Pastor Robert Jeffress, leader of the 12,000-member First Baptist Church in Dallas, Texas, says there “there is no credible religious argument against” COVID-19 vaccines as an increasing number of Americans seek religious exemptions to vaccination mandates.
“There is no credible religious argument against the vaccines,” Jeffress told The Associated Press for a report last Friday.
Jeffress, a prominent evangelical supporter of former President Donald Trump, who has been fully vaccinated since early March, said he and his staff “are neither offering nor encouraging members to seek religious exemptions from the vaccine mandates."
“Christians who are troubled by the use of a fetal cell line for the testing of the vaccines would also have to abstain from the use of Tylenol, Pepto Bismol, Ibuprofen, and other products that used the same cell line if they are sincere in their objection,” Jeffress argued.
Infectious disease expert and practicing Catholic James Lawler explained to Nebraska Medicine that fetal cell lines grow in a laboratory and descend from cells taken from abortions in the 1970s and 1980s.
“Current fetal cell lines are thousands of generations removed from the original fetal tissue. They do not contain any tissue from a fetus,” Lawler said.
As many employers and government agencies are mandating that employees get vaccinated, thousands have sought religious exemptions to such mandates. Some 2,600 Los Angeles Police Department employees are citing religious objections as they try to skirt COVID-19 vaccination mandates, according to AP. Additionally, thousands of state workers in Washington State have reportedly done the same.
Jeffress' statement to AP echoes what he shared earlier this year in an interview with Redeeming Babel.
“I have been praying like millions of Christians have been praying for a cure to this pandemic. ... As a pastor, I saw it take the lives of many of my church members. I saw heartbreaking situations where families had to say goodbye to their loved ones, using FaceTime," the 65-year-old megachurch pastor said.
"We saw our church not able to meet for a period of time because of this. We were praying for an end of this pandemic, and I saw this vaccine as an answer to that prayer. And no vaccine is perfect, but I believe that looking at the odds, I would be much better off taking the vaccine than ignoring it."
In the interview with Redeeming Babel, he argued that people who are "pro-life" must be "consistent" in that stance.
"I believe if we are intent on protecting life inside the womb, which I am, we need to also be careful to value life outside the womb and do everything we can to preserve it," he said. "And I think, certainly, the controlling passage for me in Philippians 2 is ‘Do not merely look out for your own personal interest,’ Paul said, ‘But also look out for the interest of others. Have this attitude in yourself, which was in Christ Jesus, who gave himself was crucified for our sin payment.'"
"I think that's something that the evangelical community needs to be reminded of," he added. "It's not just about me; it's about us. And, if we're really Christians, we need to think about the wellbeing of those we come in contact with spiritually and physically as well.”