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Spokane Catholic schools will follow state vaccine and mask mandates, Bishop Daly says

Bishop Daly clarified that parish schools must follow vaccine and mask mandates as well as exemptions allowed under the state's mandate.

SPOKANE, Wash. — Catholic schools in Spokane will abide by Washington's vaccine mandate for teachers and other employees in the state, Bishop Thomas Daly said in a press release on Wednesday.

In the press release, Bishop Daly said he wrote to the priests of the Diocese of Spokane on Tuesday clarifying the effect of the vaccine mandate on Catholic schools. The Diocese will follow the state mandates regarding vaccination of education personnel and mask mandates both in parish schools and churches that was effective starting on Aug. 23, he said. 

Bishop Daly said he encourages citizens of Eastern Washington get the vaccine to protect others, especially children and those who are the most vulnerable. 

While the diocese will comply with Gov. Inslee's mandate, it will also recognize the two exemptions from the mandate.

“The first is a medical exemption that one may obtain through his or her physician. The second is a religious exemption which, for us as Catholics, rests on the fact that a properly formed conscience is inviolable,” Bishop Daly said.

Bishop Daly took a different stance when he issued a statement on Aug. 19.

In that statement, Daly said the diocese encourages vaccinations but does not "intend on violating the consciences of our Catholic school teachers nor do we intend on vouching for another person’s conscience." He added that the diocese was talking with civic and health officials about the vaccine mandate and would offer further guidance to Catholic schools. 

"We who are bishops and priests are called to assist with informing a person’s conscience.  We do not replace one’s conscience. If a person has health concerns or moral objections about vaccines, he or she should not be forced into being vaccinated.  Moreover, priests should not be involved in signing any document concerning the conscience of another," the previous statement reads.

Daly's recent statement falls closely in line with the stance from Pope Francis. Francis said that vaccines are safe, effective and an “act of love.” In addition to this statement, he said Francis' doctrinal office said people can decline the vaccine for moral reasons, while insisting those who decline the vaccine must be vigilant by other means to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

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