A pastor from Oklahoma is offering to sign religious exemptions from the COVID-19 vaccine for anyone who becomes an online member of his church.
Jackson Lahmeyer, the 29-year-old pastor of Sheridan Church, told The Washington Post that almost 30,000 people had downloaded his religious exemption form in just two days.
“It’s beautiful,” he said of what is happening. “My phone and my emails have blown up.”
Unlike many pastors around the country refusing to sign vaccine exemptions, Lahmeyer explained that he wanted to extend the opportunity for community members to have a signed form.
He added that his church bylaws state that a person can only be considered an online member once they stream services and donate at least $1 to the church. Lahmeyer then said that by offering people the opportunity to become members, his signature on a religious exemption form holds more weight.
“I’m willing to sign it no matter what,” he said. “But I want it to have weight. For it to carry any weight, you have to be an online member of our church.”
A person has to provide their phone number and email address to get Lahmeyer’s form, which then asks the person to describe their religious belief that has led them to need the exemption and provide a pastor’s name and signature. Lahmeyer pledged that he would assess anyone’s reasoning behind wanting an exemption.
“What if someone says, ‘God told me not to get a vaccine.’ I don’t know if God told them that. I’m not going to argue with that,” he said.
Lahmeyer’s offer to sign the vaccine form has caused him to receive some backlash from people who feel that his signature is unnecessary. Charles Haynes, senior fellow for religious freedom at the Freedom Forum in Washington, argued that explaining their religious beliefs should be enough.
“He’s not really selling a religious exemption,” Haynes said of Lahmeyer. “He’s selling a bogus idea that you need one.”
This comes days after Biden announced that the Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) will force all employers with 100 or more employees “to ensure their workforce is fully vaccinated or require any workers who remain unvaccinated to produce a negative test result on at least a weekly basis before coming to work.”
With Biden moving closer and closer towards vaccine mandates for all, vaccine exemptions are more important than ever. If Lahmeyer continues what he’s doing, he can certainly expect his church numbers to skyrocket moving forward.