MA cop, academy instructor shows state flat out (and perhaps illegally) rejecting religious exemptions

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MASSACHUSETTS – Despite dutifully and conscientiously wading through bureaucratic red tape, a Massachusetts police officer and police academy instructor is facing progressive discipline, to result in firing, due to the denial of his religious exemption for the COVID vaccine.

On Thursday, August 19, 2021, Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker issued Executive Order 595, which required that:

“all executive department employees shall be required to demonstrate that they have received COVID-19 vaccination and maintain full COVID-19 vaccination as a condition of continued employment.”

Proof of vaccination is required on or before Sunday, October 17, 2021.

The Massachusetts Commonwealth also provided a religious exemption form for those who sought an exemption to the vaccine mandate based on sincerely held religious beliefs.

However, we at Law Enforcement Today have learned that the path to a religious exemption has proven to be stacked with roadblocks, courtesy of the Massachusetts Commonwealth.

Our anonymous source, who we will call “Z,” is a police officer and police academy instructor in Massachusetts.

Z’s position as a law enforcement officer does not require vaccination. 

However, his contracted position as an instructor under the Municipal Police Training Council puts him under the authority of the executive order and requires him to be vaccinated for COVID or face progressive discipline, in the absence of exemption or accommodation.

In Massachusetts, the Department of Corrections and the Massachusetts State Police have both taken legal action against the executive order, but as a independent contractor, Z does not have collective bargaining on his side and thus had to face the battle for an exemption on his own.

However, Z is not new to the process of filing for exemption, having successfully obtained a religious exemption for a vaccine while at a state school in Massachusetts several years ago.

Z began the process of completing and submitting the proper exemption form on the very first day the paperwork became available, which was not until September 17, 2021, nearly one month after the executive order was issued.  Thus, at the outset of his appeal, the clock was already running out, thanks to bureaucratic delays.

Z’s exemption document contained a well-researched and clearly-presented defense of his sincerely held religious beliefs.

Z wrote, in part:

“As a Catholic, I believe that all life is sacred, beginning at the time of conception. Because of this, I further believe that any vaccine, including COVID-19 vaccinations, that use cell lines originating from aborted fetuses are morally compromised. 

“The Pfizer and Moderna vaccines were tested using the HEK-293 cell line, which was originated from a baby that was aborted in the Netherlands in 1972. The Johnson and Johnson vaccine uses the PER.C6 cell line, which originated from another aborted child. 

“Given these facts, I believe these vaccines are morally compromised, and that I therefore have a moral duty as a Catholic to avoid the use of these vaccines.”

As directed, Z submitted his paperwork to the appropriate, and perhaps ironically named, “Director of Diversity, Equality and Inclusion.”

The director responded by asking Z for three potential dates and times during which he would be available to have a mandatory Teams meeting to discuss the exemption.  Z gave several potential dates and times, and also specified that the following Tuesday, September 21, he would not be available due to work.

The “Diversity, Equality and Inclusion” director responded by scheduling an appointment for that very Tuesday, despite Z’s clear request.

Emails Z sent reminding the director of the clear difficulty in attending that Tuesday went unanswered.

Z managed to be able to attend the meeting despite its conflict with work, and at its conclusion, discovered that the director had been illegally recording the meeting in violation of the Massachusetts Unlawful Secret Recording Statute (MGL Ch. 272 S. 99c).  Z requested a receipt of the destruction of the recorded materials, but received no evidence that the destruction was completed.

The Human Resources Division’s own “COVID 19 Vaccination Verification Policy for Executive Department Agencies” specifically states:

“Diversity Officers/Director will accept requests for reasonable accommodations to this policy and engage in the interactive process and issue timely approvals or denials of accommodation requests.”

After the Teams meeting, Z was assured that the decision would be handed down within 10 days.

However, despite his department’s written policy, it appears that the Diversity Director involved in Z’s case was not interested in “timely” approval or denial.

At the 10-day mark, on October 1, 2021, Z emailed the director a reminder of the 10-day promise, saying:

I’m again following up on the status of my exemption. I’d like to submit my attestation today, and you indicated you would respond by ten days, and today is ten days since our Teams meeting.

