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University chaplain says 'vaccination is a citizenship obligation' and the unvaccinated should face a monetary penalty or other form of 'mandatory option for alternative service'

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Lehigh University professor of religion studies and university chaplain Lloyd Steffen has written an opinion piece in which he contends that getting vaccinated against COVID-19 is a "citizenship obligation" and that those who duck their duty should face some sort of obligatory alternative.

Steffen wrote that "those who refuse vaccination should be viewed as owing a debt of obligation to society. What needs to be thought through are the ways the unvaccinated can meet this obligation."

"Whatever options might be considered, the focus should be on the fact that vaccination is a citizenship obligation, which persons should accept not only for their own wellbeing but for that of others. The plea for vaccination exemption should be met with a mandatory option for 'alternative service,' some burden comparable to that accepted by conscientious objectors who refused military service," he opined.

Steffen floated the idea of charging the unvaccinated a monetary penalty.

"A financial penalty is perhaps the easiest option to contemplate," he wrote. "Rather than paying persons to get vaccinated, unvaccinated persons should pay to meet the citizenship obligation they continue to bear. The unvaccinated should, in the interests of fairness, take on a financial burden as a moral equivalent to vaccination; an 'alternative service' option much like those who have in our nation’s history sought exemptions to military service through conscientious objection."

He also suggested that if hospitals were to run out of space, they could boot the unvaccinated from beds in order to make room for the vaccinated.

"More difficult options might include hospital triage policies that would allow a vaccinated individual to take the bed of a nonvaccinated individual if there were no more beds available. This might meet a test of fairness, but it would be excruciating for health care workers to enact such a triage policy. Such options should be discussed, however, and the discussions themselves might inspire vaccination increases since they dramatically highlight the seriousness of the pandemic," Steffen wrote.

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