Need an Organ Transplant? No Religious Exemptions from COVID Mandates

Lauren, Jonah, Shamgar, and Elianah Connors.

by James A. Bacon

During an annual consultation with the University of Virginia organ transplant team in January, Shamgar Connors met with a social worker as part of a “psychosocial assessment.” The 42-year-old Stafford County resident, who was undergoing kidney dialysis 12 hours a day, was on the waiting list for a donor kidney. Hospital policy required him to get vaccinated for COVID. If he refused, he would be taken off the wait list. According to the progress notes recorded by the social worker, he stated he was “never going to take” the vaccine.

UVa Health referred Connors to a nephrologist, Dr. Karen Warburton, whose conversation I recounted in the previous installment of this series. According to her notes, she found him difficult to converse with on the phone. “He demonstrated hostility and a very closed approach to discussion around this issue,” she wrote. I listened to the recording, and I would describe his attitude as terse and defensive — not surprising, given that he’d been told he’d be taken off the wait list — but not hostile. Be that as it may, Warburton went on to write:

He first cited concerns based on his research of the science, then tried to claim a religious exemption…. I would want to explore his candidacy from a psychosocial standpoint with our Transplant Social Work team before we activate him on the list, even if/when he is medically ready.

Transplant surgeons have reasonable grounds (even if the science is conflicting  and continually evolving) for asking patients to get vaccinated. Donor kidneys are in short supply, dialysis patients are dying every day because they can’t get them, and doctors want to ensure that those who do get them have the greatest possible odds of long-term (10-year) survival, which runs roughly 50%. COVID vaccinations, they say, improve those odds. But should the vaccinations be required for every patient regardless of circumstances?

It is evident from her memo that Warburton did not give much weight to Connors’ religious-exemption argument. Americans with fundamentalist Christian views are a distinct minority in the United States — but a not-insubstantial one. A seemingly irreducible segment of the population refuses to get vaccinated — maybe 10% to 15% — and many cite religious reasons. As an atheist I share none of their theological views. But I do worry about a society that compels people to sacrifice their beliefs as a condition of receiving medical treatment.

During our interview, Connors did not delve into his religious views in any depth. But he sent me a document: a form his wife Lauren filled out to obtain a COVID-vaccination exemption from her employer, Mary Washington Healthcare, in which she explained her thinking. I present her views not because I share them, which I don’t, but to show that they are sincere, heartfelt, and the product of considerable reflection.

In the application, Ms. Connors conceded that she had accepted vaccines in the past. But she was an infant or young child and had no choice in the matter, and then as an adult she did so under compulsion. When Mary Washington Hospital mandated a vaccine in 2020 under the threat of termination, she wrote, she complied because she was not aware she had the right to file a religious exemption. “The fearmongering and pressures placed on staff terrified me, as I am the sole provider for my household and my children. I feared that I would not be able to provide for them if I didn’t follow the mandate.”

She was raised in the Christian Church, attended a Christian school, and attended church every Sunday when possible. She links the COVID vaccines to research using stem cell lines derived from the tissues of aborted fetuses. In her theology, abortion is a sin. Those who profit from infants murdered in the womb, she says, “are damned, and those who partake in something that is created from death and sin will also be damned. I refuse to take something into my body that is the creation of those poor innocent souls butchered in the womb.”

In support of her beliefs, she quotes several passages from the Old Testament. One of them is Psalms 139: 13-16.

For you formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well.

Ms. Connors works on the cancer and hospice/palliative care unit as a nurse. “I chose hospice and oncology as my calling as a direct caregiver to give comfort to those suffering from one of the worst diseases to plague humanity and to give peace to those at the end of their days and comfort to the families left behind,” she wrote. “I pray daily for those suffering and I pray for the inspiration to be able to give the best care and comfort I am able…. My family and I pray at home every meal, we pray at night before bedtime and we all follow 2 Timothy 4:2 which states Preach the word of God. Be prepared whether the time is favorable or not.’”

