Issue Briefs

The newly issued form for requesting an exception on religious grounds from the Biden administration’s vaccine mandate for federal employees differs in both tone and some specifics from an earlier version. Following is the text of each.


New Form

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Government-wide policy requires all Federal employees as defined in 5 U.S.C. § 2105 to be vaccinated against COVID-19, with exceptions only as required by law. In certain circumstances, Federal law may entitle a Federal employee who has a religious objection to the COVID-19 vaccination requirement to an exception from that requirement, in which case the employee would instead comply with alternative health and safety protocols. The Federal Government is committed to respecting the important legal protections for religious liberty.

In order to request a religious exception, please fill out this form. The purpose of this form is to start the accommodation process and help your agency determine whether you may be eligible for a religious exception. You do not need to answer every question on the form to be considered for a religious exception, but we encourage you to provide as much information as possible to enable the agency to evaluate your request. Where there is an objective basis to do so, the agency may ask you for additional information as needed to determine if you are legally entitled to an exception. Objections to COVID-19 vaccinations that are based on non-religious reasons, including personal preferences or non-religious concerns about the vaccine, do not qualify for a religious exception.

Agencies may consider several factors in assessing whether a request for an exception is based on a sincerely held religious belief, including whether the employee has acted in a manner inconsistent with their professed belief. But no one factor is determinative. An individual’s beliefs—or degree of adherence—may change over time and, therefore, an employee’s newly adopted or inconsistently observed practices may nevertheless be based on a sincerely held religious belief. All requests for a religious exception will be evaluated on an individual basis.

Signing this form constitutes a declaration that the information you provide is, to the best of your knowledge and ability, true and correct. Any intentional misrepresentation to the Federal Government may result in legal consequences, including termination or removal from Federal Service.

QUESTIONS:

1.Please describe the nature of your objection to the COVID-19 vaccination requirement.

2.Would complying with the COVID-19 vaccination requirement substantially burden your religious exercise or conflict with your sincerely held religious beliefs, practices, or observances? If so, please explain how.

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3.Please provide any additional information that you think may be helpful in reviewing your request. For example:

•How long you have held the religious belief underlying your objection

•Whether your religious objection is to the use of all vaccines, COVID-19 vaccines, a specific type ofCOVID-19 vaccine, or some other subset of vaccines

•Whether you have received vaccines as an adult against any other diseases (such as a flu vaccine or a tetanus vaccine)

I declare to the best of my knowledge and ability that the foregoing is true and correct.

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Original Form

Government-wide policy requires all Federal employees as defined in 5 U.S.C. § 2105 to be vaccinated against COVID-19, with exceptions only as required by law. In certain circumstances, Federal law may entitle a Federal employee who has a religious objection to the COVID-19 vaccination requirement to an exception from that requirement, in which case the employee would instead comply with alternative health and safety protocols. The Federal Government is committed to respecting the important legal protections for religious liberty. The purpose of this form is to determine whether you may be eligible for an exception.

To be eligible for a possible exception, you must first establish that your refusal to be vaccinated is based upon a sincere belief that is religious in nature. A refusal to be vaccinated does not qualify for an exception if it is based upon personal preference, concerns about the possible effects of the vaccine, or political opinions.

In order to request a religious exception, please fill out this form. The agency may ask for other information as needed to determine if you are legally entitled to an exception.

Signing this form constitutes a declaration that the information you provide is, to the best of your knowledge and ability, true and correct. Any intentional misrepresentation to the Federal Government may result in legal consequences, including termination or removal from Federal Service.

QUESTIONS:

-Please describe the nature of your objection to the COVID-19 vaccination requirement.

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-Would complying with the COVID-19 vaccination requirement substantially burden your religious exercise? If so, please explain how.

-How long have you held the religious belief underlying your objection?

-Please describe whether, as an adult, you have received any vaccines against any other diseases(such as a flu vaccine or a tetanus vaccine) and, if so, what vaccine you most recently received and when, to the best of your recollection.

-If you do not have a religious objection to the use of all vaccines, please explain why your objection is limited to particular vaccines.

-If there are any other medicines or products that you do not use because of the religious belief underlying your objection, please identify them.

-Please provide any additional information that you think may be helpful in reviewing your request.

I declare to the best of my knowledge and ability that the foregoing is true and correct.

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2021 Federal Employees Handbook