Southern Baptist leaders say they support COVID-19 vaccines but believe President Biden's vaccine/testing mandate on private employers is a form of government overreach that could backfire.
Multiple SBC seminary presidents issued comments critical of the new Biden policy, which would require private businesses with 100 or more employees to require their workers either to get vaccinated or to get tested weekly against COVID-19.
It presumably would apply to numerous religious institutions nationwide.
"Our goal throughout the COVID-19 pandemic has been to do everything within our power to keep our students, faculty, and staff as safe as possible," said Adam Greenway, president of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary and Texas Baptist College in Fort Worth, Texas. "I believe that vaccination is a proven means to help achieve that goal, which is why I have been vaccinated, and I have publicly and repeatedly encouraged members of the Southwestern Seminary community to be vaccinated.
"Still, I respect the decisions of those who, for medical reasons or conscientious objections, have declined to be vaccinated," Greenway added. "A government-mandated vaccination program of private businesses and institutions is deeply troubling. Regrettably, the president's actions will bring further division and polarization to a nation that is already profoundly divided."
Albert Mohler, president of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Ky., made similar remarks.
"We encourage vaccination but oppose mandated vaccination," Mohler told Baptist Press. "We are watching the situation closely and fully expect multiple legal challenges to be filed against the President's announced mandate to private employers."
Jason Keith Allen, president of Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Kansas City, Mo., said he has been vaccinated and has "encouraged vaccination" but "found both President Biden's tone & his mandate for employers like" Midwestern "to require vaccination or weekly testing for employees alarming."
"I expect this overreach to be challenged in court. I hope those challenges prove successful," Allen said.
Though I’ve chosen & encouraged vaccination, I found both President Biden’s tone & his mandate for employers like @MBTS to require vaccination or weekly testing for employees alarming.— Jason Keith Allen (@jasonkeithallen) September 10, 2021
I expect this overreach to be challenged in court. I hope those challenges prove successful.
Daniel Akin, president of Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary in Wake Forest, N.C., said he, too, has been vaccinated and has "encouraged" vaccination. But the Biden plan, Akin said, is "government overreach & infringement on our civil liberties."
I encourage people to get the COVID vaccination. I have it & @Charlotte_Akin has it. I think it wise. But, the Biden plan is government overreach & infringement on our civil liberties. And, @POTUS bullying rhetoric is troubling & unnecessarily divisive. This is not leading well!— Daniel Akin (@DannyAkin) September 10, 2021
Mohler expanded on his comments in Monday's edition of The Briefing, a podcast about the news.
"One of the issues faced by the country is that if this kind of mandate can be handed down on this kind of authority by a president under these conditions, under what other conditions could this or some other president hand down mandates entering into the private lives of American citizens and the private organizations of American businesses and institutions?" Mohler asked. "If the president can do this, what can the president not do?"
More than 75 percent of adults in the U.S. have received at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine. All total, about 209 million Americans have received at least one dose and 178 million Americans are fully vaccinated.
The vaccines have proven effective at preventing hospitalizations and deaths, according to state-level data. A recent study of 13 states found that an unvaccinated person was 11 times more likely to die from COVID and 10 times more likely to be hospitalized because of COVID than was a fully vaccinated person. The data was collected after late June. In Mississippi, for example, 87 percent of COVID hospitalizations and 87 percent of COVID deaths in August were among the unvaccinated, according to the state's department of health.
Photo courtesy: ©Getty Images/Andriy Onufriyenko
Michael Foust has covered the intersection of faith and news for 20 years. His stories have appeared in Baptist Press, Christianity Today, The Christian Post, the Leaf-Chronicle, the Toronto Star and the Knoxville News-Sentinel.