political parties are more supportive of religious exemptions than others. For example, nearly three-quarters of Republicans (73%) favor allowing religious objectors to receive exemptions, compared to just one-third of Democrats (33%).

Among religious groups, white evangelical Protestants (76%) and Latter-day Saints (66%) stand out for their support of religious exemptions. Religiously unaffiliated adults, Jews and other non-Christians were the most likely to be opposed.

Researchers also asked how people feel about the use of religious exemptions and they were surprised at what they found: 6 in 10 Americans say there’s no valid religious reason to refuse COVID-19 vaccines and nearly the same share (59%) say religious exemption policies are being abused.

In other words, the survey showed that the number of Americans who are skeptical of religious objectors is higher than the number who favor offering religious exemptions to vaccine mandates. These findings help explain why the conflict surrounding vaccine mandates is so complicated, researchers noted.

Despite concerns about how religious exemptions are used, many Americans believe religious objectors shouldn’t have to work too hard to prove their concerns are legitimate.

Nearly 40% of U.S. adults agree that “anyone who says that the vaccines go against their religious beliefs should qualify for an exemption.” Slightly higher shares (around 50%) were supportive of employers asking for a letter from a faith leader or proof of past vaccine refusals.

A handful of states have have passed laws in recently weeks aimed at making it easier to receive a religious exemption to COVID-19 vaccine mandates, as the Deseret News recently reported.

The new survey found that just under half of Americans (44%) are currently covered by workplace vaccination requirements. Around one-third of unvaccinated adults say they plan to ask for a religious exemption or that they’ve asked for one already.