If you could respond with the documentation I need to submit before the end of business today it would be appreciated.”

The director responded:

Unfortunately, at the present time per HRD [Human Resources Division] all religious exemption deliberations must be ceased.  

“So, until I hear further, I cannot send out decisions.”

Understandably baffled by this strange response, Z proceeded with a records request for documentation of all communications regarding his exemption appeal and the cessation of deliberations.

The Human Resources Division responded that it did not have such records, which raised many questions about the decision-making process and the apparent lack of oversight of the “Diversity” director.

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Meanwhile, during the days after the Teams meeting, Z received email after email from the state of Massachusetts, pushing him to get his vaccine and file his attestation of receipt of the shot.

After several more days, Z learned from the HRD that the enigmatic email about cessation of decisions was a “miscommunication” on the part of Human Resources, and that his paperwork was still under review.

Finally, on October 12, 28 days after the Teams meeting, the “Diversity, Equality and Inclusion” director communicated the exemption decision in response to a reminder email from Z.

The decision read:

“After careful consideration of your request and the responses provided in the interactive process, we have denied your request for a religious exemption.  

You represented that your objection was based on fetal cells being used in the production of the vaccine.   The Pzifer [sic] and Moderna vaccines did not use fetal cells in their production and therefore their use would not be consistent with your stated religious belief.  

“The documentation submitted in support of your sincerely held religious belief, articulates a philosophical viewpoint and a distrust in the vaccine and not a religious belief. Therefore, you have not established that taking the vaccine would conflict with your stated religious beliefs, practices, or observances….

“Under Executive Order 595 you must be in compliance by October 17, 2021 or face progressive discipline.”

MA cop, academy instructor shows state flat out (and perhaps illegally) rejecting religious exemptions
Screenshot, religious exemption response

Z responded via email:

“How do I appeal this decision? 

“It’s outright inaccurate that fetal cell tissues were not used in creation, and the Commonwealth would not be able to provide evidence supporting your false claim. 

“There are currently no vaccines that are developed without the use of fetal cells or cloned fetal cells. Who do I appeal to beyond you?”

The director’s emailed response was one sentence, which read:

“Unfortunately, there is no appeal for this decision.”

Z has since gone up the chain to the director’s supervisor, and has sent that person an email detailing the events to date in his attempt to obtain an exemption.

His email included specific points in relation to the director’s inaccuracies in his denial, including:

“In his denial he states that ….’The Pzifer [sic] and Moderna vaccines did not use fetal cells in their production and therefore their use would not be consistent with your stated religious belief.’  

“This is inaccurate.  It did not take much research for me to find specific cell lines, and I even provided the specific cell lines to [the director, name redacted] in my initial documentation.”

Z also pointed out:

He then states that ‘the documentation submitted in support of your sincerely held religious belief, articulates a philosophical viewpoint and a distrust in the vaccine and not a religious belief.’

This is a clear example of him illegally questioning my religious beliefs, and trying to confuse this with where I may or may not stand philosophically. 

“Further, emails that were leaked last week from top ranking Pfizer officials specifically indicate that the cell line I cited to [redacted] was in fact used in their vaccine. Therefore, his assertion is 100% wrong, and this would violate my religious belief.”

Z also asked this supervisor for figures on how many religious exemptions were filed, and how many were approved, by the Commonwealth and by the director who worked on his case.

There has been no response to this communication.

Now, the clock has run out, thanks to the delays in this nightmarish bureaucratic process.  With the October 17 vaccine deadline looming, Z faces progressive discipline in the form of a 5-day suspension, followed by a 10-day suspension, followed by firing.

And Z is not alone.  He told us that not one of his colleagues who also filed for a religious exemption has succeeded in obtaining one.  In fact, he has been told that out of over 1000 exemptions filed by Commonwealth employees, zero have been granted.

The apparent resistance against the efforts to obtain a religious exemption is such that one of Z’s colleagues, who is Jewish, was not even permitted to have a rabbi participate at the Teams meeting regarding that person’s exemption.

This is a developing story.  Please continue to follow Law Enforcement Today for updates on this fight for religious vaccine exemptions.

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