How many “religious” exemptions to vaccination are phony?

In Northern California, the pastor of a megachurch hands out religious exemption forms to the faithful. A New Mexico state senator will “help you articulate a religious exemption” by pointing to the decades-old use of aborted fetal cells in the development of some vaccines. And a Texas-based evangelist offers exemption letters to anyone — for a suggested “donation” starting at $25.

With workplace vaccine mandates in the offing, opponents are turning to a tried-and-true recourse for avoiding a covid-19 shot: the claim that vaccination interferes with religious beliefs.

No major denomination opposes vaccination. Even the Christian Science Church, whose adherents rely largely on prayer rather than medicine, does not impose an official policy. It counsels “respect for public health authorities and conscientious obedience to the laws of the land, including those requiring vaccination.”

And if a person claims their privately held religious beliefs forbid vaccination, that defense is unlikely to hold up in court if challenged, legal experts say. Although individual clergy members have mounted the anti-vaccine bandwagon, they have no obvious justification in religious texts for their positions. Many seem willing to cater to people who reject vaccination for another reason.

If you “feel it’s real”…then go for it. But, if you’re just another copout looking to cover your buns, shame on you!

Trump violates court order

❝ The Trump administration may be violating federal court orders that found it had unlawfully canceled a federal program to prevent teen pregnancies and shifted that funding to efforts focused primarily on abstinence, Senate Democrats said in a new letter obtained by NBC News…

“By attempting to direct funding in accordance with ideological goals, rather than towards the development of evidence-based practices, the Trump-Pence Administration is undoing years of progress towards supporting adolescent sexual and reproductive health and wellbeing,..”

❝ Earlier this year, federal courts ruled five times against the administration’s termination of the Teen Pregnancy Prevention Program, an annual $101 million effort created under the Obama administration with bipartisan support in Congress to help teenagers avoid unwanted pregnancies. Later, courts in New York and Oregon found that redirecting the funds to abstinence programs that are not “proven effective through rigorous evaluation” is “unlawful.”

Ignorance is generally sufficient excuse for religious nutters to ignore science and reason. Still, I wonder if reflection during whatever practice governs their prayers might encourage memories of honesty. A habit long absent from the Trump world. Supposedly an important part of Christianity American Style.

Healthcare Reform helps businesses – who still won’t admit it

Daylife/Getty Images used by permission

When President Barack Obama signed his healthcare overhaul into law a year ago, some U.S. companies were quick to flag — and write down — the millions of dollars they stood to lose as a result of one aspect of the measure.

A year later, data from the Department of Health and Human Services shows the business community is one of the biggest beneficiaries of a separate provision of the overhaul, which provides billions of dollars in assistance to employers that maintain medical coverage for early retirees.

Hundreds of U.S. companies — including some that took writedowns last year that critics cited as proof of the new law’s burden on business — are participating in the program, which has paid out $530 million in the first seven months and is authorized to spend as much as $5 billion through 2014.

But while companies were quick to bemoan a potential headwind created by the overhaul, which eliminated a double subsidy they had enjoyed on certain drug expenses, no one seems keen to alert shareholders to the tailwind the companies are enjoying thanks to another aspect of the law.

The program, known as the Early Retiree Reinsurance Program, was designed to encourage health-plan sponsors — companies, labor unions, nonprofits and state and local governments — to continue to provide coverage to employees who retire before they qualify for Medicare, the government healthcare program for people aged 65 and over…

The plan is scheduled to sunset in 2014, when the health insurance exchanges created by the Obama law are scheduled to open, providing affordable insurance to everyone. But in the four years ERRP is around, it can put as much as $240,000 per early retiree back in the pocket of a company…

So far, about one-fifth of the $530 million that was dispersed in the first seven months of the program has gone to private U.S. businesses. The actual amounts each company received are not yet available.

But the official list of companies participating in the program includes half the members of the Dow Jones industrial average.

Reuters contacted the three biggest firms on that list, AT&T, Caterpillar and John Deere asking what they had told their shareholders about the benefits received from this aspect of healthcare reform. They either offered no comment – or said they’re still evaluating data.

Counting the money is more like it.

Rote memorization of facts adds to collective cluelessness

As fans of talk-show host Jay Leno’s man-on-the-street interviews know, Americans suffer from a national epidemic of historical and civic ignorance. But just because most Americans know more about “American Idol” than they do about American government doesn’t necessarily mean it’s entirely their fault.

Americans’ historical apathy is also an indictment of the way history is taught in grades K-12, according to a University of Illinois professor who studies and teaches historical instruction.

Brenda M. Trofanenko, a professor of curriculum and instruction in the College of Education, says that teaching history by rote – that is, by having students memorize historical dates and then testing them on how well they can regurgitate that data on a test – is a pedagogical method guaranteed to get students to tune out and add to our collective civic and historical cluelessness…

“I agree that there should be a base knowledge that students need to know about their country and their community affiliations,” she said. “But its relevance lies not just in knowing historical fact but being able to see what can be gleaned from historical inquiry, including cause and effect, progress and decline, and historical significance. You still have to know what happened, but you also have to be able to put it into a larger context of what was happening at the time, why it was happening, and what relevance it has to the current day.”

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