Better late than never doesn’t cut it for the callous selective disregard Democrat Gov. John Bel Edwards has displayed regarding the safety of Louisiana members of the clergy.
Two waves into vaccination for the Wuhan coronavirus, and Louisiana clergy (unless they meet another criterion already approved for reception) still don’t qualify under Edwards’ edict. He has lined them up for the next round of availability. (Not that he’s alone; about half of all states didn’t make clergy a priority.)
Edwards says he follows federal government guidelines in choosing the ordering of recipients, which also plays into the recommendations made to him by a secretive Vaccine Action Collaborative. He consistently has claimed reliance on such guidelines to form his restrictions on commercial and public behavior as a response to the pandemic, even as less restrictive policies have proven as or more effective in other states while not damaging the economy as severely.
Yet that guidance specifically included clergy, and makes sense – particularly as a Catholic, the faith that Edwards observes. For example, Catholic priests may perform a sacrament that anoints the sick, which obviously would include those suffering from the virus. This delay by Edwards needlessly forces priests to choose between performing their sacred duties and elevating their risk of infection.
Reviewing the Edwards criteria for reception, several categories already eligible appear congruent in terms of risk with clergy, if not less at risk. Care workers and interpreters probably face as much risk, and surely some election personnel and state political leaders (including Edwards) don’t encounter as much. (And what’s up with the state’s official pronouncement that currently eligible are “pregnant persons”? Last anybody checked, it’s possible only for biological females to become pregnant.)
A question that deserves asking of Edwards is why he ignored federal government advice on this one issue and chose to privilege certain categories at the expense of clergy. (The Louisiana media has shown incuriosity about this; at least at his news conference this week they quizzed Edwards on how the Archdiocese of New Orleans declaration that the Johnson & Johnson variety was “morally compromised” would affect distribution.) Even as it might cut down on the chances of catching the virus, don’t hold your breath in the hopes of receiving an answer.