When Religious Liberty Becomes Meaningless

A group of Adventists who have been agitating against the COVID-19 vaccination mandates have launched another provocative initiative this week. On October 4, the Liberty and Health Alliance released an “appeal” to the Adventist Church and all its entities, requesting in the course of five pages that, in short: the church grant religious exemptions to COVID-19 vaccination mandates and furthermore, that the church champion the freedom of Christians everywhere to reject vaccination due to our “eschatological” beliefs.


This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at http://spectrummagazine.org/node/11446
9 Likes

Thanks Matthew for putting into words what so many feel.

13 Likes

This topic is more complicated then this article seems to imply. We shouldn’t dismiss those that have genuine concerns about government overreach as “conspiratorial fundamentalists” as if their concerns are wild or insane.

I have no objections to vaccines. I also know government has a role in ensuring public health. But how far they can/should go in mandating what we put in our bodies is a very legitimate concern and needs to be discussed. There’s also a genuine constitutional issue with the president’s order. Does he have the constitutional right to mandate a vaccine in order to work? Congress may, but does he? These are legit questions we need to ask and discuss.

Those of us who do not believe a mandate is correct, for a vaccine that has been out less than a year and was panned over and over again while trump was in office as not being possible to develop so quickly and have it be done safely, have reasonable concerns and it is not correct to dismiss our opinions as “conspiratorial”.

7 Likes

Yes, thanks for the review! I had come to the same conclusions but knew what the reply would be. While the naysayers continue to say their opinions are not conspiratorial, they continue to voice support for erroneous data and misinformation. Meanwhile people keep dying from said disease and getting sick. Another article, such as this, will not change minds, sad to say. The research has been done, published for all to read…the more data given proven an idea wrong, the more it is reenforced in the mind. A conspiracy is lovely to cling too. Why?

14 Likes

Thank you Matthew Korpman and Spectrum Magazine for covering this life saving topic of the need for vaccinations by Adventists and the rest of the world. I wish this article would be reprinted (with your permission) in the Review, in NAD union journals and by Adventist Today magazine. Liberty Health Alliance, Weimar University with Doug Bachelor and Walter Veith have caused many Adventists, sadly also among my family - to follow conspiracy theories and bogus eschatology theories and not get vaccinated against COVID-19. This at the risk of the lives of their families and people they associate with. Again, many thanks for sharing this article. I wish this article would be picked up in the secular press to help tell the rest of the world that there are many Adventists who advocate for vaccinations as the compassionate, Christ-like thing to do. To honor Christ’s Command to love one’s neighbor as one’s self.

16 Likes

It is interesting to note that the historian David Irving actually commanded respect for his early work. But then he became a Holocaust denier and lost all credibility. I am afraid that Southern Adventist University religion professors Greg King and Michael Hasel might experience a similar fate as a result of their crackpot ideas regarding the vaccine.

My guess is that SAU students are a docile bunch. I doubt they care much what their teachers think. And there probably isn’t anyone on campus with the requisite wit to ask, “Dr. King (or Dr. Hasel) can we agree that your reasoning prowess, such as it may be, regarding this issue we are discussing is no stronger than what you exhibited as a supporter of the Appeal published by Liberty and Health Alliance with respect to the vaccine?” I enjoyed sparring with my professors at Andrews University, but none of them were Holocaust deniers, anti-vaxxers, or the like, so they were able to parry my thrusts.

October 4, 2021, the day the Appeal was published, was a sad day for the Seventh-day Adventist Church. We need to dig deep moats at Andrews University, particularly around the Seminary, and make sure certain crackpots are never let through the door. Andrews University remains the only reliable gatekeeper of Seventh-day Adventism in the world today.

Thank you for this excellent essay.

15 Likes

Thank for such a well-written critique. A friend sent me a copy of the letter and I was deeply saddened to see that I know at least a couple of the signatories whom I thought were better informed and more thoughtful. This pandemic has shaken my confidence in what I thought was the ability of most Adventists to make wise health decisions. I feel like so many in the church have lost their minds.

18 Likes

I feel the same way, so many have given into magical thinking and conspiracy.

I have wondered if the constant drum of crisis on the horizon (events leading up to the close of probation, etc) combined with the sense of a theological isolation and superiority has caused many to see enemies in all sorts of things. In the case of American Adventists
this seems to be exacerbated in some who have combined their political ideology with their religious sensibilities creating a unique zealotry. Thus they are prone to ignore critical thinking, solid science and their sense of responsibility to others for what they perceive as a conspiracy of evil forces aligned to harm them.