Her step-son is named Jonah, after the Jonah of swallowed-by-a-whale fame. Her daughter is named Elianah, which in Hebrew means, “My Lord has answered me.” “We were inspired to name her Elianah because we struggled with fertility and I prayed every single day so many times a day to be blessed with a child, and finally after years my prayers were answered.”

“This is how serious I take my faith that I am willing to be fired (even though its blatant discrimination and you are blatantly violating my rights),” she wrote, addressing the hospital.

Connors is filling out the paperwork for treatment at Inova in Northern Virginia or VCU Health in Richmond, but his doctor tells him their policies probably are the same. As one who has been a Christian all his life, he’s not about to abandon his principles. “I’m going to keep riding out with what God wants me to do,” he says. “I enjoy fighting for my rights.”

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29 responses to “Need an Organ Transplant? No Religious Exemptions from COVID Mandates”

  1. Stephen Haner Avatar
    Stephen Haner

    A variant on the old “Golden Rule.” He who controls the organs makes the rules. Rant and rail, it will not change. You have raised it, I have considered it again, and I’m still fine with the docs insisting the organs go to vaccinated patients first (just as, and you keep ignoring this side, they can only come from vaccinated donors.)

    1. Nancy Naive Avatar
      Nancy Naive

      “… they can only come from vaccinated donors.”

      Oh shoot! Takes all the fun out of it.

      1. Stephen Haner Avatar
        Stephen Haner

        Six months ago, when it seemed being vaccinated prevented infection, there was reason to be unhappy with the holdouts. Now it is clear it may reduce the chance, severity, but being fully vaccinated is not perfect protection against infection. As I know. So less reason for “mandates.” But it still improves your odds.

        The cost-benefit equation on the shots for a healthy 30-year old, especially with a prior case, is one thing. For a ten year old, a different result. The cost-benefit equation for somebody who wants to be on the recipient list is like a million to one. But they are free to refuse and leave the organs for others.

        1. killerhertz Avatar

          Wrong. Natural immunity is durable and long lasting. This has born out in the data collected in the shithole state of California.

          1. killerhertz Avatar

            Wow. You are going to cite this very flawed study from 6 months ago that already been contradicted since December 2021?

          2. how_it_works Avatar

            Some folks regurgitate rather than cogitate.

          3. Matt Adams Avatar
            Matt Adams

            You and half-wit already cited this study and again the following declaration is made in the discussion:

            “The findings in this report are subject to at least five limitations. First, reinfection was not confirmed through whole genome sequencing, which would be necessary to definitively prove that the reinfection was caused from a distinct virus relative to the first infection. Although in some cases the repeat positive test could be indicative of prolonged viral shedding or failure to clear the initial viral infection (9), given the time between initial and subsequent positive molecular tests among participants in this study, reinfection is the most likely explanation. Second, persons who have been vaccinated are possibly less likely to get tested. Therefore, the association of reinfection and lack of vaccination might be overestimated. Third, vaccine doses administered at federal or out-of-state sites are not typically entered in KYIR, so vaccination data are possibly missing for some persons in these analyses. In addition, inconsistencies in name and date of birth between KYIR and NEDSS might limit ability to match the two databases. Because case investigations include questions regarding vaccination, and KYIR might be updated during the case investigation process, vaccination data might be more likely to be missing for controls. Thus, the OR might be even more favorable for vaccination. Fourth, although case-patients and controls were matched based on age, sex, and date of initial infection, other unknown confounders might be present. Finally, this is a retrospective study design using data from a single state during a 2-month period; therefore, these findings cannot be used to infer causation. Additional prospective studies with larger populations are warranted to support these findings.”

          4. killerhertz Avatar

            Damn you beat me to it. I was setting her up to double down so I could paste the same information from the study.

          5. Matt Adams Avatar
            Matt Adams

            “He”, hits and quits. He’s a troll and nothing more.

