The EFCA’s Trinity International University is not requiring COVID-19 vaccination for returning students and plans to return to normal conditions in the fall in classroom. Trinity’s action stands in stark contrast to DePaul, Northwestern, University of Chicago, University of Illinois and countless of public and private schools which are mandating vaccination. Is this further proof that white evangelicals are not going to push vaccination? Or is this another example of the Scopes Monkey Trail and hostility to science hanging over evangelicalism? Instead of being boastful of the fall Nicholas Perrin should go to his office and weep that Trinity International University is not modeling Jesus’ commands of loving thy neighbor.
“To call yourself a child of God is one thing. To be called a child of God by those who watch your life is another thing altogether.”
Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says. 23 Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says is like someone who looks at his face in a mirror 24 and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like. 25 But whoever looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues in it—not forgetting what they have heard, but doing it—they will be blessed in what they do.
James 1:22-25 NIV
Before doing this post I reached out to Trinity International University through a series of tweets last week asking if the wanted to speak about Trinity’s policy on COVID vacation. Trinity did not respond. I choose that course of communication because they have reached out and one corrected me on a post that I did. So if the leadership of Trinity does not like this post, all I will say is that I opened up the door to a discussion about vaccination.
A Look at Other Universities That Require Mandatory COVID Vaccination in Illinois
In Illinois a large number of both public and private schools are requiring students to be vaccinated before they return for classes in the fall. The University of Illinois system is requiring it for all returning students on all three Illinois campuses. You can read the policy in the Illinois system here. Illinois State University is also requiring COVID vaccination. This is what the university in Normal, Illinois is saying. “As outlined in our previously released Fall 2021 plans, all students are expected to provide evidence of receiving the COVID-19 vaccination prior to the fall term. For students living in on-campus housing, records should be received prior to Move-In. For students living off-campus, records should be received by the first day of class, Monday, August 16.”
A number of private schools are also mandating COVID vaccination to include DePaul University, Northwestern University, University of Chicago, Loyola University of Chicago are some of the large number that require it. This how DePaul is communicating itself to those students returning to campus. “For fall, students will be required to be vaccinated for COVID-19. Everyone at DePaul is highly encouraged to seek an appointment now. Together, we will help one another stay healthy. Text your ZIP code to 438829 or call 1-800-232-0233 to find vaccine locations near you in the United States.” Northwestern University is mandating the vaccine amongst all students, faculty and staff. Here’s what they are say.
“Northwestern announced on May 12 that it will require COVID-19 vaccination for all students (including exchange and visiting students) in on-campus programs for the 2021-22 academic year. Students must have their vaccination or exception on record in order to register for classes. Additionally, Northwestern announced on June 24 that it will require COVID-19 vaccination for all faculty and staff. Subject to limited exceptions, faculty and staff who work on campus are expected to be fully vaccinated by Aug. 1, 2021 and are expected to attest to their vaccination status.”
Loyola University of Chicago is communicating mandatory vaccination against COVID. Here is what they say. “Vaccine mandated for all students for fall semester (medical or religious exemptions must be approved); faculty and staff strongly encouraged to be vaccinated; All students are now required to upload their COVID-19 vaccination cards by no later than Friday, August 6. Faculty and staff are strongly encouraged to get vaccinated and upload their vaccination cards by this date as well through Loyola Health App.” Then there is the University of Chicago which is also requiring student, faculty and staff to be vaccinated. The University of Chicago stated that they are trying to get as close as 100% vaccination rate. This is what the Provost and the Executive Vice President sent out. “In May, the University announced that starting with the 2021 Autumn Quarter the University will require all students to be fully vaccinated for COVID-19. Since then, a group of leaders and medical experts from across the University has examined whether to introduce a vaccine requirement for University employees. Today we are announcing that the University expects every University employee to get fully vaccinated against COVID-19, unless they cannot do so because of a medical or religious reason or other authorized exemptions. The University will use an online registry to confirm employee vaccination status. University faculty, other academic appointees, postdoctoral researchers, and staff should upload proof of their COVID-19 vaccination in the University’s registry by August 13, 2021. Our goal is a campus-wide vaccination rate that is as close to 100% as possible.”
