Morrison has thrown his support behind passports but has stopped short of mandating it from a federal level. Instead, businesses and the state governments will be responsible for implementing a system if they choose to.
The letter titled “The Ezekiel Declaration” has continued to grow in support over the past few days, with over 2,000 church leaders—and more than 14,000 churchgoers—from across the country and different denominations putting their signature to the online letter as of Aug. 31.
The letter, composed by three pastors representing Baptist churches, made five arguments against the introduction of passports.
The first concerned the creation of a two-tiered society, with the letter stating: “Free citizens should have the right of consent, especially when the vaccine rollout has been labelled as a ‘clinical trial.’ Imposing a ‘vaccine passport’ when the nation is already divided on the matter risks the creation of medical apartheid.”
The second claimed that the implementation of vaccine passports would add more pressure to a society already burdened by ongoing lockdowns and suffering from increased mental health issues.
The third was that the human conscience should be free from coercion, while the fourth stated that vaccinations were not foolproof and should not form the basis of a return to normal life, citing a Center for Disease Control and Prevention study that found 74 percent of people infected in the U.S. state of Massachusetts had been fully vaccinated.
The last reason was that vaccine passports would place an expectation on church leaders to possibly refuse entry in future to individuals who were not vaccinated.
In response to the letter, Martyn Iles, managing director of the Australian Christian Lobby, posted on his Facebook, “The vaccine itself is not a major concern of mine, but coercion is a very, very serious misstep.”
Peter Kurti, director of the Culture, Prosperity & Civil Society program at the Centre for Independent Studies, said the likely biggest concern among church leaders was the fifth reason given—that vaccine passports would stop Australians from going to church.
“If places of worship were required to admit only those who had been vaccinated and could prove it with a passport, there might be an issue here. But that lies in the future and—as far as I can see—we have not got to that point yet,” he told The Epoch Times.
However, Kurti noted that Australians overall see vaccination as the way forward away from ongoing health restrictions and lockdowns.
“Many people now accept that the burden of lockdowns is unacceptable and that it can lead to increased alcohol consumption, self-harm, and mental health crises,” he said. “Most people also now accept that vaccination is the most likely way out of lockdowns as we begin to accept the need to ‘live with COVID-19.’”
Kurti said that mandatory vaccinations are also not new for several industries, including travel, hospitality, airlines, and aged care. Several industries and businesses, including Qantas, SPC, and The Travel Corporation, have already made it compulsory for all staff in Australia to be vaccinated.
“Vaccine passports do not amount to a compulsion to get vaccinated, but they may add to the pressure to do so,” he added.
Meanwhile, Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison is standing by the right of business and hospitality venue owners to refuse entry to individuals who cannot prove they have been vaccinated.
The move has been met with criticism, with fellow Liberal Party member, Senator Eric Abetz saying passports were a “blunt instrument” to force people into getting vaccinations or risk being locked out of society.
Vaccinations are the key metric for Australia to move away from relying on frequent lockdowns and ongoing health restrictions.
The National Cabinet—an intergovernmental body involving the prime minister and state and territory leaders—agreed on a four-stage vaccination roadmap in late July.
The country is currently working towards the 70 percent mark— which has been deemed Phase B, or the second stage of the COVID-19 roadmap—which will see stay-at-home orders and restrictions largely removed around the country.
Upon reaching the 80 percent threshold—Phase C—Australia will begin reopening international borders. Lockdowns will need to be “highly targeted” while vaccinated residents will be exempt from domestic restrictions.