Friday, October 30, 2015

The PennEast Pipeline, Interstate Commerce, and the Right to Earn a Living

This is the second of my responses to two correspondents who replied to my comments on the article about the PennEast company’s proposed natural gas pipeline by Lehigh Valley Live’s John Sievers, which was the subject of my 10/28/15 post.

outdoor_places wrote:

“PennEast has not made a convincing argument that our region needs the gas that they will be bringing. It is likely for export. . .

“Where will much of this gas go?  I believe to markets outside NJ and PA and eventually for export.”

Fortunately, under our constitution, the federal government has the power to ensure the relatively free flow of commerce across state lines. But imagine if every local community can stop commerce at will, on any whim or parochial “interest.”

Everyone benefits from commerce passing through other communities, whether that commerce takes the form of trucks, trains, pipelines, power lines, or whatever. People along the proposed path of the PennEast pipeline wouldn’t have electrification, gasoline, food, or myriad other products that fill the shelves of local stores—or even natgas—if not for commerce that passes through countless other communities and states, or come from other countries. If every community had the power to halt commerce through their communities based only on “There’s nothing in it for me”, it would be NIMBYism run amok. We’d collapse back into pre-industrial poverty.

No one would be able to earn a living. It makes no difference where PennEast’s gas is marketed. National security aside, they have the right to sell to willing consumers wherever they may reside. Hopefully, PennEast’s pipeline will finally give me access to natgas, which I don’t now enjoy. But if not, so be it. Those of us living near pipelines have the right to be secure and safe on our property, but otherwise have an obligation to respect others rights to work and trade with each other, whether within a community or across the world.

Related Reading:

PennEast Pipeline’s ‘Economic Impact Statement’ Understates Benefits of its Pipeline

Thursday, October 29, 2015

The ‘National Interest’ and the ‘Need’ for the PennEast Pipeline

Here is the first of my responses to two correspondents who replied to my comments on the article about the PennEast company’s proposed natural gas pipeline by Lehigh Valley Live’s John Sievers, which was the subject of my last post.

I think these correspondents highlight some valid concerns. But I addressed two I believe offer no justifiable validity for stopping the pipeline.

First, readseneca wrote:

“PennEast has failed to demonstrate that there is a need. The application calls for demonstrating a ‘public interest’ for the project. They have not done this.”

Of course they haven’t. That would be impossible, since the term “public interest” is undefinable. The “public interest” is a cognitively useless term, and it is a travesty that it is part of the approval process. There can’t be a public interest, because “public” is not an entity. It is a floating abstraction. When you try to concretize “public,” the only observable entities that come into focus are individuals, each with his own interests—and needs. When you invoke the “public interest,” you’re asserting that your interests take precedence over other individuals’ interests. “Public interest” doctrine turns everyone against everyone else, each declaring “the public, c’est moi,” leaving no fair and objective basis for settling disputes. This is why I said “maybe nothing PennEast’s representatives say will satisfy opponents.” The fact that PennEast has customers lined up proves that the gas is needed. But that fact won’t sway irrational opponents. Why? Because “public interest” provides the rationalization to declare that PennEast’s future customers are not part of the public—and thus reject out-of-hand anything PennEast says. Invoking the “public interest” is an easy out for anyone looking to make an end run around rational discussion and run roughshod over others, by virtue of the fact that the term in undefinable—exactly what opponents are doing, in my observation.

What right do pipeline opponents have to declare, “the public, c’est moi?” No one has a right to arbitrarily dictate what other consumers need or don’t need. There is only one objective mechanism for determining the “need” for any product or service—the market; i.e., the voluntary choices of consumers. Since PennEast projects a demand for its natural gas, it has the right to invest and build to meet that demand. What right does anyone have to deny any consumer the opportunity to buy the energy from the pipeline that, by that consumer’s own judgement, she needs?

“‘We’ don’t need it because I don’t need it” is not an answer. You say “There is nothing irrational about people's resistance to this line.” But “If NYC were having power outages, it might be a different story” is just such irrationality. Denying others the energy they need until after their lights go out, with the immense disruption to their lives that implies—at which point you “might” reconsider—is not only irrational but cruel.  

