Wednesday, January 29, 2014

A Lutheran Perspective on Vaccinations

After a recent discussion on Facebook about vaccines, I wondered what the Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod's (WELS) stance might be on the topic since this is the church body to which I belong.  I looked in the Q & A sections of both Forward in Christ and Christian Life Resource (CLR) websites.  Neither yielded any results on the topic with the exception of one article on CLR that was not exactly pertinent to the discussion.  I submitted a question to CLR and received the following answer that I want to share with those who read this.  I feel that it is an answer that is thoughtful and thought provoking with some good points made. I'm sharing this answer with permission. 
 I'm assuming that if you've clicked on this post then you are concerned and interested in the topic and will leave respectful comments below.  If you have further questions or concerns about the issue, I'd strongly encourage you to contact CLR directly.  Pastor Fleischmann was very timely in a response to my questions.

You Wrote:
What do I say to the mother who believes that vaccines are more harmful to her children than the actual diseases that they prevent and therefore will not vaccinate her children?  I feel that this is dangerous not only for her children but also for infants and immune compromised individuals who have not or cannot be immunized.

This is a challenge of “facts” which generally can only be resolved with the “facts.”  Specifically, our requirement in Scripture to obey the government (Romans 13:1) means that we ought to obey the governing authorities unless they ask us to do something contrary to Scripture.  Refusing immunizations when the government has specifically requested its citizens to take the vaccines them places the onus on anyone who refuses to do obey.

This mother’s claim is that “vaccines are more harmful to her children than the actual diseases that they prevent.”  That is a serious accusation and also one that, if true, should be easily proven.  Therefore, the mother should be asked the following:
1.      If it can be proven that the immunizations are safer (for her children and for others) than the actual diseases, then would she consent to the immunizations?
2.      What proof does she require to make the case?
3.      It might also be interesting to explore what evidence she may have that would support her contention about the vaccine being worse than the respective malady it treats.  While I am not aware of any scientific evidence she may have access to information that I have seen.

There are people who object to vaccines for fear that they are or might be worse than having the disease itself.  Those concerns are vigorously addressed in the FDA approval process and then tracked in the years following the approval of each vaccine.  To honor her commitment to act contrary to the wishes of the government she would need to provide evidence comparable or exceeding the evidence the government presents for the safety of the vaccine.

There is growing concern about what is called “herd immunity.” The concern centers around the danger posed by those who refuse vaccines.  Because a Christian is called upon to be equally or more concerned about others than him or herself (Philippians 2:3-4) he or she must considered the risk the disease poses for others – especially if those “others” are in a weakened condition (i.e., elderly, ailing, etc.).

In the end the government does permit “conscientious objections” for religious reasons.  If “religious reasons” are claimed, then they should be substantiate.  To my knowledge there is no evidence to support the contention of the mother.  I cannot see at this time how she could support her claim but she should, for the sake of all others, make her case.

Pastor Robert Fleischmann
National Director

Christian Life Resources


  1. Thanks for sharing this response. His reply was very thorough and thoughtful not putting anyone down for their views yet stating clearly on whom the burden of "proof" lies. One of the problems I see with those who are convinced of the anti vaccine position is that they now need to re educate their consciences or in participating in vaccinations they will be sinning against their conscience.

  2. Yes, that is a very good point. Thank you for your comment.