I may have gone in for my COVID vaccination this week. I may not have. Not even my wife knows.
If you ask me if I’m vaccinated, my reply will be, “I’m not disclosing my vaccination status.”
Why? you ask.
Thanks for asking!
It’s not because I’m an anti-vaxxer. I’m not an anti-vaxxer at all. My children have all their shots. So did my dog.
It’s because I’m very uncomfortable with it being a norm to ask people for private medical information—particularly in an environment in which these decisions prompt a great deal of speculation, judgment, and rhetoric. (Not to mention that some use a pastor’s decision as an endorsement for what they should do!)
I took the same stance with people on mask exemptions—I didn’t ask if they were exempt.
The answer “No, I’m not vaccinated” or “Yes, I’m exempt” leads to other questions: “Why not?” and “What’s your exemption?”
Those questions pressure people to uncomfortably decline to answer (feeling great pressure to do so!) or to potentially have to disclose private physical, mental, or religious conditions that led to their decision. No one has any right to demand that information. No one has an obligation to provide it.
Consider this scenario:
At the end of her rope, a woman visits her local church on Sunday, desperate to find hope. She has PTSD from a rape in which her assailant covered her mouth and nose. Covering her face triggers paralyzing flashbacks as she relives the trauma. That brings on suicidal ideations.
At the front door, she is accosted by a greeter who insists that she put on a mask. She explains that she cannot wear one. The greeter asks her why she cannot wear a mask. She mumbles, “I just can’t.” The greeter asks if she has a medical exemption. She hangs her head and walks out. She can’t bring herself to explain it.
Rejected by her family and friends—who cannot understand her chronic depression—she has now been dismissed by the church. In her mind, God found her unworthy of his care (confirming what she already suspected). She drives home and ends it all.
The above is just one example of when prying for private information can seriously damage our neighbors.
I want to stand in solidarity with those who can’t reveal without suffering shame, judgment, or harm.