Thursday, October 21, 2021

Coronavirus Update 10-21-2021: Nick Rolovich v. Pope Francis

Compare the following two statements, and then let's talk.

1. "It is a tragic and damning commentary on our culture … that Coach Rolovich has been derided, demonized, and ultimately fired from his job, merely for being devout in his Catholic faith."

2. "Being vaccinated with vaccines authorized by the competent authorities is an act of love. And contributing to ensure the majority of people are vaccinated is an act of love."

Statement number one: the lawyer for Nick Rolovich, the former head football coach at Washington State University, who the University just terminated for refusing to get vaccinated pursuant to its mandate.

Statement number two: Pope Francis.

Let's get real. Neither Coach Rolovich nor any other Catholic refusing the Covid vaccine on religious grounds is doing so because of their Catholicism. The Pope, the person who has the final word on what is, and what is not, Catholic doctrine, says as much. If he's pro vaccine, and says it does not violate the Catholic faith to get the vaccine, even if said vaccine was developed and tested using fetal cell lines from decades-old aborted fetuses, then it is not a tenet of the Catholic religion to refuse the vaccine.

This does not mean that Nick Rolovich does not have a valid religious objection to the vaccine. Indeed, per the EEOC:

  • Title VII's definition of a religious belief, practice, or observance is not limited to those that are espoused by an actual religion;
  • Title VII can protect a religious belief even if no religious group espouses such belief or if the religious group to which the employee belongs does not recognize such belief as a tenet of that faith; and
  • The key is whether the belief — what is moral, ethical, right, and wrong — is sincerely held with the strength and conviction of a traditional religious view.

Please note, this post is not intended as a criticism or editorial on anyone's faith. To the contrary, if someone holds a sincerely held religious belief that directs them not to get vaccinated, then the law requires their employer to accommodate it. I do take issue, however, when people hang that belief on their Catholocism when the head of their Church, who they believe divines his authority directly from God, says getting the Covid vaccine is a moral obligation

Rolovich very well might have a valid and protected religious objection to the Covid vaccine, but his Catholicism isn't it. Just ask Pope Francis.

* Photo by James Coleman on Unsplash