Religious and Medical Constitutional Civil Rights for Students in Tennessee
Normally something like this would be a MINDS+ thing but this topic is very important.
DISCLAIMER: I am not a lawyer or a medical professional. Anything you read below is for entertainment purposes only.
According to various sources, students have religious and medical civil rights that cannot be violated on school campus without the school potentially losing both state and/or federal funding. Recently, certain students have been discriminated against for either medical or religious reasons, which is a direct violation of the following:
The Constitution of the United States’ First Amendment
Tennessee Founding Documents, Constitution of the State of Tennessee Art 1, § 3 and § 8
The Civil Rights Act of 1964, H.R.1308 Religious Freedom Restoration Act of 1993, which states, “reasonable accommodation without undue hardship as required by section 701(j) of title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964” (§ 2, and § 3)
TN Governor, Bill Lee, has signed many mandates since 2020, including the TN Executive Order 73 Part C, § 9. Although this mandate does not specifically mention guidance for religious exemptions, I believe reasonable accommodations for both medical and religious exemptions as laid out in the laws mentioned above still apply.
The order states:
“Local education agencies, schools, and institutions of higher education are strongly encouraged to implement a policy requiring the use of face coverings by students and staff, with appropriate exemptions, and consistent with any policies issued by the Tennessee Department of Education. No policy, local order, or official may prohibit a student, teacher, school employee or contractor, or visitor from voluntarily wearing a face covering except to the extent that such face covering presents a safety or security risk.”
According to this statement, face masks are recommended, but no longer required. Higher education learning centers make their own policies. However, they do not carry the same weight as a mandate or law, and to the best of my understanding, they cannot violate any constitutional rights, civil rights, or other federal or state laws and/or mandates. Higher education centers must also make “reasonable accommodations” for all medical and religious exemptions, which can easily be done with burden of proof that such exemption is an unreasonable burden being on the education center, not the individual.
Even though medical and religious exemptions are not specifically mentioned, safety and security exemptions are included in the mandate. Nor does the mandate have any right to overwrite the laws already set forth by the constitution, civil rights act, or other laws already listed above. As such, several laws would need to be re-written or the mandate re-worded to override the laws that allow both religious and medical exemptions to the above-mentioned mandate. Reasonable accommodation can easily be made for students who cannot wear masks for any reason, whether medical or religious, such as social distancing and online classes.
According to the TN State Constitution, art. 1 § 3:
“That all men have a natural and indefeasible right to worship Almighty God according to the dictates of their own conscience; that no man can of right be compelled to attend, erect, or support any place of worship, or to maintain any minister against his consent; that no human authority can, in any case whatever, control or interfere with the rights of conscience; and that no preference shall ever be given, by law, to any religious establishment or mode of worship.”
As well as the TN State Constitution, art. 1 § 8:
“That no man shall be taken or imprisoned, or disseized of his freehold, liberties or privileges, or outlawed, or exiled, or in any manner destroyed or deprived of his life, liberty or property, but by the judgment of his peers, or the law of the land.”
An individual has the right to worship God as they see fit, and to do so in accordance to their own individual conscience, and it makes it clear that no human authority can interfere with that regardless of mode of worship. People cannot be exiled for religious beliefs without judgement of his peers.
I believe mask vs anti-mask or vaccinated vs anti-vaccinated as well as anti-vax segregation due to the TN Executive Order 73 is a direct violation of section 8 of the TN State Constitution, art. 1. You cannot prove someone is sick without medical testing and many of the COVID-19 tests have been proven ineffective.
My point is further backed up by the federal level, the Constitution of the United States, First Amendment, which states:
“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”
PMP Magazine explains more on religious precedence set where wearing masks is concerned:
“Seemingly everyone has an opinion on masks: when to wear them, how to wear them, which ones are best and even whether we should be wearing them at all.
“For those in this last camp, a popular argument is that the coverings aren’t the problem, but being forced by a government entity to wear one is. It’s the mandate, not the mask, some might say.