American College Health Association and COVID-19
The American College Health Association (ACHA) has advocated for and set the bar for health requirements for colleges and universities across the United States. They have been doing this for over one hundred yes since its founding in 1920. ACHA has represented over 800 institutions of higher learnings and helped set guidelines to keep campuses healthy, safe and protect the needs of twenty million college students. On April 29, 2021 ACHA encouraged mandatory vaccination requirements when possible by state law. Here is how they describe it.
The in-person and residential college experience on campuses throughout the United States has been profoundly curtailed by the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020-21. There have been enormous impacts on our college communities, including economic, academic, social, physical, and mental health consequences for students, faculty, and staff. The American College Health Association (ACHA) recognizes that comprehensive COVID-19 vaccination is the most effective way for institutions of higher education (IHEs) to return to a safe, robust on-campus experience for students in fall semester 2021. Therefore, where state law and available resources allow, ACHA recommends COVID-19 vaccination requirements for all on-campus college and university students for fall semester 2021, in accordance with the IHE’s normal exemption practices, including exemptions for medical contraindications. This recommendation applies to all students who live on campus and/or participate in on-campus classes, studies, research, or activities.
As of this writing of July 15, 2021 it appears the State of Illinois has not required colleges to vaccinate, and a couple of smaller colleges will not require it. The fact is many colleges and universities in Illinois took the step and mandated it for public safety and health reasons.
Meanwhile in Contrast Trinity International University Does Not Require COVID-19 Vaccination
Trinity International University is the flagship school of the EFCA. The EFCA has often been called a denomination that is more intellectual than other streams of evangelicalism. And yet Trinity International University has communicated that it will not require retuning students for the fall of 2021 to be vaccinated against COVID. This is what the school has on their website.
As a reminder, we do not have any plans to mandate a vaccine for students or employees, and for fall 2021 we expect to be returning to pre-pandemic operating conditions.
Taking into account national, state, and local guidance, Trinity may reinstate these conditions as early as June 11, when it is anticipated—given current trends—that the governor will declare Illinois to be at Phase 5 status. At the present time, many of our students and employees have already been vaccinated and this is already increasing a sense of campus safety. We encourage those who have not yet received a vaccine to consider doing so this summer.
What Trinity is also doing is requiring people to sign what is called a “Community Care Covenant.” Below is the main part of the text. At the end you sign and in the process absolve the school of any liability from infection of COVID that can affect you or people you come in contact with
“As we plan for the return of the Trinity community to campus, God’s standards are at the forefront of our thinking and planning. Jesus said that the second greatest commandment is to, “love your neighbor as yourself” (Matt 22:39). The Apostle Paul reminds the church of this in Rom 13:10 and in 1 Cor 10:23-24, encourages everyone to seek the good of others rather than simply seeking their own rights. At Trinity therefore we desire each person in our community to be committed to caring for their neighbors by acting responsibly to protect the health and well-being of others (fellow students, staff, faculty and guests).
In addition, the Bible teaches that we are to submit to governing authorities (Rom 13:1) unless such submission entails direct disobedience to God and his commands (Acts 5:29). We are committed therefore to follow the guidance of the governing and health authorities under which Trinity operates.
It is expected that all members of the Trinity community will be committed to abiding by all university policies designed to protect the health of fellow students, faculty, and staff. To that end, all members of the Trinity community will be required to affirm their commitment to these policies by electronically signing this Community Care Covenant before returning to campus. Those who refuse to abide by these policies will be prohibited from on-campus activities including classes and residence.
My commitment: I commit to contributing to campus life in a way that will promote the health and safety of all community members. We can only be at our best when we trust, value, and respect one another. I will do my part to limit the spread of COVID-19 by making my own health and safety and that of others a priority. I will abide by any federal, state, local, and Trinity public health guidance and protocols established to protect us against COVID-19. I recognize that, based on public health circumstances, guidance and protocols will likely change, sometimes abruptly, and I agree to keep myself informed and to follow any new guidance and protocols.
Specifically, I commit to the following:
- Maintain social distance (generally defined as 6 feet or two meters).
