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Religion and Conscience are Intertwined

a woman in reflection

In the end, the only thing that can be accurately stated about religion is that it is a personal freedom based on the expression of one’s conscience.

People view and practice religion in different ways. I have always tended to see religion more as a journey of growth in spiritual wisdom—of being open to all possibilities for experiencing the creative power of the universe and learning from the teachings of sages, mystics and prophets (both past and present). I have sensed that the journey has been guided by my conscience—that inner still small voice that has often been said to be the highest authority.

Mahatma Gandhi once said, “There is a higher court than courts of justice and that is the court of conscience. It supercedes all other courts.”1 

In one of his many sermons, 19th century Church of Scotland minister Robert Herbert Story described conscience as the “compass we must steer by.”2 He said that even if it is not pointing due north, “we cannot help it: as long as we believe it to be true, and have no means of checking it, we can be trusted to it.”2

Obey your conscience. Be true to yourself and to God’s voice in you, first and before all else. You might mistake the teaching of Scripture: you could not, if in earnest about it, mistake the teaching of the living voice of God within.2 

The relationship between religion and conscience is closely intertwined. However, I had never previously stopped to reflect just how much until faced with the possibility of losing my religious freedoms as it relates to something as deeply personal as bodily integrity. Spurred on and financed by the pharmaceutical industry, the unceasing lobbying efforts within state legislatures in the United States to eliminate religious exemptions to vaccination and the resultant pushback by American families defending their religious freedoms, has put into clear perspective what is at stake here.

A common argument used by those attacking the right of people to refuse vaccination on the basis of religion is that that exemption is being abused, and that there are people who are not really religious or belong to an organized religion or even go to church who are claiming the exemption. Then, of course, there is the more authoritarian argument that the religious exemption should not even exist in the U.S.

According to pediatrician and vaccine developer Paul Offit, MD of The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia:

Religious exemptions to vaccination are a contradiction in terms. In the good name of all religions, they should be eliminated.3

 Dr. Offit has also been quoted as saying, “Stating a religious belief is seen as a kind of immunity from responsibility.”4 In other words, for compulsory vaccination proponents like Offit, religious belief has become irrelevant whenever it happens to butt heads with policies such as vaccination that are mandated by government.

Then there’s the logic of oncologist David Gorski, MD of the Wayne State University School of Medicine in Detroit:

Why should religious objections to vaccination be privileged above any other objection, such as philosophical or plain “I just don’t want to”? There’s no rational reason why they should.5

Religion is being crammed into a box by individuals who have taken it upon themselves to define and cast religion through their own narrow views. It is what has often been done throughout history by those who want to dismiss the meaning of religious belief for individuals and minimize the influence of religion in society, either because it doesn’t make sense to them or they fear it, or they wish to impose their own set of values and beliefs to control people who prefer to be guided by a higher authority.

The problem is that you cannot put religion into a box because religious belief that is personal isn’t a thing that can easily be grasped and relocated at one’s pleasure. Religion means different things to different people. People seek spiritual enlightenment differently. They conceptualize and understand God differently. They commune in worship differently, or they don’t.

In the end, the only thing that can be accurately stated about religion is that it is a personal freedom based on the expression of one’s conscience.

Perhaps no one has written more clearly about this as it relates to vaccination than Barbara Loe Fisher, the co-founder and president of the National Vaccine Information Center (NVIC). In an article published earlier this year titled “Defending the Religious Exemption to Vaccination,” she explored the origins of freedom of religion and conscience as codified in the Virginia Bill of Rights, which served as the basis for the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, and wrote:

Virginia is the hallowed ground where freedom of thought, conscience and religion was first defined as a natural right and was codified into American law. Virginia is the place where George Mason and Thomas Jefferson wrote the Virginia Bill of Rights and the Virginia Act for Religious Freedom and where, over the years, the General Assembly has enacted the strongest religious freedom and parental rights legislation in the country.6

That First Amendment was based on the Virginia Bill of Rights adopted by the Virginia General Assembly before Congress approved the U.S. Constitution Bill of Rights. Section 16 of the Virginia Constitution states that: 1. “All men are equally entitled to the free exercise of religion, according to the dictates of conscience;” and 2. “No man shall be compelled to frequent or support any religious worship, place, or ministry whatsoever,” and 3. “The General Assembly shall not prescribe any religious test whatever” on citizens.6

She adds:

This means it is a violation of the Virginia Constitution to eliminate the legal right to exercise religious beliefs according to the dictates of conscience, or to force citizens to belong to an organized religion or a particular church in order to exercise conscience and religious beliefs.6

And there it is—the “exercise of religious beliefs according to the dictates of conscience.” Beautiful, isn’t it?