Related Reading:

No More Energy Pyramids

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Inane Comments Cost PennEast’s Critics Their Credibility

There is a lot of opposition to the PennEast company’s proposed natural gas pipeline through Pennsylvania and New Jersey, much of it irrational. For example, a Lehigh Valley Live article on the pipeline by John Sievers contained the following:

Residents both directly and indirectly affected by the route of PennEast's proposed 36-inch natural gas pipeline say they continue to be frustrated with the company's responses to their questions and concerns.

"I am appalled at what PennEast is attempting to do to our beautiful area in the name of greed and profit," Hunterdon County resident Elizabeth Balogh said. "The public resistance is growing every day. ... They have millions to spend on a project to take our land and destroy our resources so that they can export this gas. All we have is our homes, and for now, clean water."

The pipeline company held a series of invitation-only meetings last month with landowners along the proposed route.

I left these comments:

How can anyone take PennEast’s critics seriously after inane comments like Elizabeth Balogh’s?

“Greed and profit” are the motivation and reward for people to work and earn a living by producing and delivering an economic value that consumers want and need and are willing to buy; in PennEast’s case, the energy human lives and flourishing depend upon. If that’s bad, then so is the desire to live.

From the standpoint of human life and well-being as the standard of value, pipelines don’t destroy. They are a life-enhancing value, and they are everywhere. There are 2 Transco natgas pipelines within a mile of my house in Readington and a 3rd currently under construction. These pipelines, which cross the Delaware from Pennsylvania, coexist safely and innocuously with hundreds of surrounding homes, farms, and streams. And these pipelines are a small part of a vast network. There are currently 190,000 miles of liquid petroleum pipelines and 2.4 million miles of natural gas pipelines in America. Destructive? Give me a break. Where would we be without them? Clean water? You wouldn’t even have access to clean, safe water so conveniently available at the twist of a knob in your home without the pipelines that deliver the energy that run our water purification and delivery systems. Go down the list of modern conveniences and necessities you enjoy—from sanitary waste disposal to transportation to heating and cooling systems to plentiful food and great healthcare—and you will find that it all depends on pipeline-delivered energy. Thank you, greed and profit!

This is what PennEast is seeking to do for people. Profits earned in this manner are morally noble. The “greed” that motivates the pipeline producers is morally noble. Perhaps there are legitimate complaints about PennEast’s presentation and response to questions. Undoubtedly, there are legitimate concerns about the pipeline construction (I could name one; eminent domain). On the other hand, maybe nothing PennEast’s representatives say will satisfy opponents, who often seem more motivated by irrational bias against the pipeline and fossil fuels generally than balanced judgement.

I am certain of one thing. PennEast doesn’t deserve these kinds of smear tactics, especially from NIMBY hypocrites who enjoy the energy benefits of pipelines passing through thousands of other communities while trying to deny PennEast’s future consumers the benefits of this one pipeline. Inane comments like the above costs critics their credibility.


I will address a couple of replies to my comments in the next couple of posts.

Related Reading:

Are Pipelines a Threat to Water?

Monday, October 26, 2015

Social Security vs. Robin Hood

Robin Hood is often invoked by statists to defend forced income redistribution. For example, in a New Jersey Star-Ledger letter titled  Christie's reverse-Robin Hood act continues on Social Security, the correspondent wrote, in part,

Gov. Chris Christie's so-called reform of Social Security and Medicare is less a rescue of the systems than a strong message to his well-heeled supporters that he will sacrifice the health of retired people and senior citizens throughout the country before he asks any of his supporters to open their own wallets. His grand plan is to destroy the benefits of the people who need it the most - elderly people of retirement age. His attempt at "balancing" the pain by denying Social Security benefits to people earning over $200,000 per year is laughable – of course they don't need it. And that's exactly why a more rational – and fair – way to eliminate the Social Security and Medicare crises once and for all is to simply eliminate the income cap on Social Security and Medicare payroll deductions.

But he will never do the right thing. . . . Christie continues his reverse-Robin Hood act: take from the poor and give it to the rich.

But that is an injustice to the real Robin Hood. “Take from the rich to give to the poor” is certainly altruistic. But Robin Hood was not an altruist, sacrificing some for the unearned benefit of others. Robin Hood was about property rights and justice, not simply robbing someone with more simply because he has more, and giving it to someone who needs it, simply because he needs it.