          6. Eric the half a troll Avatar
            Eric the half a troll

            I’ll see your 5 and raise you 2 (from the “study” your pal the “killer” posted:

            “The findings in this report are subject to at least seven limitations. First, analyses were not stratified by time since vaccine receipt, but only by time since previous diagnosis, although earlier studies have examined waning of vaccine-induced immunity (Supplementary Figure 3, (2). Second, persons with undiagnosed infection are misclassified as having no previous COVID-19 diagnosis; however, this misclassification likely results in a conservative bias (i.e., the magnitude of difference in rates would be even larger if misclassified persons were not included among unvaccinated persons without a previous COVID-19 diagnosis). California seroprevalence data during this period indicate that the ratio of actual (presumptive) infections to diagnosed cases among adults was 2.6 (95% CI = 2.2–2.9).†††† Further, California only included NAAT results, whereas New York included both NAAT and antigen test results. However, antigen testing made up a smaller percentage of overall testing volume reported in California (7% of cases) compared with New York (25% of cases) during the study period. Neither state included self-tests, which are not easily reportable to public health. State-specific hazard ratios were generally comparable, although differences in rates among unvaccinated persons with a previous COVID-19 diagnosis were noteworthy. Third, potential exists for bias related to unmeasured confounding (e.g., behavioral or geographic differences in exposure risk) and uncertainty in the population size of the unvaccinated group without a previous COVID-19 diagnosis. Persons might be more or less likely to receive testing based on previous diagnosis or vaccination status; however, different trajectories between vaccinated persons with and without a previous COVID-19 diagnosis, and similar findings for cases and hospitalizations, suggest that these biases were minimal. Fourth, this analysis did not include information on the severity of initial infection and does not account for the full range of morbidity and mortality represented by the groups with previous infections. Fifth, this analysis did not ascertain receipt of additional or booster COVID-19 vaccine doses and was conducted before many persons were eligible or had received additional or booster vaccine doses, which have been shown to confer additional protection.§§§§ Sixth, some estimates lacked precision because of sample size limitations. Finally, this analysis was conducted before the emergence of the Omicron variant, for which vaccine or infection-derived immunity might be diminished.¶¶¶¶ This study offers a surveillance data framework to help evaluate both infections in vaccinated persons and reinfections as new variants continue to emerge.”

          7. Matt Adams Avatar
            Matt Adams

            Well I understand that without a strawman you’d have nothing. I made no statements to or for the other study and frankly I didn’t read it, as it wasn’t my point.

            My point as it was before when you brought up the very same study is, that they concluded their data was inconclusive and provided a good list of items why it was as such.

            Did the study have 4 carriage lines in it, or was that standard troll user error at copy and pasting?

        2. Nancy Naive Avatar
          Nancy Naive

          Well, somebody keeps changing the rules and the outcomes. +75M infected, 900K dead, and we are still in the middle of the game. A man with a needle is way faster than a sick guy in a bus at spreading immunity.

  2. LarrytheG Avatar

    who actually pays for the transplant and what are their rules?

  3. walter smith Avatar
    walter smith

    I am surprised that Mr. Haner does not have some level of medical skepticism in the opinions of the medical experts. And this is entirely ignoring the medical ethics and tyranny questions, which I will address separately.
    With respect to “climate change,” I think he and I are in agreement that the numbers are bogus. There are so many suppositions and we (mankind) cannot possibly know all the variables. Our Covid response indicates the exact same hubris.
    Remember, the vaccine was going to set us free! What happened to that?
    How come so many VAERS deaths? Is there any “proof” that survival without the Covid experimental therapy is worse?
    There’s not?
    So why are we accepting statements about the safety and efficacy of the Covid shot shot shot without similar “proof?”
    There is no medical proof that being unvaccinated is worse or better for a transplant. There is medical proof that natural immunity is better, and Mr. Connors has it. So, let’s say Shamgar and one other, further down on the wait list, both come up with a matching kidney – Shamgar has natural immunity and the other has only Covid “vaccine” immunity? Why should Shamgar be bypassed?
    And to even have this argument is immoral and violates medical ethics. That will be another post talking about law and morality, not corrupted bureaucracies. This argument should morally be a non-starter.

