A Proud Boy rabbi—yes, you read that right—is offering to sign religious exemption forms for people who don’t want to get the COVID-19 vaccination.
He asks viewers to go to a website, fill out a form, and give him a couple days to process the requests. Since announcing his new service a week ago, and advertising it on Proud Boy Telegram channels, Meza claims to have sent about 200 exemption letters, the New Times reported.
“Wow. I’m a Christian and I don’t want their nasty jab. Thank you for this service. I pray we can all avoid the jab,” wrote one commenter on Meza’s video.
Meza said in a YouTube video in October 2020 that he had attended several Proud Boys meetings and was in the process of becoming a full member. “If you agree with what I teach, then join the Proud Boys, OK?” said Meza. He’s also appeared on podcasts with jailed Proud Boy leader Enrique Tarrio.
Meza is best known for organizing mass conversions—and has been raising money via GoFundMe for a trip to India, where he promises to “help hundreds of Indians realize their long-awaited conversion to Judaism.”
According to the New Times, Meza has been accused of charging money for conversions and the vaccine letters, but he denies both counts.
Business is booming in the world of religious exemptions for COVID-19 jabs, as anti-vaxxers scramble to avoid new vaccine mandates. One entrepreneurial pastor in Tulsa, Oklahoma, was offering to sign religious exemptions if people became online members of his church and donated money. TikToker Unicole Unicron, who lately has taken to promoting anti-vax conspiracies, has also been offering to sign religious exemptions to followers.
However, the argument that the vaccine could conflict with religious beliefs is looking, increasingly, on shaky ground, as legal challenges to religious exemptions make their way through the courts. Meanwhile, a small minority of Roman Catholic leaders tried to call the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 shot “morally compromised,” citing false reports that the vaccines contain fetal cells.
Both the Vatican and the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops has said that it is moral and responsible for Catholics to get vaccinated. A group of doctors who are also rabbis have encouraged Jews to get vaccinated.
In an interview with the Jewish News, well-known Rabbi Dr. Shalom Schlagman, based in New York, said that trusting doctors had long been an important part of Jewish life. Schlagman quoted prominent 17th century Rabbi Shabbatai Cohen saying something to that effect. He also quoted from the Torah, to make the argument that those who are in good health have the moral obligation to protect others. “If God has blessed us with good health, do not stand idly by the blood of your fellow,” he said.
Meza did not immediately return a request for comment from VICE News.
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(Disclosure: Gavin McInnes, who founded the Proud Boys in 2016, was a co-founder of VICE in 1994. He left the company in 2008 and has had no involvement since then.)