I left this comment:

Social Security benefits are already skewed toward the lower end of the income scale. That’s immoral enough, as it is coercively redistributionist. But at least under current law, benefits are somewhat linked to “contributions” (taxes paid in). Eliminating the income cap on payroll taxes without a corresponding increase in benefits for those saddled with higher taxes would completely sever that link. Since Social Security was designed for the sake of the irresponsible, eliminating the income cap would further punish people responsible enough to prepare for their own retirement, for the sake of people who were not responsible enough to properly supplement their Social Security retirement income. This is not “fair.” It’s a complete perversion of the concept of fairness.

The nobility of Robin Hood has been hijacked and inverted by the redistributionist gangsters. According to legend, Robin Hood did not simplistically "rob the rich to give to the poor." He took back from thieves and returned the stolen property to its rightful owners. Eliminating the cap would do the opposite: It would rob money from its rightful owners—those who earned it—and hand the loot to those who didn’t earn it, based only on their “need.” This is morally inverted, and Linda Jadach and her ilk are the real reverse-Robin Hoods.


For the record, I don’t like Christie’s plan for cutting off people with $200,000 in income from their promised benefits, also known as means testing. Short of phasing out Social Security altogether, I prefer a “Personal Account” Path to Ending Social Security.

Notice also the false choice embodied in the correspondent’s letter; taking from the rich to give to the poor, rather than the other way around. But it’s not either-or. The only just solution is to end the practice of government taking from anyone to give to someone else. Government’s only proper function is to protect equally everyone’s right to their own property, not to satisfy some people’s needs at the expense of others.

Related Reading:

Saturday, October 24, 2015

A ‘Minority Majority?’

The widespread fixation with group identity in American culture reached a new level of absurdity with an article published in the New Jersey Star-Ledger titled, Millennials: N.J.'s first generation without a white majority. Stephen Stirling of NJ Advance Media for reports:

Minority young adults make up the majority of their age group in New Jersey, Census data shows, the first time in state history a generation has not been represented by a white majority.

An analysis of recent data from the American Community Survey shows that minority groups make up 50.73% of 18 to 34 year-olds, marking a momentous shift that is all but certain to carry over to the entire state in the near future. A recent study said this will likely occur by 2030.   

The shift in the age group, which essentially makes up the oft-discussed Millennial generation, is one of many expected to change the face of New Jersey as they slowly eclipse the Baby Boomers and become the leading economic engine of the state.

While the state has long been a portal for new immigrants from a vast array of races and ethnicities, a white majority has been firmly in place for virtually the entirety of the states' [sic] history. New Jersey is one of just 10 states in the country where a minority majority exists among Millennials after growing by more than 112 percent since 1980. [My emphasis]

I could have let it go. But I just couldn’t, because the fixation with group identity threatens our individual liberty. I left these comments:

A 50.73% “minority majority”? That belongs right up there with “War is Peace, Freedom is Slavery, and Ignorance is Strength” in the doublethink category. How can the editors let this get through? Somebody’s not doing their job. Or has language deteriorated to the point where words and concepts are infinitely malleable?

Simple math will tell you that if minorities make up a majority, then minorities make up 100% of the population. Of course, the whole idea of a white majority is nothing more that an arbitrary construct. “White” can just as easily be subdivided into a multitude of minorities (German, French, Italian, and so on).

That said, the whole idea of defining the population as a collection of groups, or defining each generation as “represented” by its racial majority, is rather sickening. It’s time to rid our culture of the insidious poison of collectivism. Collectivism is the tool of the ignorant, breeding irrational prejudice, discrimination, hostility, bigotry, and legal injustice.

Now that we are all statistically part of a minority group—or soon will be—perhaps we can finally get beyond collectivism, and rise up to the enlightened level of judging people as individuals, rather than categorizing everyone according to some racial (or other) group identity. After all, a group is merely a collection of individuals, not a collective entity separate and apart from individuals. And the fact is, the individual is and always has been the only true minority, because the individual is the only human entity that exists. Only the individual breathes, digests, thinks, feels, judges, values, and acts. Each of us is a minority of One. “Content of their character,” anyone?

Related Reading:

After Charleston, We Need a Dialogue on Individualism

Thursday, October 22, 2015

A ‘Liberal’ Makes the Case for a Flat Tax—Sort Of

That’s the title of a New Jersey Star-Ledger editorial earlier this year. The Star-Ledger is a “liberal”—i.e., Left-leaning—newspaper. It wouldn’t be the sort of place you’d find an argument for a simple flat income tax. And although the Star-Ledger didn’t actually call for a flat tax, that, in effect, is what it did in its complaint about our “underfunded” Internal Revenue Service.