    1. LarrytheG Avatar

      I too, would like to hear Steves, response…

      1. walter smith Avatar
        walter smith

        He doesn’t need to respond. I agree with his skepticism of “climate change,” because unlike you, Larry, I do not believe “consensus” makes something true. Proper science is skeptical and demands proof. It is always challengeable. I think skepticism of the so-called experts on the entire Covid response is warranted. You now doubt VAERS data, even though it indicates something astounding is going on compared to the past. How about military data? Will you accept that even though the link is Conservative Treehouse? Is 2+2 = 4 true if I say it? Trump? How about you and Troll? (Yes. Facts are facts. 2 + 2 does equal 4)

        1. Stephen Haner Avatar
          Stephen Haner

          The fellow is indeed probably perfectly safe for the operation. But those who make the rules hold the cards.

          VAERS is reports, unconfirmed reports, and like a child abuse hotline (or teacher complaint hotline, duh), people can either lie or overreact. The hard data is out there. VAERS proves nothing.

          I got the shots. I got sick, and it was a cold, just a cold, over in a couple of days. My wife, boosted later, never got it. All the proof I need!! 🙂

          I have and have expressed skepticism of experts and a preference for data. Here is one I watch closely:

          1. walter smith Avatar
            walter smith

            The VDH data is OK. But, I don’t think you can properly draw long term conclusions from snapshots in time. The ratios are best understood in a very small time period – like each week. And even then, you have all sorts of factors that create uncertainty. Like, were the first people vaccinated more likely a healthier universe because they followed medical developments closely? I think there could be a self-selection issue and claiming effectiveness of the vaccine is not necessarily what happened.
            And I agree with another of your comments that Omicron evolved to get around the “vaccine.”
            We really don’t know, and the doctors acting like they know with moral certainty is the same type of hubris as the climate zealots.
            Why is it acceptable for people to make bad rules if they hold the cards? Maybe if you make bad rules, you shouldn’t be holding the cards. I would prefer bureaucrats with some humility…who don’t like to be tyrants, without legitimate governmental approval by the people.

          2. LarrytheG Avatar

            There are some folks out there with some pre-existing conditions who likely would not have survived COVID sans the shots but did survive because they did get the shots.

            Convince Steve he is wrong to think this.

    2. killerhertz Avatar

      Spot on. Given how poor the durability of the mrna vaccine is ( “I went to medical school in Grenada so you better take this jab you stupid renaissance outfit wearing ahole!”

  4. This is just in…… At least one hospital in VA is instructing staff that if they have symptoms, or have been exposed to a known C-19 infected person…..wait for it……. they can come to work immediately and deal with patients with a mask and face shield. No quarantine, no missed days, no extra shots, nothing, nada….

    1. Also, the vax bubble that is VT is reporting more and more cases among students of C-19 infections…..despite the requirement of vax and booster proof for all…..

      1. Stephen Haner Avatar
        Stephen Haner

        Clear as a bell in today’s VDH data that 1) this wave is over and 2) it was the weakest wave so far, despite the scary high “case” numbers. Deaths way higher in earlier waves. BUT clearly this variant evolved to overcome the vaccinations, and it does.

        I know of a hospital telling its staff, despite a known exposure don’t get a test because we don’t want you leaving work….translation, they know this is fading fast.

        1. Matt Adams Avatar
          Matt Adams

          Employee health for most hospitals will not test you unless you were exposed at work and are experiencing symptoms.

          1. Stephen Haner Avatar
            Stephen Haner

            Don’t ask, don’t tell.

    2. killerhertz Avatar

      It’s blatant hypocrisy to anyone paying attention. They’ve been doing this with police and fire as well.

  5. Eric the half a troll Avatar
    Eric the half a troll

    I am sure Ms. Connors has researched the role of fetal stems cells in oncology research and treatments. Will she also refuse to treat patients based on her “religious beliefs”?