“Some anti-maskers have claimed that being forced to wear a face covering violates their religious rights. Back in May, Ohio State Rep. Nino Vitale, a Republican, publicly rejected mask-wearing on the grounds that covering one’s face dishonors God. This view is echoed by some individual faith leaders, with churches flouting requirements that congregants wear masks. Meanwhile, media-savvy pastors have put anti-mask posts on Facebook that have been viewed millions of times.
“And a recent study revealed that the rejection of masks is higher in populations that associate with conservative politics and the idea that the United States is a divinely chosen nation.”
The study mentioned is from a leftish standpoint, but I would like to note that just because the information from the website is more left-leaning does not mean that the beliefs from the religious groups involved are incorrect. Many people have religious beliefs against wearing masks, and “Christian Nationalism” as many leftists are calling the movement mentioned in the study is rapidly gaining traction.
Many people across the country, feel forcing people to wear masks is a violation of religious rights. This means that religious exemptions for anti-maskers should exist under civil rights and constitutional law along with other federal and state laws.
The study only showcases that the number of people not wearing masks or social distancing is increasing with every day. My own personal observation reveals hardly anyone is wearing a mask or social distancing in public anymore even in cities and states where mandates about masks still stand, with or without religious exemptions in those mandates.
Let’s return to the Civil Rights Act of 1964. It’s quite long, but Title 7, SEC. 2000e-2. [Section 703] under the Unlawful Employment Practices clearly states:
(a) Employer practices
It shall be an unlawful employment practice for an employer -
(1) to fail or refuse to hire or to discharge any individual, or otherwise to discriminate against any individual with respect to his compensation, terms, conditions, or privileges of employment, because of such individual's race, color, religion, sex, or national origin; or
(2) to limit, segregate, or classify his employees or applicants for employment in any way which would deprive or tend to deprive any individual of employment opportunities or otherwise adversely affect his status as an employee, because of such individual's race, color, religion, sex, or national origin.
(b) Employment agency practices
It shall be an unlawful employment practice for an employment agency to fail or refuse to refer for employment, or otherwise to discriminate against, any individual because of his race, color, religion, sex, or national origin, or to classify or refer for employment any individual on the basis of his race, color, religion, sex, or national origin.
(c) Labor organization practices
It shall be an unlawful employment practice for a labor organization-
(1) to exclude or to expel from its membership, or otherwise to discriminate against, any individual because of his race, color, religion, sex, or national origin;
(2) to limit, segregate, or classify its membership or applicants for membership, or to classify or fail or refuse to refer for employment any individual, in any way which would deprive or tend to deprive any individual of employment opportunities, or would limit such employment opportunities or otherwise adversely affect his status as an employee or as an applicant for employment, because of such individual's race, color, religion, sex, or national origin; or
(3) to cause or attempt to cause an employer to discriminate against an individual in violation of this section.
(d) Training programs
It shall be an unlawful employment practice for any employer, labor organization, or joint labor-management committee controlling apprenticeship or other training or retraining, including on-the-job training programs to discriminate against any individual because of his race, color, religion, sex, or national origin in admission to, or employment in, any program established to provide apprenticeship or other training.
(e) Businesses or enterprises with personnel qualified on basis of religion, sex, or national origin; educational institutions with personnel of particular religion
Notwithstanding any other provision of this subchapter, (1) it shall not be an unlawful employment practice for an employer to hire and employ employees, for an employment agency to classify, or refer for employment any individual, for a labor organization to classify its membership or to classify or refer for employment any individual, or for an employer, labor organization, or joint labor management committee controlling apprenticeship or other training or retraining programs to admit or employ any individual in any such program, on the basis of his religion, sex, or national origin in those certain instances where religion, sex, or national origin is a bona fide occupational qualification reasonably necessary to the normal operation of that particular business or enterprise, and (2) it shall not be an unlawful employment practice for a school, college, university, or other educational institution or institution of learning to hire and employ employees of a particular religion if such school, college, university, or other educational institution or institution of learning is, in whole or in substantial part, owned, supported, controlled, or managed by a particular religion or by a particular religious corporation, association, or society, or if the curriculum of such school, college, university, or other educational institution or institution of learning is directed toward the propagation of a particular religion.