We, as free individuals, in the U.S. have the right to have religious beliefs guided by our conscience. And those religious beliefs are sacred—they cannot be pushed aside on a whim by the Offits and Gorskis of the world who might wish to do so for the mere sake of ramrodding a vaccination agenda.

Defending freedom of conscience and religion, Barbara Loe Fisher asks the question:

Who has the moral authority to deny anyone the right to pray to God for guidance and obey our conscience when making a decision about a pharmaceutical product that can brain injure or end our life or our child’s life?7 

The answer is: nobody. At least not in the United States of America. Because that fundamental and precious human right is protected by our Constitution.


1 Mahatma Gandhi’s writings, philosophy, audio, video & photographs. MkGandhi.org.
2 Story RH. Creed and Conduct: Sermons Preached at Rosneath Church. (edited by James Maclehose) 1878.
3 Offit PA. What Would Jesus Do About Measles? The New York Times Feb. 10, 2015.
4 Stone RM. What one of the anti-vaccination movement’s least favorite doctors discovered about Jesus. The Washington Post Apr. 13, 2015.
5 Gorski D. Using religion to avoid vaccination, revisited. Science Blogs Oct. 18, 2007.

6 Fisher BL. Defending the Religious Exemption to Vaccination. NVIC.org June 28, 2016.
7 Fisher BL. Vaccine Exemptions and Civil Liberties at Risk in Virginia. The Vaccine Reaction Aug. 5, 2016.

15 Responses to Religion and Conscience are Intertwined

  1. Maribel Reply

    August 24, 2016 at 4:27 am

    Beautifully written!
    Thank you for explaining freedom of religion.

  2. Christine Grace Reply

    August 24, 2016 at 4:33 am

    So absolutely True. Thank you for sharing. When I first began walking down the path of learning about the harmful effects of vaccines, I didn’t want to know what I was learning through my inner discernment. I did not want to be the one to make a decision such as this for my baby because I had thought, up till then, that doctors were superior in their knowledge about such things. Not so. I am the authority in my own life and there is nobody outside of me who knows the things that my Conscience guides me to. Ultimately, I have come to know and understand on the deepest level ever that I have known many thins that science is proving to be true now. I said 23 years ago when I knew for certain that vaccines, with all of the toxic preservatives, were detrimental to the human system, that one day in the near future this would be proven and all those who deemed me an “unfit mother” would understand why I did not vaccinate my two precious children.

  3. Beth Barnard Reply

    August 24, 2016 at 7:28 am

    As for me and my family . . . When the cure is as bad as the disease, I will put my trust in God and not the Federal Government. What happened to First, do no harm. As an important step in becoming a doctor, medical students must take the Hippocratic Oath. And one of the promises within that oath is “first, do no harm” (or “primum non nocere,” the Latin translation from the original Greek.) Why does this not ring true with vaccines? Why is the Federal Government with the “vaccine court” protecting Big Pharma and doctors from parents & people who have been harmed by vaccines?

    • David Weiner Reply

      August 24, 2016 at 9:41 am

      Allopathic medicine abandoned the Hippocratic Oath a long, long time ago. It is not just being violated with the government vaccine program.

  4. Mary Lynn Reply

    August 24, 2016 at 7:41 am

    Love the quote by Gandhi!

    Fortunately, my mind IS informed by science in this context (vaccinations) or the lack of good science proving them safe and effective. Unlike the required “faith” in religious beliefs due to rock solid proof, enough study has been done to make me question vaccinations. It isn’t a matter of faith that I’m better off avoiding vaccines.

    Substandard science coupled with the notorious greed of pharmaceutical companies AND the contamination of the AMA with corporate influence make my conscience (let’s call it intuition) strong on this issue.

