Reading Time: 4 minutes

A bunch of San Diego cops who already received exemptions to COVID vaccine mandates are now demanding they be exempt from even being checked for COVID, claiming that the swab tests also violate their Christian faith. It’s just more proof that these religious exemptions are nothing more than lazy excuses to avoid perfectly sensible safety precautions.

You may recall that many conservative Christians asked for exemptions to the vaccine because they claimed the Moderna and Pfizer vaccines “employed or benefitted from the cell lines of aborted fetuses.” That connection between abortion and the vaccines was minimal at best. More importantly, the exact same claim could be made about other vaccines that those same people never objected to in the past—along with drugs like Tylenol, Pepto-Bismol, and Tums. How sincere were their convictions, really, if they said no to the COVID vaccine but yes to aspirin? The bottom line was that Christians (and it was almost always Christians) didn’t have some constitutional right to their job when their unvaccinated presence put other people in danger.

Those religious exemptions flourished, and it made our collective immune response much weaker than it needed to be, which is a major reason we’re still seeing new COVID variants infect the public.

And now a group of San Diego cops are showing everyone just how absurd these religious exemptions can be.

Staffers employed by the city had to fill out a form to receive an exemption to COVID vaccines, and that form states that a “sincerely held religious belief” could be a valid reason to avoid the shots. But the form makes clear that those who don’t get vaccinated must be regularly tested for COVID.

Claire Trageser of KPBS obtained some of those forms and found that “about 10% of police staff” who already had religious exemptions to the vaccine specifically said they couldn’t be tested for COVID either because it also violated their beliefs.

About 10% of police staff, who were exempted on religious grounds, insist their Christian beliefs also instruct them not to use the swabs because they contain ethylene oxide. The chemical is a known carcinogen, but is not actually present on the swabs — it’s used as a gas to sterilize them.

“My beliefs stand for keeping my body clean and free from such unnecessary drugs and chemicals into my body,” one officer wrote on a religious exemption form filed with the city.

The phrase “I trust in God’s perfect design of my body” was used 19 times by officers seeking the religious exemption, according to records reviewed by KPBS.

And four officers repeated verbatim that, “Because of my deeply held Christian beliefs, I trust in God’s perfect design of my body, and that my body is the temple of the Holy Spirit. The Covid-19 vaccine and the nasal swab test with ethylene-oxide are an unneeded introduction of drugs/chemicals into my body.

God never said “Thou shalt not use ethylene-oxide.” It’s just a made-up excuse these Christians are using because they’re selfish people who don’t give a damn about infecting those around them. Not only do they not care about public health, they believe their Christian faith should shield them from even being tested for the disease. (It seems fair to ask how many drugs or chemicals the same cops routinely put into their body when they’re sick. Because it’s not like they just magically get healed or avoid sickness altogether. As any honest Christian who has ever coughed, worn glasses, or felt soreness in their legs could tell you, God’s “perfect design” is far from perfect.)

KPBS says the city is trying to accommodate those insane requests, but for now, the selfish Christians remain on the job despite no one one knowing if they’re walking health hazards.

Some cops literally cited the Bible in justification of their ridiculous request (and some of them repeated the same excuses verbatim, suggesting they were getting the language from the same source):

“As I read the Bible, it directs Christians to abstain from contaminating their body with substances that may be threatening to their bodily health. In so doing, I am to avoid introducing unnecessary drugs and chemicals of all kinds into my body, such as the Covid-19 vaccine and nasal swabs containing ethylene oxide,” an officer wrote. “1 Corinthians 3:16-17 states, ‘Don’t you know that you yourselves are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in your midst? If anyone destroys God’s temple, God will destroy that person; for God’s temple is sacred, and you together are that temple.’ In addition, 1 Corinthians 6:19-20 states, ‘Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore, honor God with your bodies.’”

As one religion professor explained to KPBS, however, that section refers to sexual immorality, not medicine or safety protocols. Have those cops ever received stitches? Do they have tattoos? How would those things be any different? Even if they sincerely believed otherwise, there’s nothing un-Christian about making a small sacrifice on your end to create a much larger benefit for your community. There’s simply no legitimate religious reason to refuse to get tested for COVID. These Christians just think their faith gives them some kind of special privilege to put others at risk, and no one in their life has the courage to tell them they’re full of shit.

The correct thing to do in this instance is to fire those officers. They’re not complying with extremely basic requirements that do not seriously infringe upon their religious freedom. The accommodation they’re requesting isn’t even close to reasonable. And because the public is literally obligated to interact with police officers if they’re approached for any reason, knowing whether a cop could be infected with COVID is pretty damn important.

For now, the city hasn’t taken action on these 35 cops (and counting) who have demanded swab exemptions. For the sake of the public, let’s hope the city takes action soon.

Hemant Mehta is the founder of FriendlyAtheist.com, a YouTube creator, podcast co-host, and author of multiple books about atheism. He can be reached at @HemantMehta.