Religious objections to COVID vaccine: Wierowska

Miss P Wierowska v HC-One Oval Ltd [2022] UKET 1403077/2021 was a tribunal judgment on the preliminary issue of whether or not the claimant was entitled to rely on religious objections to the COVID vaccine in a claim against her former employers arising from her dismissal.

Miss Wierowska had been a care worker until she was sacked on 28 April 2021 and claimed that one of the reasons for her dismissal was that she had refused COVID vaccine on religious grounds. As a Roman Catholic, she said that it was contrary to her faith on three grounds: that it involved the use of foetal blood, that it might interfere with DNA in the nucleus of cells and that the vaccines “are, or were, experimental, with unknown long-term repercussions” [2]. In the case management order preceding the hearing her position was stated like this:

“38. The claimant believes, in accordance with the dicta of Roman Catholicism that

38.1 blood is God given and therefore sacrosanct and it is therefore contrary to the tenets of the faith to alter the blood by adding man made vaccines.

38.2 life is sacrosanct and that it is contrary to the tenets of the faith to use foetuses in the creation of Covid vaccines” [3].

While Miss Wierowska accepted that the Vatican believed that it was acceptable to take the COVID vaccines, she argued that she had God-given free will and that no one could take that decision from her. While she accepted the moral case for preventing the spread of infections in order to protect the weak – such as the residents of the care home – she was doing everything else to prevent transmission [10]. It was submitted on her behalf that her views on the vaccine were deeply embedded in her religious perspective and worldview and that it was not necessary for them to be the mainstream or orthodox view of the Roman Catholic Church; a religious belief might be protected even where it was not mandated by the claimant’s religion, always provided it was a manifestation of her beliefs [18].

For HC-One Oval Ltd, it was argued that Miss Wierowska’s view of vaccines was not so much a religious belief as a philosophical one and that it should therefore have to meet the tests Grainger plc and Ors v Nicholson[2010] ICR 360, EAT [13] and that there was a parallel with McClintock v Department of Constitutional Affairs [2008] IRLR 29, in which Mr McClintock’s objection to the adoption of children by same-sex couples was held not to be a religious belief “but merely an opinion based on the information or lack of information available to him” [13].

Employment Judge Fowell held that Miss Wierowska’s view was a religious rather than a philosophical one:

“This is an issue which has troubled the worldwide Catholic community, so much so that the definitive statement had to be made by the Vatican on behalf of the Pope in an effort to resolve matters. Even that declaration did not go so far as to criticise any Catholic for refusing to take the vaccine on moral grounds, and it is implicit in the statement made that this remained an issue of personal conscience. Those moral concerns are closely linked to the longstanding Catholic position on abortion and to the resulting opposition to the use of stem cells or foetal material in medical experiments of any sort. They are therefore part and parcel of a fundamental view about the sanctity of human life” [21].

Overall, therefore, applying the test in Eweida v United Kingdom [2013] ECHR 37 he was satisfied that her views about the vaccine were intimately connected with her religious faith and that there was a sufficiently close and direct nexus between her refusal to take a COVID vaccine and her underlying beliefs as to entitle her to rely on that religious faith as a protected characteristic [24].

Cite this article as: Frank Cranmer, "Religious objections to COVID vaccine: Wierowska" in Law & Religion UK, 13 September 2022, https://lawandreligionuk.com/2022/09/13/religious-objections-to-covid-vaccine-wierowska/

3 thoughts on “Religious objections to COVID vaccine: Wierowska

    • Not necessarily. The judgment was on the preliminary issue of whether or not she held a protected belief. There will presumably be a substantive hearing on the facts of the case.

  1. It is a pity that my own grounds for objecting to becoming vaccinated were not mooted in this suit, which grounds are as follows.

    1. It is unethical for a health professional to deliver vaccination to someone who hasn’t given valid consent.

    2. Coerced consent isn’t valid.

    3. I was being coerced to become vaccinated, by a system of incentives and punishments promulgated by government that affected me personally, so I could not give valid consent to be vaccinated.

    4. My conscience forbade me from becoming the instrument of temptation of a health professional to act unethically, either by giving consent that the health professional knew was invalid (but didn’t care) because I’d drawn attention to the coercion I was under, or by deliberately concealing from a health professional offering to vaccinate me the whole truth that my consent was being coerced, when giving consent that I knew was invalid even though I didn’t tell the health professional this.

    These are conscientious grounds I had for objecting to being vaccinated rather than religious grounds, but they are intimately tied to my religious beliefs. If any brand of so-called ethical monotheism doesn’t engender a sense of duty to act ethically, including neither to tempt nor to enable the unethical actions of others, it is probably a misnomer to call it “ethical” monotheism in the first place.

    By the time the coercion subsided, I’d long-since stopped wishing even slightly that I could be vaccinated without violating my conscience, so to this day I still haven’t been vaccinated (against covid) and probably now won’t ever be.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.