On top of that, when we return to the Religious Freedom Restoration Act of 1993, H.R. 1308, § 2, it states:
SEC. 2. CONGRESSIONAL FINDINGS AND DECLARATION OF PURPOSES
(a) FINDINGS—The Congress finds that—
(1) the framers of the Constitution, recognizing free exercise of religion as an inalienable right, secured its protection in the First Amendment to the Constitution;
(2) laws “neutral” toward religion may burden religious exercise as surely as laws intended to interfere with religious exercise;
(3) governments should not substantially burden religious exercise without compelling justification;
(4) in Employment Division v. Smith, 494 U.S. 872 (1990) the Supreme Court virtually eliminated the requirement that the government justify burdens on religious exercise imposed by laws neutral toward religion; and
(5) the compelling interest test as set forth in prior Federal
court rulings is a workable test for striking sensible balances between religious liberty and competing prior governmental interests.
(b) PURPOSES—The purposes of this Act are—
(1) to restore the compelling interest test as set forth in Sherbert v. Vemer, 374 U.S. 398 (1963) and Wisconsin v. Yoder, 406 U.S. 205 (1972) and to guarantee its application in all cases where free exercise of religion is substantially burdened; and
(2) to provide a claim or defense to persons whose religious exercise is substantially burdened by government.
This is a lot to take in, so let’s break it down a bit.
In § 2-a-1, the law makes it clear that religious exercise is an “unalienable” right recured by the first amendment of the Constitution. According to Merrian-Webster the first definition of unalienable is: impossible to take away or give up.
In § 2-a-2, the law states that only burdens that are neutral to the religion can be placed on religious rights. If an individual or a group of people say wearing a mask is against their religious beliefs, then logic dictates that forcing someone to wear a mask is against their rights and is not a neutral burden.
Governments need compelling justification to enforce laws according to § 2-a-3. Although many people have worn masks to stop the spread of COVID-19, many research papers since 2008 have actually said that many different kinds of masks do not work, and in fact, may make the wearer two or three times more likely to get a respiratory disease. Yikes!
Here is a great resource for the ineffectiveness of masks along with links to several research papers. Many more research papers exist. However, this should be enough to make my point.
When comparing to § 2-a-3 of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act of 1993, compelling justification cannot be done, as there are too many studies that say many types of masks simply do not work. In fact, an overwhelming argument can be made against the effectiveness of masking.
Recent data throughout 2020 and 2021 backs up the fact that masks have not worked to “slow the spread”. Numbers change all the time, but the Center of Disease Control (CDC), Google, and other organizations track these numbers. I won’t cite specific numbers or sources, as they change weekly. On top of that, some sources, including the CDC have proven to over-exaggerate infection and death rate due to COVID-19, and have retro-actively changed numbers. This is an ever-growing issue, and it’s almost impossible to perfectly track numbers.
Discrepancies exist in other states as well, and that’s why I don’t want to cite anything else here as far as actual numbers are concerned, as it’s constantly changing all the time.
Looking further into the Religious Rights Restoration Act of 1993, § 3, it states:
SEC. 3. FREE EXERCISE OF RELIGION PROTECTED
(a) IN GENERAL—Government shall not substantially burden a person's exercise of religion even if the burden results from a rule of general applicability, except as provided in subsection (b).
(b) EXCEPTION—Government may substantially burden a person's exercise of religion only if it demonstrates that application of the burden to the person—
(1) is in furtherance of a compelling governmental interest; and
(2) is the least restrictive means of furthering that compelling governmental interest.
(c) JUDICIAL RELIEF—A person whose religious exercise has been burdened in violation of this section may assert that violation as a claim or defense in a judicial proceeding and obtain appropriate relief against a government. Standing to assert a claim or defense under this section shall be governed by the general rules of standing under article III of the Constitution.
