Updated 8/26/21 at 2030 – The reason for the lack of clarity had now been made clear. It seems that NYS never intended to allow for religious exemptions in the first place.
On August 16 Governor Cuomo issued a proclamation that all healthcare works in NYS will be mandated to be vaccinated no later than September 27th. With respect to exemptions to this mandate, the statement reads, “…a policy mandating employee vaccinations, with limited exceptions for those with religious or medical reasons.”
On August 23, the University of Rochester published their understanding of the mandate:
UR Medicine leadership participated in a call last week with New York State Department of Health (NYSDOH) representatives to gain a better understanding of the COVID-19 vaccine mandate announced by Governor Andrew Cuomo last Monday. At this time, the Medical Center’s understanding is that the mandate will apply to everyone who works within a licensed health care facility. This means that all faculty, staff, and students who work or study in a patient care facility (inpatient, outpatient, and procedure areas) will be required to receive a first dose of the vaccine by the state’s September 27 deadline; testing is no longer an available option per NYSDOH. It also appears that the state will approve limited criteria for medical or religious exemptions. (emphasis added)
Unlike student exemptions (U of R’s exemption process is here, see below for their exemption form) it appears that it will be the New York State government itself that will be directly handling requests for exemptions. However, the process for such requests is unclear.
One thing we would like to make/keep clear is the official stance of the Catholic Church on this contentious issue. From the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith’s Note on the morality of using some anti-Covid-19 vaccines (promulgated 12/21/2020)
3...It must therefore be considered that, in such a case, all vaccinations recognized as clinically safe and effective can be used in good conscience with the certain knowledge that the use of such vaccines does not constitute formal cooperation with the abortion from which the cells used in production of the vaccines derive. It should be emphasized, however, that the morally licit use of these types of vaccines, in the particular conditions that make it so, does not in itself constitute a legitimation, even indirect, of the practice of abortion, and necessarily assumes the opposition to this practice by those who make use of these vaccines....
5. At the same time, practical reason makes evident that vaccination is not, as a rule, a moral obligation and that, therefore, it must be voluntary.
To be clear, the Finger Lakes Guild fully submits to the prudential judgement of the Church that the currently-available vaccines, while not ideal from a moral standpoint, are acceptable under the circumstances of this pandemic.
At the same time, the Guild also stands by those individuals who, as a matter of conscience, are unable to accept vaccination with any of the currently-available options due to the connection to abortion.
Finally, in accordance with paragraph 5 from the CDF’s Note, we oppose the Governor’s sweeping mandate that effectively makes vaccination non-voluntary for healthcare workers by forcing a choice between either violating their conscience or losing their job.
Please share any thoughts, questions, etc. with us here. We will do our best to stay abreast of this rapidly evolving policy from the Governor.