Is Veganism a Religion? Court Considers Claim

A federal court in Ohio seems willing to consider the argument that veganism is a religion worthy of legal protections.

The claim comes in the context of a religious accommodation claim brought by a customer service representative at a Cincinnati children’s hospital. The plaintiff was fired after she refused to get a flu shot on the grounds that chicken eggs are used in preparation of flu vaccines and she was a vegan. Therefore, the plaintiff claimed, getting the shot would have violated her beliefs and the hospital was required to find a work-around to such beliefs rather than fire her.

Not surprisingly, the hospital moved to dismiss her lawsuit for failure to state a claim for which relief may be granted arguing there is no religious accommodation necessary here since veganism is not a religion.

But the court at least initially disagreed. In refusing to dismiss the case, the judge said that it was possible that the plaintiff’s veganism could be a “moral or ethical belief” adhered to with the force of a religious belief. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission has said it will treat such beliefs as entitled to reasonable accommodation under Title VII even if they are not per se “religions” in the traditional sense. Additionally, in support of her claim, the plaintiff submitted some material indicating a “Biblical basis for veganism,” to push her contention that her veganism was “religious” in nature or at least held with the same strength as a religious belief.

Even though the court was sympathetic to the plaintiffs claims, the court recognized that the hospital may still be able to prove that it had legitimate patient-safety reasons for insisting that the plaintiff receive a flu shot. However, since the hospital filed this motion so early in the process, the court could not rule on that issue yet.

While the court allowed the plaintiff’s claim that her veganism was a religion worthy of employment accommodation, it did not specifically rule veganism was a religion. Instead, it simply held it was a claim it was willing to consider and wouldn’t dismiss the plaintiff’s case just yet. Also, because this was a preliminary motion, it is possible that the hospital will later be able to present evidence that the employee’s veganism was not, in fact, a “religious” belief, or not sincerely held in defense of their actions to terminate the employee.

What do you think? Should veganism be considered a belief akin to religion and therefore be protected by civil rights laws? And what about the hospital’s claim that refusing the flu shot put patients at risk? Should employees who do not believe in, or get vaccinations, for whatever the reason, be allowed to work in places like hospitals? What should happen when these beliefs come into conflict?

Related Reading:

5 Reasons Why Meat Eating Can’t Be Considered A Personal Choice

Freedom’s New Frontier: A Guide to Animal Rights

7 Reasons Why We Have Not ‘Evolved’ to Eat Meat

Photo from walknboston via flickr.


Jim Ven
Jim Ven18 days ago

thanks for sharing.

Jeanne Rogers
Jeanne Rogers5 months ago

Great article! Thank you for sharing.

David Greensmith
David Greensmith2 years ago

Just for sake of argument, let's consider that veganism IS a religion. So what? Are we really considering it acceptable to allow someone's religious beliefs to put people other than themselves at risk? If you believe that illness is caused by demons, or your god's displeasure and all that's required for you to get better is for you to pray - go for it. But a doctor who refuses to prescribe medical treatment to someone suffering from a disease and instead tells them to pray should not be protected by laws allowing freedom of religion. This example really is no different. The flu shot is mandatory for hospital employees not to protect the employee - who would be quite within their right to refuse medical treatment for any ailment - but for the protection of the patients. Here we have another example of where ideology impairs rational thinking. There are animal rights activists who are so passionate about the sanctity of life that they are prepared to fire bomb the houses of people who experiment on animals - with no regard for the lives of people or animals who live there. In this example we have a woman who is so concerned about the welfare of chickens that she doesn't consider the health and safety of children. I suppose that's why I'm not a vegan - if I had to choose between the life of a chicken and the life of a human being, I'm going to choose the human.

Diane L.
Diane L.2 years ago

Wow, Jamie's "stuff" is scarey, indeed. Maybe he/she (I didn't check) is one of the writers for "The Following" which is about a bunch of murdering cultists who think they are following a religion and killing in the name of God.

Diane L.
Diane L.2 years ago

Jamie, PLEASE, PLEASE get your information from an accurate source! That is the biggest "crock" I've ever read and potentially quite dangerous if anyone reads what you posted and actually believes it.

Marilyn is 100% RIGHT ON! Polio was almost an epidemic when I was a kid, and many of my peers contracted it, including my 3rd grade teacher's daughter who was my age. Karla spent months in an "iron lung" and was paralyzed for the rest of her life. Vaccines didn't come out until I was in high school and did I get mine? YOU BETCHA!

Rainbow W.
.2 years ago

And polio isn’t wiped out. It still happens in Asia. Either they cannot get vaccinations or they have “knock off’s” [fake vaccines].

[]”While now rare in the Western world, polio is still endemic to South Asia and Africa, particularly Pakistan and Nigeria respectively. Following the widespread use of poliovirus vaccine in the mid-1950s, the incidence of poliomyelitis declined dramatically in many industrialized countries.”

2 years ago

Sorry Jamie, but the kids I grew up with ...who HAD polio...had it because they NEVER HAD THE VACCINE!

Paul Lundbohm
Paul Lundbohm2 years ago

Sure. The world's religions are based on myths and veganism is a myth so it could be considered a religion.

Jamie Clemons
Jamie Clemons2 years ago

MarilynBusy did you what the leading cause of Polio and Polio paralysis is?????

It is the polio vaccine. The vaccine is also the leading cause of polio paralysis

Jamie Clemons
Jamie Clemons2 years ago

Did anyone ever think that diseases are natures way of keeping our ever expanding population explosion in check and that by living longer and longer and stoping diseases we are only delaying the inevitable and creating a superdisease that is going to be way worse than if we had just let nature take its course? Just some what if thinking.