Wearing a mask is against certain religious beliefs, and as such, it is not the least restrictive means of furthering governmental interest. Section 3 also mentions that if religious rights are violated, a person can take their case to court as stated in article 3 of the Constitution.
Returning to the Civil Rights Act of 1964, it is unlawful to discriminate against religious practices as stated in the 29 CFR § 1605.2-b:
(b) Duty to accommodate.
Section 701(j) makes it an unlawful employment practice under section 703(a)(1) for an employer to fail to reasonably accommodate the religious practices of an employee or prospective employee, unless the employer demonstrates that accommodation would result in undue hardship on the conduct of its business.
Section 701(j) in conjunction with section 703(c), imposes an obligation on a labor organization to reasonably accommodate the religious practices of an employee or prospective employee, unless the labor organization demonstrates that accommodation would result in undue hardship.
Section 1605.2 is primarily directed to obligations of employers or labor organizations, which are the entities covered by title VII that will most often be required to make an accommodation. However, the principles of § 1605.2 also apply when an accommodation can be required of other entities covered by title VII, such as employment agencies (section 703(b)) or joint labor-management committees controlling apprenticeship or other training or retraining (section 703(d)). (See, for example, § 1605.3(a) “Scheduling of Tests or Other Selection Procedures.”)
And, according to Section c of the same act, reasonable accommodation should be awarded based on religious beliefs.
After an employee or prospective employee notifies the employer or labor organization of his or her need for a religious accommodation, the employer or labor organization has an obligation to reasonably accommodate the individual's religious practices. A refusal to accommodate is justified only when an employer or labor organization can demonstrate that an undue hardship would in fact result from each available alternative method of accommodation. A mere assumption that many more people, with the same religious practices as the person being accommodated, may also need accommodation is not evidence of undue hardship.
When there is more than one method of accommodation available which would not cause undue hardship, the Commission will determine whether the accommodation offered is reasonable by examining:
(i) The alternatives for accommodation considered by the employer or labor organization; and
(ii) The alternatives for accommodation, if any, actually offered to the individual requiring accommodation. Some alternatives for accommodating religious practices might disadvantage the individual with respect to his or her employment opportunities, such as compensation, terms, conditions, or privileges of employment. Therefore, when there is more than one means of accommodation which would not cause undue hardship, the employer or labor organization must offer the alternative which least disadvantages the individual with respect to his or her employment opportunities.
How can reasonable accommodations be made for students in higher education settings as far as religious anti-mask beliefs are concerned?
Social distancing at six feet is a start. However, I believe HVAC and central AC systems can be easily upgraded by changing filters to those that sift smaller particles in the air and is a much less invasive way to protect people than wearing masks.
Also, outdoor events and environments should be encouraged where fresh air can be introduced. Studies have shown that Vitamin D gained from natural sunlight or supplements that contain zinc and other vitamins and minerals can be effective against coronaviruses in general, including COVID-19. Individuals should speak with a doctor or dietitian before making any dietary changes, especially if they have any other health issues that may affect their dietary and/or health needs.
Although there is cause for more studied to be done on the matter, current research on the effectiveness of vitamin and mineral supplements against viruses looks promising.
It is my personal opinion, as someone who claims religious exemptions from wearing masks, that supplements are a much less invasive and promising way to combat COVID-19 than wearing a mask.
Supplements can be healthy with minimal invasiveness to individuals, and there are many different supplements that would work for a wider range of individuals. Masks are invasive, and against many religious beliefs. Plus, many studies state they are ineffective and even warn against their use in the general public, as shown by studies mentioned earlier. Below, however are three studies on vitamins, showing their effectiveness in people’s lives.
It is also worth mentioning that supplements are not the only reasonable accommodation. Swaps can be made as well. Exercise is a great way to combat the coronavirus. Studies have shown that more inactive people and those who get little-to-no exercise have been hospitalized more often with COVID-19 than those who exercised on a regular basis. Because of this, I believe exercising is a great positive substitute for masking. Being physically active also has a ton of other health benefits as well.
