One of the problems of the information age we live in is that we can insulate ourselves in our world, wrapping ourselves in a cocoon of misinformation or whatever else tickles our ears. That can be quite dangerous when it comes to vaccine misinformation. Listen to one prominent lawyer and you’d think that planes are about to start falling out of the sky.
Lawyer Claims COVID-19 Will Make The Skies Unsafe
Liberty Counsel is a tax-exempt religious liberty organization that engages in litigation related to evangelical Christian values. I’m not sure when opposition to vaccinations became such an evangelical crusade, but Liberty Counsel is not only actively opposing vaccine mandates, but calling vaccines dangerous. Being a prominent organization and not charging for its work, the group has purportedly attracted a number of pleas for help from airline employees.
“Liberty Counsel has been assisting thousands of airline employees with religious exemptions who have been told they must get the COVID injection in order to keep their jobs. These employees are facing illegal resistance from the airlines, and lack of support from the unions. They are being placed under extreme stress. Based on direct conversations with airline workers, including many pilots and flight attendants, the pressure is resulting in an increased number of safety incidents.”
Safety incidents? That’s quite a charge. What kind of safety incidents?
“A captain of a major airline said that due to the extreme stress under which pilots are being subjected to regarding taking these unwanted shots or losing their jobs, this captain would not fly on the airline unless in the captain’s seat.”
Considering 90% of pilots at major U.S. airlines have already been vaccinated, I’m not sure what kind of “extreme stress” exists…
“Another said that flight attendants are coming to the cockpit in tears due to the stress. Yet another said that due to distractions, there are also more safety incidents on the ground. Another said that a co-worker under fear of being terminated, succumbed to pressure and took the COVID shots, went into anaphylactic shock, and died.”
This is just more fear mongering. Since December 2020, more than 350 million doses of COVID-19 vaccine have been administered in the U.S., and the Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System (VAERS) has received 6,968 reports of death (0.0019%), according to the CDC. Importantly, that statistic offers no insight into whether the vaccine actually caused the death. Let’s say a 96-year-old in a nursing home resident received the jab and then died weeks later of another issue – that death would be reported to VAERS (and note that a similar logic can be applied to COVID-19 deaths).
Mat Staver, who founded and runs the Liberty Counsel, advises United employees to resist the mandate:
“United Airlines is illegally telling its employees that to obtain a religious exemption they have to be an adherent of a recognized religion with a history of opposition to vaccines. Employees are also being told they need to include a letter from a clergy to support their sincere religious beliefs. This is false. The only issue is whether the employee has a sincere religious belief, not whether a clergy or a “recognized religion” (whatever that is) agrees.”
He’s not totally off-base on this. I don’t purport to be smarter than United’s team of legal staff, but the airline has taken a hard-nosed approach to religious exemptions, which I believe will backfire when legally challenged.
Ultimately, Staver says:
“The airlines are jeopardizing the health and safety of their employees and passengers by pressuring them to get the COVID shots or be terminated. This is a national emergency that places crew and passengers at risk. If the airlines claim, based on the Department of Defense study, that wearing a mask reduces the chance of exposure to the virus to .003%, or near zero, then why force these faithful employees to inject an experimental substance into their bodies? No one should not be forced to inject this or any substance in their bodies against their will. It is wrong to violate the fundamental right to free and informed consent and bully people into compliance.”
First, the Pfizer vaccine now has full FDA approval and emergency approval of Moderna and J&J do not mean “experimental.” Second, just like a soldier wears layers of armor when going to battle, so masks and vaccinations (and natural antibodies for those who have them) provide layers of protection that, combined, result in far greater protection and far less serious side effects if a breakthrough case occurs. Third, conditioning employment on a vaccine is a different matter than being forced to take a jab at gunpoint.
You might ask why give this guy a platform here? Why even address his misinformation? Because someone I care deeply about forwarded this to me. And because we must do our part to combat misinformation meant to scaremonger (and in this case, raise money – his note includes a plea to send money).
He peppers in a lot of fear and misinformation but also sprinkles in potentially valid points, like the religious exemption issues at United under 42 U.S.C. § 2000e(j). That becomes the hardest type of information to counter because he cannot be wholly dismissed as a lunatic.
We are not out of the woods yet on COVID-19. In fact, I’d brace for a dark autumn and winter. But while not foolproof, vaccines are both safe and effective. The anecdotal stories and scaremongering do not stand up to scrutiny and simply instill fear. Go ahead and make the religious exemption argument (though it should be noted Christianity has historically been quite receptive to vaccines), but don’t confuse the issue with horrible stories not rooted in fact and only meant to scare.
The vaccine will not cause planes to fly out of the sky. Instead, the vaccine will help us get through this difficult time.
image: United Airlines