  5. JAR Reply

    August 24, 2016 at 8:50 am

    Beautiful. Your ability to express what so many of us feel is a blessing to us all.
    Thank you.

  6. MARY FISHER Reply

    August 24, 2016 at 3:36 pm

    They can’t have it both ways: Either vaccines protects you from disease if you get the shot. If you are protected what do you care if others choose not to vaccinate ?
    Perhaps vaccines don’t protect and you are wasting your money, being a cash cow for the vaccine industry and taking a chance on neurological damage or death.

    “It is difficult to get a
    man to understand something, when his
    salary is dependent upon him not understanding it.”
    ………………………………Upton Sinclair

    media who get their money from pharmaceutical ads

  7. John Stone Reply

    August 25, 2016 at 4:48 am

    Comment also posted on Age of Autism:

    Perhaps the word “ideology” is helpful. The state has created its own belief system. It might still be problematic if vaccine “science” was not a messy and imperfect business. Your children are being requisitioned in phoney war against disease, with an almost entirely theoretical possibility of suing the state in the US if it goes wrong. In many other countries you may have not recourse at all. It would be very interesting to find out what the theoretical basis of the cult of vaccine infallibility was, beyond a group of article years ago by Offit “addressing parental concerns” including the infamous 10,000 vaccine claim. Of course, as the number of vaccines climb even on the claims of manufacturers – which are much more careful than Offit’s – the risk of routine harm becomes increasingly likely. I don’t believe in the state religion.

  8. John Stone Reply

    August 25, 2016 at 5:12 am

    On multiple occasions – when the UK authorites have been challenged over the safety of the expanding schedule they have cited only Offit’s article.


  9. Maria A. Diaz Perez Reply

    August 25, 2016 at 6:07 am

    I am a worried grandmother trying to elaborate a response to compulsory vaccination in Puerto Rico.

  10. Erwin Alber Reply

    August 25, 2016 at 10:06 am

    As far as I am concerned,religion should not even come into this issue, and neither should exemptions, which should be abolished, leaving parents free to decide whether they want to vaccinate or not, as is the case in countries such as Germany, Switzerland, Austria, the UK, New Zealand and others. Why should parents have to go through the rigmarole of obtaining an exemption to opt out of this institutionalised medical fraud, child abuse and criminal enterprise?

    In fact, if we lived in a halfway sane society, vaccination would have been abolished decades ago – which nearly happened in the 1980s, except that the US government came to the vaccine industry’s rescue at taxpayer expense by establishing the taxpayer-funded vaccine injury compensation system.


    • Jo Reply

      September 3, 2016 at 8:25 pm

      Correct. Reagan came to the rescue of the CDC.

  11. Brian Wright Reply

    August 25, 2016 at 1:47 pm

    Outstanding column, Mr. Caceres. As one who is nonreligious in a conventional way, I retain the right to exercise my conscience. Also the right to contract… or not to contract. If I choose not to contract, that is a sacrosanct legal right as well. Forced vaccinations are violations of contract, at best. And pure initiation of force (without consent), at worst.

  12. Cherry Misra Reply

    August 26, 2016 at 8:39 pm

    Very nice article- Thankyou. I think the point needs to be made to people who favor mandatory vaccination policies, that laws are not only for today. You also have to think what may happen tomorrow. The laws dont expire. They stand and people may not like how they are affected in the future.

  13. Jo Reply

    September 3, 2016 at 8:33 pm

    This shouldn’t have anything to do with religion or religious exemptions or any other type of exemptions.
    If you don’t want to get jabbed with a needle or ingest any chemical, that is your choice as a human. It’s an assault, plain and simple. No court should be involved, no company or government should be involved.

    If vaccines are effective, no one else should be worried about other people who don’t accept the jab(s). If the jab(s) cause damage to the health of the person, those consequences should be born by the company or companies involved with the production of the vaccine.

    This is a product like any other. It just so happens to be worse than when the tax payers bailed out the big car companies after the ‘recession’ of 2008. In this case, the bail-out for the pharmaceuticals never ends. It’s similar to the too-big-to-fail banks. Some industries are more equal than others.

    Buyer beware.

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