Returning to Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, I won’t directly quote this section as I’ve quoted it above, but § d mentions alternatives for accommodating religious practices using voluntary substitutes and “swaps”. Again, vitamin and mineral supplements could apply here.
Voluntary substitutes and “swaps” are worth talking about in greater detail. I believe supplements to be a great substitute for masking. However, it’s worth noting § (i) states:
“One means of substitution is the voluntary swap. In a number of cases, the securing of a substitute has been left entirely up to the individual seeking the accommodation.”
This is a very powerful statement. In other words, while I recommend supplements, there may be a better substitute for the individual, and it is up to them to decide that.
Section (i) also mentions, and this is very important and where almost all mandates and policies fail in accordance to law in my personal opinion:
“Some means of doing this which employers and labor organizations should consider are: to publicize policies regarding accommodation and voluntary substitution; to promote an atmosphere in which such substitutions are favorably regarded; to provide a central file, bulletin board or other means for matching voluntary substitutes with positions for which substitutes are needed.”
There is a lot to unpack, however, many people reading this should already see what I’m talking about. Where, in any TN mandate or policy that currently stands, does it mention any of the above? Where do any of them “promote an atmosphere in which such substitutions are favorably regarded”? We also need “to provide a central file, bulletin board or other means for matching voluntary substitutes with positions for which substitutes are needed”.
This hardly ever happens and good luck using social media for this purpose as Facebook, Twitter, and many others have been known to censor content. I personally have yet to see a single mandate or policy that does this. Many businesses are failing to do this! I am amazed at the level at which federal and state governments, businesses and education centers fail to comply with this law! We need to fix this as a country as it is a basic civil right!
Section d also talks about flexible scheduling, which is not as much of a problem as those issues for schooling get worked out beforehand.
Last, but not least, in § d before moving on to § e is § d-3, Lateral Transfer and Change of Job Assignments. Basically, when accommodations cannot be made, a lateral transfer should be considered. This can be done with school assignments or another teacher’s classroom that is teaching an equal class, assuming it does not interfere with § d-3 flexible scheduling.
Section e talks about undue hardship. This will be the argument almost any business, school, or organization will make when it comes to constitutional or civil rights, so it’s worth talking about. With the key words being “more than a de minimis cost”.
Considering a student will most likely pay for their own supplements or other means for not wearing a mask for religious reasons, this shouldn’t be a problem as there isn’t any de minimis costs to speak of. Considering how promising supplements are turning out to be in comparison to masking, especially when many studies have proven their ineffectiveness, I cannot think of a single reason undue hardship to a business or school would occur.
Additionally, a business or school cannot determine precisely who gave COVID-19 as it could have been spread from someone wearing a mask to begin with and not the anti-masker. The tests for COVID-19 aren’t as reliable as everyone believes, as shown in these two articles:
Finally, we can cover how all this information applies to students in TN, including higher education facilities such as trade schools and colleges based on the Rules of Tennessee Human Rights Commission, Chapter 1500-01-01, Title V Compliance Program. This is twenty-eight (28) pages long, and although I’ve read it in its entirety, I’ll save some time and get to the parts that specifically talk about how civil rights that mostly talk about businesses also apply to education centers and student in the great state of TN.
Let’s start with:
The purpose of the following rules is to establish a uniform system for the administration and handling of complaints of discrimination made to the Tennessee Human Rights Commission (THRC). The rules establish guidelines for the Commission, the Commission’s staff, employers, housing providers, real estate brokers, salespersons or operators, financial institutions, persons owning or operating places of public accommodation, resort or amusement, and state departments and agencies subject to Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (Title VI). These rules are subject to any superseding federal or state law and are not to be construed as limiting the rule of the Commission in other areas.
Basically, this talks about what the rules and guidelines of what the TN Human Rights Commission are, what they are supposed to do, and the locations where these rules apply along with mentioning the civil rights act, which we’ve already covered.