The Star-Ledger complains about the agency’s incompetence, including of its chairwoman Lois Lerner, its terrible “customer” service, and the “laughable bureaucracy” that “harassed political groups, . . . overspent on conferences, and . . . never updated their 1970s technology when times were flush.” Worst of all, in the Star-Ledger’s view, is that lack of operating funds might result in under-taxing Americans:

The IRS, however, is responsible for collecting the revenue, and now that it has been neutered, there's a risk that some of the $3 trillion they expected to collect this year might go unaccounted for. Right now, the tax gap is roughly $385 billion, and it's likely to grow in direct disproportion to the agency contracting. Your government at work, though not really.

All of this could be fixed, according to the Star-Ledger, if only Congress would increase the IRS’s budget well above its current $11 billion price tag.

That’s not what I got out of this editorial’s litany of IRS incompetence and abuse.

I left these comments:

I’m going to save this editorial. It’s a convincing argument for a simple flat tax.

Steve Forbes laid out a nice plan in his book "Flat Tax Revolution." In brief, there would be one rate of 17% with no deductions after a single generous personal exemption for every taxpayer and every dependent. In Forbes’s plan, the hypothetical "family of 4" would pay no income tax on about the first $46,000 of income, and then 17% on every additional dollar of income. Some simple calculations reveal that a family of four with annual earnings of . . .

  • $50,000 would pay $680.00 on an effective tax rate of 1.4%
  • $100,000 would pay $9180.00 or 9.2%
  • $150,000 would pay $17,680 or 11.8%
  • $300,000 would pay $43,180 or 14.4%
  • $1,000,000 would pay $162,180 or 16.2%.

In other words, the millionaire pays 238 times as much as the lower income family in dollar terms, and 11 times as much in percentage terms.

We could debate the rate and the size of the personal exemption. Personally, I think 17% is too high. And the new tax structure should be revenue neutral, not an excuse to sneak in a tax increase (which should be greatly reduced, along with spending).

But there’s no doubt about what a flat tax would accomplish:

  • It's progressive; the more you make the more you pay in both dollar and percentage terms.
  • It's fair; every dollar of taxable income is treated the same--i.e., no income discrimination.
  • It's pro-growth; economic success is not penalized by higher rates.
  • It would reduce both the incentive and opportunity to cheat on taxes.
  • We could eliminate the IRS as we know it, saving billions in government spending and tens of billions in private citizens’ tax preparation fees.

We could, in short, take a bad institution—the income tax—and make it a lot less bad. Who could have a problem with that?

One more thing. I wouldn’t call using tax authority to harass political groups “laughable.” Such harassment is a fundamental threat to a free society. There’s nothing laughable about that.


Read the Star-Ledger editorial yourself. You, too, might get the sense, not that more funding is needed, but that, “Hey, why save this hideous institution at all?”

Related Reading:

In N.J., a Flat Tax, Not a “Millionaires Tax,” is the Fairer Solution

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Freedom, not Laws, is the Answer to Defeating Bigotry

Last spring’s controversy over Indiana’s Religious Freedom Restoration Act , which was intended to protect Christian businessmen’s right to act on their religious convictions but was widely seen as a legalization of discrimination against gay couples, raised important questions about what kind of country our Founding Fathers tried to create. This is illustrated in an editorial in the New Jersey Star-Ledger titled If Indiana's law isn't bigoted, prove it.

In the editorial, the Star-Ledger calls on the Indiana legislature to prove their intent was not to “provide cover for businesses that refuse [gays] service, emboldening the bigots” by codifying anti-discrimination against gays in law. “Until Indiana passes a statewide anti-discrimination law, 'religious freedom' will mean the freedom to discriminate,” the Star-Ledger urges.

As I have said before, a proper understanding of individual rights eliminates the conflict between religious freedom and gay marriage freedom. On this point, the Star-Ledger’s conclusion, which reached back to the Founding era in defense of its position, got my attention:

In the 1960s, fast food owner Maurice Bessinger refused to serve black people at his BBQ restaurant in South Carolina, arguing that requiring him to do so violated his religious belief in segregation. The U.S. Supreme Court found his argument frivolous, and ruled against him in the late 1960s.

