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Nurse escorted out after religious exemption for COVID vaccine denied

"I am being escorted out of Kaiser Permanente Hospital for my religious beliefs because I don’t want to get the jab," said Jensen.

SAN DIEGO — California’s vaccination for healthcare workers took effect Sept. 30 which allows religious or medical exemptions, however, nurse Tori Jenson's religious beliefs didn’t make the cut at Kaiser Permanente San Diego Medical Center in Kearny Mesa. 

"I am being escorted out of Kaiser Permanente Hospital for my religious beliefs because I don’t want to get the jab," said Jensen in an Instagram video.

Jensen is no longer a nurse at Kaiser Permanente. She posted videos on her Instagram page being escorted out after she learned she was put on unpaid leave.

"'It has been determined that your request is not based on sincerely held belief in a religious doctrine, or teaching that prevents you from obtaining any COVID-19 vaccine, therefore your request has been denied,'" Jensen reads as she is looking at an email from Kaiser Permanente. "I just feel that is so subjective. This is America! You can't ask me what religion I am. It's protected. I am Christian. Jesus Christ is my Lord and Savior. I prayed about it a lot and given everything and all the pressure received from Kaiser, God said you have a God-given immune system to fight this and that’s good enough for me."

"Why is not my religion good enough for Kaiser?" asks Jensen in an Instagram video.

Kaiser Permanente released the following statement on exemptions: 

"Statement on Kaiser Permanente’s review of vaccination exemption requests

By Andrew Bindman, MD, Executive Vice President and Chief Medical Officer

Kaiser Permanente

As a health care organization, Kaiser Permanente has an obligation to our 12.5 million members and patients — and to our employees, physicians, and communities to ensure their safety and to protect them from infection. Working closely with our labor partners, we acted in early August to protect the health and safety of our workforce, and our communities, by mandating vaccinations for all of our employees and physicians no later than September 30, 2021.

Kaiser Permanente is also deeply committed to equity and diversity, and so from the very outset we created a process which respects and honors our employees’ sincerely held religious beliefs, and allows requests for exemption from the vaccine requirement which fully meets all federal, state and local laws.

Leading up to the September 30 deadline, we were notified by some of our labor partners and others of open, online discussions around ways to avoid the vaccine mandate by misusing the legitimate religious exemption process. Our review confirmed that many employees had submitted similar or nearly identical requests containing language taken word-for-word from free and paid templated online forms. To further ensure our process was objective, fair, and discouraged misuse, we conducted a thorough and thoughtful review of all requests for religious exemption, and gave employees the opportunity to ensure their requests reflected their sincerely held beliefs.

We believe that misusing the religious exemption to avoid vaccination is disrespectful to those with sincere religious beliefs, and could violate the ethical standards we expect our employees to meet. 

Employees whose exemption requests are denied are put on unpaid administrative leave and provided an opportunity to get vaccinated and return to work. We hope none of our employees will choose to leave their jobs rather than be vaccinated. We will continue to work with our employees to allay concerns and educate them about the vaccines, their benefits, and risks.

As of October 30, more than 93% of our employees are now vaccinated. Approximately 1% of our active workforce have declined to respond and are now on unpaid leave; they have until December 1 to respond to the vaccine requirement.

We know that vaccination is the most powerful tool we have to stop this pandemic, to prevent more dangerous strains from developing, and to return to normalcy. We want to thank our staff who have moved quickly to get vaccinated and submit verification. We understand that for some this may be a difficult decision in an already difficult time. We are doing all we can to support that decision-making process with information and discussion. We appreciate the important role union leadership has played by encouraging employees to get vaccinated, and helping dispel misinformation.

We deeply appreciate the extraordinary commitment and dedication of all Kaiser Permanente employees and physicians throughout our response to the pandemic, especially those who have been serving on the front lines to fight this deadly virus. We encourage everyone to play a role in ending the pandemic by getting the safe and effective COVID-19 vaccine."

"I don’t know what kind of pandemic it is firing nurses willing to work doesn’t make sense to me," said Jensen in an Instagram video. 

"This is my livelihood. I feel I'm getting discriminated against for my religious beliefs," said Jensen. "I've never gotten COVID to my knowledge. I never put anyone in harm. I feel like I am confident. I have to test twice weekly. I wear an N95 and I take all the precautions. I've been a COVID nurse since the beginning. I'll keep doing that just somewhere else."

Jensen said she plans to apply for other nursing jobs in San Diego. In the meantime, she has started a website called walkstairs.com to provide a platform for employers to find employees willing to work and choosing to not be vaccinated. 

WATCH RELATED: Will you need to get a 4th booster shot for the COVID-19 vaccine? 

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