Federal vaccine mandate threatens Baptist universities and ministries in Mo.

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JEFFERSON CITY – Leaders of Missouri Baptist entities remain vigilant as legal challenges to a federal mandate over the COVID-19 vaccine make their way through federal appeals courts.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) mandate, issued by the US Department of Labor, applies to private employers with 100 or more workers, including departments like the three universities of the Missouri Baptist Convention and the Missouri Baptist Children’s Home (MBCH).

However, a separate and similar mandate, issued by the US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) / Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS), applies in healthcare facilities, which has an impact on health care facilities. Baptist Homes & Healthcare Ministries.

OSHA’s mandate requires employees of these companies to receive the COVID-19 vaccine. If employees refuse, they must wear masks and take COVID-19 tests every week – or lose their jobs.

Missouri Baptist Entity leaders are concerned about the mandate, if promulgated, could harm their employees and, ultimately, the departments they lead and the people they serve.

Southwest Baptist University (SBU) President Rick Melson said The path that the university “has already been negatively impacted by partner organizations and businesses demanding that students be vaccinated for off-campus learning experiences.

“We expect to see further negative impacts on university employees and students withdrawing if OSHA regulations are required,” he said, adding that SBU does not require that the employees or students receive the COVID-19 vaccine.

“First and foremost,” said Melson, “Southwest Baptist University (SBU) wants every employee to have the freedom to make personal health choices. Our management team at SBU is monitoring ongoing legal challenges. and we seek expert advice as we prepare and respond to OSHA regulations. While we hope litigation succeeds in blocking current regulations, we will be prepared with a compliance plan in place that best matches to the mission and values ​​of our institution if litigation fails and implementation is necessary.

Legal challenges to the mandate

Multiple court challenges have been raised to prevent OSHA’s mandate from going into effect on Jan.4, 2022, and a court has already stayed the order – at least for now. The 5th U.S. Court of Appeals upheld its Nov. 12 decision to suspend the warrant.

In a 20-page opinion, the court called the mandate “considerably too broad” – “a one-size-fits-all gavel that hardly attempts to accommodate the differences between workplaces (and workers).”

The mandate also “exposes” companies “to serious financial risk if they refuse or fail to comply, and threatens to decimate their workforce (and business prospects) by forcing reluctant employees to take their snapshots, pass their tests or to hit the road, ”the opinion reads.

Affirming the court’s decision, Missouri Baptist University (MBU) President Keith Ross said The path, “MBU opposes the federal mandate on vaccines issued by OSHA and does not intend to require vaccination of employees.

“We agree with the 5th US Court of Appeals that the vaccine’s mandate is unconstitutional and overbroad from the federal government,” he added. “Providing advice to employees and students rather than mandates is a better way forward and allows individuals to make their own health decisions. MBU encourages but does not require vaccination of employees.

Meanwhile, 11 states, including Missouri, have filed a lawsuit with the St. Louis-based 8th United States Court of Appeals. In his court file, Missouri Attorney General Eric Schmitt called the warrant “unconstitutional, illegal and reckless.”

Additionally, the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary has asked the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals to block the warrant. Southern Seminary President Albert Mohler said: “It is unacceptable that the government is forcing religious institutions to become coercive extensions of state power. We have no choice but to push back on this government intrusion into issues of conscience and religious belief.

The decisions of the 6th and 8th Circuit Courts of Appeal had not been announced at the time of going to press.

Mandate HHS / CMS and Baptist Houses

The U.S. 5th Court of Appeals ruling and applications to the 6th and 8th Circuit Courts directly address OSHA’s mandate – leaving open the question of the separate HHS / CMS mandate that applies in facilities. such as Baptist Homes.

However, a Nov. 10 case filed in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Missouri calls into question the mandate of the HHS / CMS vaccine. A court decision was pending at the time of going to press.

“This healthcare mandate has been a frontline issue for healthcare facilities,” said Rodney Harrison, president of Baptist Homes. The path. “As of November, less than 60% of healthcare workers in Missouri were vaccinated. The healthcare mandate requires all employees of CMS approved facilities to be in compliance by December 4, 2021. ”

Meanwhile, Missouri remains under a state of emergency due to a shortage of healthcare workers, according to The Times of Missouri.

Amid the challenges of this federal mandate, Harrison turns to the Scriptures for guidance.

“Using Paul’s example, Baptist Homes & Healthcare Ministries focused on Romans 13: 1-8, asking employees to submit to government authority out of love for one another,” Harrison said. . “At the same time, we are exercising our right of appeal, another example of the life and ministry of the apostle Paul. Baptist Homes worked closely with our legal advisor to secure the civil rights of our employees to religious and medical exemptions. ”


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