Best Practices for Religious Exemptions

While each request for a religious exemption is unique, the best practices below can help you articulate your religious beliefs as fully as possible while avoiding some pitfalls. These practices are provided as a helpful reference only and adhering to them does not guarantee the approval of your request. They should also not be used as a checklist of what to include. Your exemption request is personal and should include whatever information you think is relevant to fully illustrate the conflict between your beliefs and the vaccination requirement. It is ultimately up to you to ensure your request has been articulated as clearly and completely as possible.

Do: Describe, briefly and in your own words*, what your sincerely held religious beliefs are.

Do not simply state the name of your religion or assume the review panel is familiar with its tenets, even if you follow a major world religion.

Even the largest and most well-known religions have many, often hundreds, of different sects, denominations, and traditions; and potentially as many individual interpretations as they have members.

* While it is completely reasonable to consult reference documents and people in your life to help formulate your thoughts, your explanations should be a personal expression of your sincerely held religious beliefs. Your submission should be your own, original work.

Do: Describe the specific tenets of your faith that the policy conflicts with.

Do not state in general terms that the policy is against your religion.

With so many different interpretations existing for each religious belief, it is difficult for the review panel to make an informed judgement based on generalizations.

Do: Provide brief, poignant, citations from your religious text or corpus that demonstrate the conflict.

Do not rely on extensive citations to make your argument for you.

Religious texts have been subject to many interpretations over time, and most were written before vaccines were invented. If using citations, it is your responsibility to explain how your understanding of the text applies to your situation.

Do: Cite religious laws and strictures of your faith that conflict with the policy.

Do not cite the Free Exercise Clause (first amendment) of the United States Constitution or other state/federal laws.

The WSU vaccination policy is compliant with all laws governing non-discrimination at institutions of higher learning and state agencies.

Think of exemptions as another part of the WSU application process where you need to provide written documentation to receive a modification to WSU's policies (such as the first-year housing rule, for example). The exemptions process exists specifically so that qualifying exemptions can be granted. However, there are certain minimum standards that must be met to ensure community equity and compliance with WSU’s policies.

A good approach is to treat an exemption request as though you were having a conversation with a curious friend. Just explain what it is that you believe and clearly demonstrate the conflict between those beliefs and the vaccine requirement.