AS you can see, this covers a wide range and mostly talks about employees. However, I will cover the section that talks about education centers and students, and what it entails. Many things are covered under this, and it’s worth reading if you haven’t already. This is the important part that applied to education centers and students though:
1500-01-03-.04 ASSURANCE REQUIRED
(3) Assurance from academic and other institutions
(a) In the case of any application for Federal financial assistance for any purpose to an academic institution, the assurance required by this section shall extend to admission practices and to all other practices relating to the treatment of students.
(b) The assurance required with respect to an academic institution, detention or correctional facility, or any other institution or facility, insofar as the assurance relates to the institution's practices with respect to admission or other treatment of individuals as students, patients, wards, inmates, persons subject to control, or clients of the institution or facility or to the opportunity to participate in the provision of services, disposition, treatment, or benefits to such individuals, shall be applicable to the entire institution or facility. If, in any such case, the assistance sought is for the construction of a facility or part of a facility, the assurance shall in any event extend to the entire facility and to facilities operated in connection therewith.
My understanding of this is that civil rights also apply to students on educational campuses, and this is what ties it all together. Everything I have mentioned before has been directed toward employers and employees in business environments, but this applies to schools and students.
So, where do we go from here?
Look, not every teacher or principal is intelligent enough to understand all this or even capable enough to put all the pieces together like I have in as much detail, and I’m sure I have missed plenty of important information myself. Plus, many people have different beliefs and interpretations of the law than what I might have or—more importantly—what a judge might have.
My own bias comes into play here. Without a doubt, I am an anti-masker for religious reasons. What we need to do is be as educated as possible and be willing to stand up for our rights on an individual basis, as well as together as a community.
We also need to do what we can to collect information such as what I am writing here in easy-to-find-and-read-places, so we can reference all the laws at the same time and share it with other people. The information should be easy to access and shared so when someone questions you on it, you have all the information ready at a moment’s notice. The more we get the word out, the more people will start to learn and understand and hopefully, teachers and principals will be less likely to violate our rights, which will have positive affects on culture and politics as a while in the future.
As American citizens, it is our sacred duty to stand up against any medical or religious tyranny whenever we find it, so I encourage all reading this, even if you are not in the state of Tennessee, to find out what the exact laws are in your state and write articles, like I have, and stand up for your individual constitutional and civil rights. We cannot allow our sacred unalienable rights to continue to erode slowly over time, so I suggest standing up and peacefully, and I do mean peacefully, protesting and refusing to comply to unlawful policies.
It likely won’t be without its hardships and sacrifices. However, if none of us do this, then we will lose our rights entirely like frogs boiling in a pot unaware that the temperature is slowly rising.
Do not wait for your neighbor to act. Do it yourself! Be the leader in a community and stand up for our constitutional, civil, medical, and—most importantly—religious rights today! Use the information I have given you and do it peacefully!
Good luck, and may God forever bless you.
I leave you with one final quote:
“Those that give up freedom for safety deserve neither.”
~ Benjamin Franklin
About Mr Trench
Mr Trench is a professional driver with over ten (10) years’ experience in the transportation industry and general freight logistics.
He likes to spend much of his time listening to audiobooks and podcasts while he drives down the road for up to eleven (11) hours a day, and when he is not driving, he likes to do as much research on whatever topics he finds interesting.
His time behind the wheel along with his solitude, even while off-duty, allows him to become what many refer to as a “road scholar”. Basically, a trucker that is always learning something new and researching new topics all the time.
The amount of time he spends learning about whatever interests him almost matches those who go to school full-time.
Due to the nature of his job, he has traveled to almost every part of the country, excluding Hawaii and Alaska. He has seen many different types of people and many cultures even inside America itself. He has friends all over the country, and this gives him great perspectives on the nation.
He also likes to invest in stocks, crypto, and owns multiple semi-trucks.
Mr Trench does not shy away from letting his voice and opinion on any topic known and can usually back up his unique perspective on things with the research he has done.
You can usually find him using alternative social media site that do not censor their users with the tag @MrTrench, but most often on https://www.minds.com/mrtrench/ , as he has recently published a few different blogs.
If you liked this content please like, remind, comment, subscribe, and tip so I can continue to grow!
Seriously tho, please get this info out to as many people as possible!