Citizens have the right to develop their own convictions

To the Editor:
During the governor’s press conference on Sept. 15, she was asked for a response to how the administration plans on fighting their recent court defeat regarding vaccine mandates on health care workers [“Week LXXIX: Vaccination mandates encourage shots, stir resistance,” The Altamont Enterprise, Sept. 16, 2021].

Her quote was, “I’m not aware of a sanctioned religious exemption … Everyone from the pope on down is encouraging their members to get vaccinated.” 

This statement is an egregious attack on the rights established by the First Amendment to the United States Constitution. The freedom of religion afforded U.S. citizens by this First Amendment is not confined to the statements of one individual representing one religious group.

It is ignorant to group all religions and beliefs into one man’s statement and even more ignorant to claim that there is a hierarchy that must be followed by all other people of faith. Citizens have the right to develop their own convictions and determine the moral code they will follow through their faith, no matter the size or brevity of their congregation.

Additionally, the government is not a deity and it is never their place to determine what does or does not constitute a religious belief.

The government has no right to circumvent this freedom of religion for any sake. The statements regarding this mandate should be viewed as an abandonment of the oath of office that Governor Hochul took, where she stated she would defend the Constitution of the United States.

The way this debate resolves is unknown and the vaccine may prove out in history to be the right thing to do. However, if religious rights are thrown aside here, the First Amendment might as well be rescinded.

Mandates and coercion are never the right way to govern. Our elected officials need to find new ways to connect with all of their constituents and continue to operate within the bounds of the constitutions they agreed to follow.  

Christopher Longo


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