  6. walter smith Avatar
    walter smith

    OK, so on to morality and law and medical ethics.
    First – the Covid “vaccine” is an experimental medical product. Every single jab jab jab has been of an EUA product. Every set of dispensing instructions in every jab says it is EUA. That means it is experimental.
    The Nuremberg Code states that participation in a medical experiment requires the willing informed consent of the patient. I don’t know why it is now OK to violate that very important moral code, much less to require it to get urgently needed, life saving treatment. I have a problem with crimes against humanity. Why don’t you critics? Do you hate people? (Yes, you hate people guilty of the crime of disagreeing with you)

    Do you know that in Virginia there was no vaccine requirement for public colleges until 1986? These are the required vaxes – diphtheria, tetanus, poliomyelitis, measles (rubeola), German measles (rubella), and mumps
    Notice anything? They’ve been around forever and nearly everybody gets them. They also work. So if you have it, how are you endangered by soemone not vaxed for that? And, having spent far too much time learning about vaccines and Covid and our corrupt interlocked government and academia and pharma and media and corporations, I wonder if the staute serves ANY purpose. If you examine the forms that are required to be filled out, and the time it takes, and the time it takes to gather and process, is this law worth the cost? I sincerely doubt it. I graduated from UVA college in 1979 and law and business in 1984. How did I survive? The horror!
    These requirements had routine medical and religious exemptions, routinely granted. NO ONE CARED. And because they were routinely granted, no one had to pay attention to this law, which perhaps violates our natural liberties – our bodily autonomy. Now that I see the calllous disregard for the Nuremberg Code, I am on the liberty side. And the lack of transparency by our government has not exactly helped. So, on this bodily issue, I think the answer has to be you cannot mandate a vaccine. And guess what, most people will get most of the real vaccines, which provide real protection.
    Not everybody agrees with you. Deal with it. That’s life. That’s 330 million people. So on vaxes I am now on the side of medical, religious and bodily autonomy exemptions. Otherwise, we are headed for medicl tyranny like you are seeing with respect to Shamgar Connors.
    I have FOIAed UVA Health for its prior kidney transplant protocol. I bet there was nothing about ANY vaccines – even the polios and measles and mumps vaccines. Why this change? Other than bureaucratic overreach?

    I am hearing that ARPA and CARES money had conditions requiring following CDC guidance. I am trying to track that down. But that isn’t troubling? Getting blackmailed with your own money? Requiring that a doctor can’t do something that works? Is this what is happening with Dr. Marik and Sentara?

    I have a great idea. We need to stop lawyers from filing unpopular lawsuits. (Oh, wait, Leftist lawyers are doing that!) Do you not see the potential for tyranny? How about making Joe Rogan grovel and the dirty old hippies are now mouthpieces for The Man?

    In the sane world we lived in prior to Orange Man requiring the Left to do everything to assert power, no one cared about anyone’s vaccine status and people could attend events and not wear masks and somehow we all lived…without FDA and CDC and Governor mandates! We attended packed football and basketball games. People chose to get or not get the annual flu shot. (Not a vaccine, no matter how many times the CDC changes the definition)

    In the sane world we used to live in, doctors were free to practice medicine and to tailor the treatment to the patient, and this freedom led to discoveries of protocols that worked. The suppression of therapeutic treatments (Why? Why not therapeutics AND Vaccines?) has caused hundreds of thousands of deaths – another crime against humanity. And let’s not forget the moral question over why are we funding gain of function research and why did Dr. Fauci lie about it? (Because he knows he is guilty)

    There were long established norms that balanced our rights and liberties and we need to get back to them. Doctors need to get back to being allowed to practice medicine and concentrating only on saving the patient’s life. One size fits all is morally wrong and medically wrong.

    When I was in the hospital for the leukemia treatment, I participated in a Vitamin C study. I had to sign numerous papers to receive 4 large doses of Vitamin C intravenously each day – Vitamin C! So how come this wasn’t done for the “safe and effective” Covid shots?

    Do you know how hard it is to get matches? It is highly likely that a match for Shamgar will have no other recipient as well matched. But you are OK with a young guy on dialysis 12 hours a day (seriously, what is wrong with you people?) not getting a vitally needed kidney because he disagrees with you over a medical experimental product? That clearly does not work as advertised?

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