An Oklahoma pastor is offering to sign religious vaccine exemptions for anyone, and claiming they only 'carry weight' if individuals donate to his church

·4 min read
anti-vaccine protest
Rally goers hold signs protesting vaccines at the "World Wide Rally for Freedom", an anti-mask and anti-vaccine rally, at the State House in Concord, New Hampshire, May 15, 2021. JOSEPH PREZIOSO/AFP via Getty Images
  • A pastor is encouraging people to donate to his church for signed religious exemption vaccine forms.

  • Jackson Lahmeyer is also running for Senate and giving out exemption forms on his campaign website.

  • Lahmeyer told The Washington Post the form has been downloaded 30,000 times in the last two days.

  • See more stories on Insider's business page.

Those seeking proof of a religious vaccine exemption need look no further than Oklahoma pastor Jackson Lahmeyer, who is offering members of his congregation a signed opt-out form.

But the exemption might cost you.

The Tulsa pastor is encouraging people to donate to his church so they can stream his services and become an online member of the church, according to The Washington Post. Only then, will his signed exemption "carry any weight," he told the outlet.

In a Wednesday conversation with Insider, Lahmeyer cited the impending federal vaccine mandate for employers with more than 100 employees as the catalyst for his offer.

The legality surrounding religious exemptions for COVID-19 vaccines is far from uniform, with different states or organizations often requiring their own signed form. Religious freedom experts told The Post most people probably don't even need a signed letter from a religious leader in order to be exempt.

"He's not really selling a religious exemption," Charles Haynes, senior fellow for religious freedom at the Freedom Forum in Washington, told The Post. "He's selling a bogus idea that you need one."

Lahmeyer, a 29-year-old small business owner, leads Sheridan Church in Tulsa with his wife Kendra.

In addition to presiding over a congregation and running a real estate company, Lahmeyer is also running in the Republican primary to challenge Sen. James Lankford in 2022. Earlier this year, he secured the endorsement of former President Donald Trump's former national security adviser Michael Flynn, who was pardoned by Trump after pleading guilty to lying to the FBI.

Lahmeyer is distributing the exemption forms through both his church website and his Senate campaign website. He told The Post he modeled the form after a generic state of Oklahoma document asking the individual to explain the religious belief that requires a request for vaccine exemption.

Lahmeyer said the form has already been downloaded about 30,000 in the past two days. The Washington Post's article, which Lahmeyer criticized as being "fake news," helped spur another 5,000 reach outs, he told Insider.

Anyone is able to download the form after providing contact information, and Lahmeyer said he would sign it for anyone.

"I'm willing to sign it no matter what," he told The Post. "But I want it to have weight. In order for it to carry any weight, you have to be an online member of our church."

According to Lahmeyer, his church's bylaws require that individuals stream church services and donate at least $1 in order to be considered online members. The Post reported Sheridan Church has about 300 in-person members.

Lahmeyer told Insider that while he would encourage individuals to first reach out to their own pastors and churches to inquire about vaccine exemptions, he was inspired to offer his services to anyone after realizing many clergy people had chosen not to sign religious exemption forms.

The father of five told the paper he was not vaccinated against the coronavirus but did not consider himself anti-vaccine. He said he had already had the virus and believed people who get sick with COVID-19 can be treated with medications like ivermectin, an anti-parasite and dewormer. The US Food and Drug Administration has warned against using ivermectin as a COVID-19 treatment.

Lahmeyer said he would not investigate anyone's reasons for requesting the religious exemption.

"What if someone says, 'God told me not to get a vaccine.' I don't know if God told them that. I'm not going to argue with that," he told The Post.

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