It is very sad and indeed shocking to see many we have know from our childhood and others who have traded reason for madness.

9 Likes

I agree. We should take all views into account for policy decisions. The majority are not always right.

The question here is an age old discussion of libertarianism versus the common good. At some point a line is drawn and it is at this intersection the debate is had.

However, the debate needs to made in an authentic and generous way. We should not dismiss opinions simply because we don’t agree with them. We should engage with the substance of those ideas.

There are, of course, some opinions which overreach. It is not credible or honest to suggest the scientific method of peer review to harness the opinions of a diverse scientific intelligentsia who have “no skin in the game”, are somehow part of a great conspiratorial mindset with ulterior motives.

But, it is equally important to understand the real reasons why people may disagree, in this context with vaccine mandates, and what their true underlying reasons are.

Otherwise, the conversation descends into proving the “other” wrong and leads to no consensus and simply polarises us further.

This is not limited to the current subject but is an unfortunate trend across many areas of, for want of a better phrase, social justice topics.

Is there a middle ground where we can seek to accommodate each other? We may not be able to change minds, but we may be able to create practical solutions to allow for our differences.

3 Likes

Why don’t we lay it all on the table, and admit that Adventist eschatology helps to create a climate where such conspiratorial crackpot theories and theorists find fertile ground in which to flourish. Our eschatology is simply a conspiracy theory, using biblical apocalyptic as its supporting framework.

The papacy, Protestant churches, and American government joining hands to enforce a world wide Sunday law is a grand conspiracy theory, that comes from a highly suspect way of reading biblical apocalyptic, and has so many practical holes in its application to the reality of the world as it is. Considering that many Adventists’ worldviews have been marinated in this, through media networks that promote this, and through Revelation seminars as given by evangelistic entities such as Amazing Facts, it should be little wonder that the type of mindset that resists common sense public health initiatives like a vaccination in the face of a deadly pandemic is rampant among some of the most hardcore conservatives. The conditions and climate are present to grow this.

The fact that Adventism also places emphasis on medicine, health, and education, and has many who emphasize the principles of the gospel through loving our neighbors, is a welcome and needed counterpoint to such problematic extremism within our midst. Our eschatology should be revisited and overhauled.

Frank

18 Likes

Here, here! You have hit the nail on the head.

4 Likes

Public Health is the oldest religion and it is above all religions. The world will submit to the “common good.” World government and world religion must “coexist.”

The author is a self acclaimed “rising biblical scholar” whatever that is. I was hoping he might have some background to qualify him to speak to this subject. His appeal to the medical consensus is laughable as there is no medical consensus. The "consensus science” is dubious at best, bought and paid for by big pharma who long ago co-opted the AMA, FDA and CDC.

The basic issue is about mandates under which there is currently no recognition of naturally acquired immunity. All of these millions of positive cases where the person, many of them front line workers, has survived represents someone with natural immunity. Someone with a functioning immune system and long lastIng B and T cells ready to fire up the immune system to generate antibodies at a moments notice. I am sorry but if I get the vax this will do nothing to protect the morbidly obese BMI 40+ with vitamin D levels, many under 10 on a 1-100 scale where under 30 is severely deficient. Or, how can I protect the malnourished elderly who are denied fresh air, sunshine, and exercise?

I am willing to give “science” another year or so to evaluate the data on the EUA experimental vaccines before I weigh in definitively. But for me, my mild brush with Covid gave me the gift of natural immunity and the unbiased science from the UK and Israel supports this.

6 Likes

It seems he does, based on prescient:
"…in fact, the constitutionality of what Biden intends to do is fairly straightforward so long as the courts follow settled precedent.
"The federal courts have uniformly rejected constitutional challenges to government vaccine mandates, so long as they don’t single out one demographic group in a way that’s discriminatory. "

I like the way the supreme court just described a decision for mandates in 1905:
"As the court explained, Americans do not have a constitutional right to harm their fellow citizens by refusing a vaccine and, thereby, serving as a disease vector. Justice John Marshall Harlan, who wrote the opinion, explained, “the liberty secured by the Constitution . . . does not import an absolute right in each person to be, at all times and in all circumstances, wholly freed from restraint. . . . On any other basis, organized society could not exist with safety to its members.”"

See Jennifer D. Oliva: Biden's Covid vaccine mandate plan is constitutional, whatever his GOP critics say

As it turns out the long term investments in vaccine technology, gene sequencing, and other base tech made quick development of these mRNA based vaccines possible. Here’s a fact-based article that describes how the development unfolded.