- Wear masks or face coverings inside all buildings, including classrooms and laboratories. Face coverings are also required in outdoor spaces when in proximity to others. Face coverings are not required when alone in a private office or alone or with a roommate in a residence hall room. Faculty are permitted to teach without a mask if behind a plexiglass shield or using a face shield.
- Frequently self-monitor your health symptoms (including temperature), and abide by all reporting, quarantine, and isolation policies. Submit to screening, such as temperature checks that may be deemed necessary or appropriate.
- Abide by all COVID-19 related policies, including quarantine and isolation.
- Cooperate with TIU staff, as needed, for contact tracing.
Looking forward to the fall of 2021, we are anticipating:
- Mask-wearing will be a personal choice;
- Trinity classrooms will return to normal without the requirement of distancing and masks;
- Chapels will return to normal without the requirement of distancing and masks;
- Athletic teams will return to normalized seasons;
- Residential life and community life events will return to normal.
We have been grateful for the ways in which each person in our community has demonstrated care for one another in wearing masks, following social distancing, and following quarantine rules. As we enter this new and hopeful Bridge Phase, we again ask everyone in our community to abide by these expectations as a matter of honor before the Lord and the sake of caring for others.
And unlike Northwestern, and many of the other schools mentioned above which mandate vaccines Trinity International University is not going to require it for returning students.
Is This How a Christian University Should Behave? In Not Requiring COVID-19 Vaccine Does Trinity Love Jesus and Love Thy Neighbor in Illinois? Or is This a Legacy of the Scopes Trial?
This blog finds it absolutely incredible that many of the universities around Trinity show more commitment to the Gospel and love of Jesus than Trinity itself. Nowhere in any of what Trinity says are COVID-19 vaccines going to be required. This puts Trinity at odds not only with the American College Health Association and also many of the universities around them which are requiring vaccination. Shouldn’t a Christian school if they love Jesus be the first to not only require vaccination but to also become vaccinated? Didn’t Jesus say to love your neighbor as yourself? Why then is Trinity behind the curve of both state schools in Illinois but also private schools such as Northwestern and DePaul?
In June of 2020 The Washington Post reported that the largest group of individuals in the United States to resist COVID-19 vaccination is now white evangelicals. This bog wrote about it in, “The Washington Post Writes About How White Evangelicals Are Now the Largest Group Rejecting COVID-19 Vaccination Due to Conspiracies.” Due to white evangelical rejection of vaccination is this why Trinity will not require students to get vaccinated? Because some evangelical “Karen” in an EFCA church or another evangelical church will scream their little Johnny or Susie is being persecuted and being injected with fetal tissue? Is that why Trinity is staying silent on this and not requiring this? This blog is written by a former evangelical who pushed away from faith due to how toxic it has become. I find it incredible that a school like Trinity can act this way. Not only is Trinity being a poor witness in the Chicago suburbs but what about those individuals who are immune compromised with some disease, or they are experiencing cancer treatment? In some of what I read online it does not even appear as if that came into the decision making process at all. Instead what I saw in what I posted above is very much a me, me, me which certainly falls in line with the selfish nature of evangelicalism. The last shall be first and love thy neighbor is what Jesus taught. Don’t expect to find that Christian teaching at Trinity.
But it also raises another question. Despite the Center for Bioethics and Human Dignity and what they say about science and ethics, is the overarching issue is that Trinity is haunted by the ghosts of the Scopes Monkey Trial? Is that another factor to consider? The ghosts of fundamentalism is still dogging modern evangelicalism. And it just can not be shaken? Evangelicals will always be hostile to science? Trinity could have shown to the world that you can believe in God and also follow science. And while they encourage people to get vaccinated on their own, they will not take the same steps that the University of Chicago, University of Illinois system or countless other colleges and universities in Illinois have taken. In the view of this blog Trinity’s behavior is reprehensible and falls far short. Instead of celebrating having normal classes this fall, Nicholas Perrin should go in his office and weep. In not requiring COVID-19 vaccination the President of Trinity failed to show a good witness for Jesus. He failed to care for those in the surrounding communities in Northern Illinois. He failed to be a force multiplier and instead showed poor leadership. This blog is asking for any students, faculty or staff to come forward and share stories about COVID infection, outbreaks or other issues related to this matter.