Jackie Gale, who has attended Alabama public schools since moving to Alabama in the second grade and received from the Alabama state health department a religious exemption card that excuses her from the state's vaccine requirements for K-12 public students, has never been vaccinated in her life. She was allowed to attend her freshman year of college, but then the school said she was expected to meet state vaccination requirements before continuing her education there.
Attorney Christine Pratt of First Liberty Institute says exemptions are made for medical or other reasons, but not for religion.
"If you're going to allow some people not to be vaccinated, which is perfectly reasonable, by the way, the reason for it shouldn't matter," Pratt submits. "You should treat religious people the same as you treat anyone else."
After receiving a demand letter from First Liberty, UAB decided to allow Gale to register. Even so, Pratt says the matter is not closed.
"We are continuing to have ongoing discussions with the university, because they don't say anywhere on their website anything at all about religious exemptions," the attorney explains.
In its demand letter, First Liberty pointed out that a policy mandating vaccinations violates both Alabama's Constitution and the U.S. Constitution. Thus, the letter argues, UAB's policy "triggers, and subsequently fails, strict scrutiny under recent Supreme Court precedent interpreting the Free Exercise Clause" [and] "impermissibly burdens Gale's religious exercise" under the state's Religious Freedom Amendment.