Refusing to serve gays on religious grounds is just as indefensible. James Madison, the "father of our Constitution" and champion of the Bill of Rights, put it best back in 1789: "The civil rights of none shall be abridged on account of religious belief or worship."

This begs the question: Is there a civil right to force a private merchant to serve a consumer against his religious convictions?

I left these comments:

“James Madison, the ‘father of our Constitution’ and champion of the Bill of Rights, put it best back in 1789: ‘The civil rights of none shall be abridged on account of religious belief or worship.’”

The very first of the Bill of Rights, the First Amendment, recognizes freedom of association as an inalienable right. The right to freedom of contract is a fundamental and logical extension of the right to freedom of association. So did Madison mean that one person has the right to force a contract upon another? I think not. Madison did not intend for the government to become a morality dictator. In fact, people—in their private lives, even as businessmen—do have “a right to discriminate,” even on the basis of ignorance and bigotry. A pizza store’s refusal to cater a gay wedding, though morally disgusting, does not violate the gay couple’s civil or individual rights.

There’s no question that the impetus behind religious freedom restoration laws is to allow religionists to get around anti-discrimination laws as they relate to gays. Supporters of religious freedom laws won’t acknowledge the obvious, but the stench of hypocrisy hangs over them. Religions never objected to anti-discrimination laws intended to outlaw discrimination based on race, national origin, gender, or religious affiliation. Only when gays were added to the list of “protected classes” did religious freedom laws arise.

But, that said, if not for anti-discrimination laws targeting the private sector, religious freedom laws wouldn’t be “necessary” in the first place. In fact, anti-discrimination laws protecting “selected classes” from the responsibility to respect others’ rights not to associate with them are the problem. The whole idea of “protected classes” is un-American and violates the principle of equal protection under the law. The government’s proper purpose is not to protect “gay rights” at the expense of “religious rights”—or vice-versa—but to protect individual rights equally and at all times. If equality and freedom mean anything, it means that it is just as wrong for gay people to impose their values on Christian businesses by legally forcing them to serve gay weddings against their owners’ consciences as it is for the government to impose Christians’ standards on gays by legally banning gay marriage.

Anti-gay bigotry, as with all bigotry, is disgusting and ignorant. But laws banning private discrimination is no more the American way than prior laws enforcing segregation were. The proper way in a free society to overcome irrational discrimination is not through law (i.e. force) but through reason and persuasion. Private action under First Amendment principles, such as speaking, writing, boycotting, public protests, etc., is an intellectual power that no coercive power of law can match. The spontaneous national outcry against the Indiana law—and the rush by Indiana (and Arkansas) lawmakers to amend their religious freedom laws in response—proves the point. In the absence of anti-discrimination laws, bigotry could never gain a significant foothold in today’s culture. Public outcry would tamp it down wherever it arose. Discriminating businesses, while free to operate, would be marginalized into insignificance and even bankrupted under withering public condemnation and economic competition. At worst, rejected customers could simply bring their business elsewhere.

To say laws against discrimination are needed to fight discrimination is tantamount to saying that reason is no match for ignorance. Nothing could be further from the truth, and bigotry shouldn’t be granted such exalted status. We shouldn’t allow our revulsion against bigotry to water down and undermine our sacred rights. Freedom of association does not mean “pro-discrimination,” even though some may use that right to irrationally discriminate, any more than freedom of speech means “pro-Nazi,” even though some may use that right to advocate evil ideas. Freedom of association simply means freedom of association, just as freedom of speech simply means freedom of speech. Leave businesses free to discriminate, and let the ones that do take the consequences.


Jeffrey A. Tucker has a great article on this subject for the Foundation for Economic Education titled Gays Need the Freedom to Discriminate. In his article, Tucker makes the case, as I have,  that not only are anti-discrimination laws rights-violating: They are unnecessary for defeating bigotry. But Tucker goes a step further, strengthening the case against anti-discrimination laws by explaining that they hurt the ability to intellectually defeat bigotry by driving bigoted beliefs underground. Gays Need the Freedom to Discriminate is well worth reading.

