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SALT LAKE CITY — Two religious organizations based in Texas and Mississippi say merely implementing the Biden administration's vaccine mandate would be a "sin against God's Holy Word" and put their employees in a position to potentially sin as well.
The American Family Association, a Christian fundamentalist organization based in Tupelo, Mississippi, and the Daystar Television Network, an evangelical Christian-based religious network in Dallas, Texas, made those arguments in a court filing Tuesday.
The two nonprofits weighed in on a lawsuit in the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals seeking to strike down an Occupational Safety and Health Administration rule requiring workers in companies with at least 100 employees be vaccinated by Jan. 4 or face mask requirements and weekly COVID-19 tests. Businesses that don't comply could be fined nearly $14,000 per violation.
"AFA and Daystar have religious objections to forcing their employees to test their conscience about receiving the vaccine. AFA and Daystar believe that if they implement the required vaccine mandate, they will wound the consciences of their employees and potentially cause them to sin," lawyers for the organization wrote.
"In addition, AFA and Daystar believe that if they even put their employees to the test, the very act of implementing the vaccine mandate is a sin against God's Holy Word."
The two organizations' court filing is among several the 5th Circuit Court is considering in the fight this week over whether to put the OSHA rule on hold throughout the country pending further litigation. Lawsuits against the vaccine rule have been filed in at least five other federal circuits.
Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, South Carolina, Utah and several businesses sued the Department of Labor and OSHA over the vaccine requirement for larger businesses last week. The 5th Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans granted an emergency stay of the rule over the weekend. The court found states' petition gives cause to believe there are "grave statutory and constitutional issues" with the mandate.
The American Family Association was among the petitioners the court responded to when it stayed the mandate.
The American Family Association owns and operates nearly 180 radio stations across the country under the American Family Radio name. Daystar Television, one of two largest Christian television networks in the world, is owned by the Word of God Fellowship.
The groups say they were formed according to God's calling and for his purposes. They believe the Bible is the inspired, infallible and authoritative word of God, and that it teaches that the right of conscience is sacred and must remain inviolate.
"AFA and Daystar must obey God's Word. They have no other choice. AFA and Daystar have a sincerely held religious belief that they cannot force their employees to test their beliefs or conscience by requiring them to obtain any of the COVID-19 vaccines," according to the court filing. "Putting their employees to that test is a violation of God's Holy Word."
The Biden administration's workplace vaccine mandate does allow employees to apply for religious or medical exemptions.
The five states argue the vaccination rule, issued by OSHA as an emergency standard last Thursday, is unconstitutional and outside the scope of President Joe Biden's power.
Government lawyers oppose the 5th Circuit Court putting the rule on hold, contending in court documents it would lead to numerous deaths.
In its court filing, the government argues the states' asserted injuries are "speculative and remote" and do not outweigh the interest in protecting employees from a dangerous virus while the lawsuit proceeds.
"Nor have petitioners shown that their claimed injuries outweigh the harm of staying a standard that will save thousands of lives and prevent hundreds of thousands of hospitalizations," according to court documents. "OSHA's detailed analysis of the standard's impact shows that a stay would likely cost dozens or even hundreds of lives per day."