Oklahoma Pastor says he has signed thousands of religious exemption forms for the COVID-19 vaccine

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TULSA, Okla. (KFOR) – One Tulsa pastor and candidate for the US Senate says he is signing tens of thousands of exemptions for people who don’t want to get the COVID-19 vaccine.

Jackson Lahmeyer, a 29-year-old pastor of Sheridan Church in Tulsa, told his viewers via Facebook live that he was making a vaccination exemption form available for anyone who wanted it.

“We’ve got to draw the line in the sand,” Lahmeyer said in the video. “Get your pastor to sign your exemption form. If your pastor doesn’t have the courage to sign it, I’ll sign it for you.”

His press team says he’s signed forms for people outside of his church for free.

Lahmeyer put in a Facebook post that for anyone who might want to make the form more valid and join the church, according to the church’s rules, you must give to the church and use its online or social media streaming services. The donation can be as little as a one-time gift of $1.

News 4 spoke to a lawyer on what validity that form would have with an employer.

Attorney Rachel Bussett with Bussett Legal Group says there’s not a clear cut way for someone to prove that belief. The form plays a part of it, but it’s just what starts that initial conversation between an employer and employee.

The employee must use that to show they’re not getting the vaccine due to a sincerely-held religious belief.

“It’s not as simple as a pastor signing a letter,” she said. “Establishing those beliefs is about showing a pattern of belief and practices, not a sudden convenient adoption because you don’t wanna take a COVID-19 vaccine.”

And for some employers, the fact that a form has a signature from a church you don’t attend could play a factor.

“Especially if you have someone on the internet and says ‘hey, I’ll sign your forms’ and then everybody else shows up with those forms,” she said.

The decision to make any accommodations is ultimately up to your company.

“It depends on the employer,” she said. “It’s not only holding the belief and establishing it’s sincere, which the pastor would be part of that, it’s interworking and showing an accommodation can be made.”

KFOR reached out to Sheridan Church on its exact rules for becoming an official in-person or online member and have not heard back.

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