Related Reading:

'Religious Freedom Restoration' Laws and Tim Cook's Misunderstanding of America's Founding Principles

Sunday, October 18, 2015

On Mandatory Vaccinations, Protect Everyone’s Right to Object, Not Just Religionists’ Rights

New Jersey has long allowed parents to opt their schoolchildren out of mandatory vaccinations for religious reasons. But NJ legislators are moving to restrict that practice.

As Susan K. Livio reports for NJ Advance Media for

Over the tearful objections of parents who accused lawmakers of religious persecution, a state Senate panel voted today to make it harder for school children to skip vaccinations because of religious beliefs.

Since 2008, parents in New Jersey have needed only to submit a letter stating vaccines violate their religion in order for their kids to be exempt, without explaining how or why. Vaccines for nearly 9,000 students in the 2013-14 academic year were waived for religious reasons, compared to 1,641 in the 2005-06 school year.

With the outbreak in January of measles at Disneyland in California still fresh in people's minds, state Sen. Joseph Vitale (D-Middlesex), said he sponsored the legislation because "it is too easy" for parents to cloak their philosophical grounds behind religious beliefs. The Senate Health, Human Services and Senior Citizens Committee, which Vitale chairs, voted 5-2 to pass the bill.

A parent's notarized letter must explain "the nature of the person's religious tenet or practice that is implicated by the vaccination and how the administration of the vaccine would violate, contradict or otherwise be inconsistent with that tenet or practice," according to the bill (S1147). The statement also most [sic] show the tenet "is consistently held by the person," and is not merely "an expression of that person's political, sociological, philosophical or moral views, or concerns related to the safety of efficacy of the vaccination."

I left these comments:

Though the issue is complex, I support, in principle, the state’s right to impose mandatory vaccinations related to certain dangerous communicable diseases. While people have a right to decide what to put or not put into their own bodies, that right ends when one’s refusal to be vaccinated (or refusal to vaccinate one’s child) for other than medically valid reasons endangers the physical safety of others. No one has the right to endanger a child or others whom one may come into public or private contact with. Clearly, there is no right to endanger others. (The same principle applies to all rights: E.G., you have a right to drink alcohol, but not to drink and drive; a right to free speech, but not to start a panic by yelling “fire” in a crowded theater. Etc. Likewise, the First Amendment’s guarantee of the “free exercise” of religion ends when one’s religious exercise violates the rights of others, as when Islamists sexually mutilate young girls.)
That said, I object to laws carving out exemptions based only on religious beliefs. What about people of reason who object based on rational convictions? If we’re going to carve out exemptions, then why shouldn’t reasons based on “political, sociological, philosophical or moral views, or concerns related to the safety of efficacy of the vaccination” count any less than religious reasons?

It doesn’t take a legal or constitutional scholar to understand that a strictly religious exemption violates the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment. The Founders used freedom of religion and freedom of conscience interchangeably. Clearly, freedom of conscience is the broader term, and the Founders sought to protect everyone’s freedom to live by their convictions, whether religious or secular. Religion has no monopoly on such spiritual matters. That’s why the First Amendment protects not only freedom of religion but freedom from religion. By carving out only a religious exemption, the law is in effect sanctioning religious over non-religious beliefs, a clear—albeit back-door—establishment of religious over non-religious beliefs.

The religious exemption also violates the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment. The government should never discriminate for or against any individual or segment of the population in the enforcement of its lawmaking function. Rather, it should protect everyone’s rights equally and at all times. It’s not only a legal and constitutional matter, in my view, but also a matter of fundamental fairness to extend the exemption to all, or to none.



My statement that “I support, in principle, the state’s right to impose mandatory vaccinations” should not be construed to imply that I support mandatory vaccinations for measles or any other disease. I’m not a medical expert, and I have no particular opinion on any particular vaccine. My point is that the government, in its primary role of rights-protector, should have the power to mandate vaccinations for the same reason it should have the power to quarantine infected people rather than release them into the general population—to prevent one person from passing on a demonstrably deadly or crippling disease to unsuspecting others. But as Dave of NJ points out, “you have to prove there truly is a threat” before mandating any vaccine (or quarantine). And such threats can and do arise. Who would be against stopping a repeat of the catastrophic 1918 Flu Pandemic, if a simply vaccine were available?

That clarification aside, my main point of contention is that any right of exemption should apply equally to everyone.  

Related Reading:

Two Views on Religious Exemptions from Anti-Discrimination Laws