12 Likes

Hello Andrew, thank yiu for your response. I agree. Are there conspiracy theories on the anti mandate side? Of course, that does not mean all those who oppose it are of that mindset.

A middle ground for me is regular testing as an option for those not willing to vaccinate. There are many motivators for the mandate. Can we discount the pharma lobby that is making billions for these companies? I’m not saying these vaccines are useless or that their the mark of the beast or anything like that. However, I’m my county, I will very soon not be able to eat at a restaurant, go to school, work, get a haircut, shop at a mall, workout at a gym etc.

This is going way too far in limiting our movement in society. Just this last week Sweden and Denmark halted all moderna vaccines for men under 30yrs. Due to mayocarditis issues.

Again, I’m not saying vaccines aren’t effective for some or that they will kill yiu, but the more freedoms we give up, the more the gov will take. In order to feel absolutely secure how far are we willing to let the government impose laws upon us? We can take the case of Australia, currently in Australia you cannot leave your home for more than two hours or travel more than 3 miles outside of your home. To me this is absolutely ridiculous and we need to discuss the danger of government overreach and dismissing peoples concerns it’s dangerous.

Thanks for dialoging in this! Exchanging ideas calmly is so important.

Last point I will make is that many government and media officials have so demonized the unvaxxed that I truly believe they are attempting to turn us against one another

3 Likes

Thank you, Matthew Korpman, for speaking up. I feel as you do. It is sad, very sad, to see religious liberty used this way. Let those who oppose the vaccine and vaccine mandates protest in their own name and not seek cover under the name of the church. Let them live by their own motto, “Dare to be a Daniel! Dare to stand alone!” (In Bible times, Daniel would not only be someone who took the vaccine but the government official promoting and implementing it, health conscious and capable leader that he was). At the core of the opposition is extremely dubious doubts about the safety and efficacy of the vaccine, amplified in an end-of-the world sounding chamber. This is a time to thank God for the wonders of the human immune system, our ability to understand it, and the marvel of creating a a safe and effective vaccine in a short time. Prepare to see a Nobel Prize in medicine awarded soon for this accomplishment. Thank you, Matthew.

11 Likes

Hello Tim! The 1905 Supreme Court case was over a vaccine mandate imposed by the state of Mass. which was decided in the state’s favor. What I asked was, does the “President” have the power to impose this type of mandate? He does not have the power to enact laws. He is not Congress and I’m very curious to see how this is settled. We have to be very careful in an emergency that we don’t grant powers to a single person, that can be abused once the precedent has been set. The author obviously believes that the president has the power to impose this, I disagree.

As to your second point, I realize the mRNA process was under development for years. However there are certain things that can only be determined overtime. Sweden and Denmark just this last week halted all use of the moderna vaccine for males 30yrs and younger due to mayocarditis issues.

What I’m attempting to say is that, although the vaccine is good and helps many, should we allow its mandate to participate in school, work, gyms, restaurants, salons, etc. can we give any more time for discussion? Over 99% of people recover from covid. Also, in my state, Ca, there are 8million children, 35 have died from covid. Is that justification to say that all 8million have to get vaccinated or lose their right to an education? This is worth discussion imho

4 Likes

I have to wonder what the source of this writers information is from. It does not appear to be from their “appeal”. This article begins:

I did not see anything like that in the appeal. They asked for support from the church for:
“We offer this appeal for courage in the defense of liberty of conscience in a spirit of Christian concern and fellowship, and we earnestly solicit the support of people who are vaccinated and those who are not.”

If a church can’t support liberty of conscience it is not of much value to me. I understand how certain left political views are frightened by liberty of conscience but the church should have a higher standard than political power.

5 Likes

I wish that United States was as interested in human rights as your home country Norway, this discussion would not be necessary. It is my understanding that in Norway vaccination is voluntary and cannot be mandated by an employer. If you continue along this line of thinking you may lose your Norway card. It is a slippery theological leap to say that Daniel would not only take the vaccine but would force it on others.

3 Likes

I think there are two things that drive those Adventists that succumb to conspiracy theories. First, because the “official” position of the church is that science is wrong about the age of the earth and evolution, many Adventists carry that mistrust of science into other arenas such as climate change denial, and now vaccine mistrust. If you can’t trust science when it talks about geology and evolution, how can you trust science when it talks about health?

Second, the apocalyptical origins of the church set people up to more easily accept conspiracy theories, and especially so if there can be some connection made between our traditional conspiracy theories about Sunday laws and whatever the current topic, in this case vaccines. Thus the common cry among very conservative Adventists that the vaccine is, if not the actual mark of the beast, at least a harbinger of it.

15 Likes