Not even the fiercest critics of University of Chicago Professor Rachel Fulton Brown could accuse her of shying away from a principled fight. The longtime medievalist’s latest crusade is against UChicago’s requirement that unvaccinated community members submit to regular COVID-19 testing, and she invites students to join her this Friday for the first session of a weekly “Unvaccinated Unite” prayer group.
On July 26, 2022, UChicago announced that, effective September 16, students and school employees who do “not upload proof of receiving two vaccine doses will be required to participate in weekly COVID-19 testing if they are coming to a Chicago-area facility for any reason and at any frequency.” Compulsory testing shall occur at Ryerson Laboratory on weekdays from 9am to 4pm, the university later decreed.
A late 2021 study from The Lancetconcluded “fully vaccinated individuals with breakthrough infections have peak viral load similar to unvaccinated cases and can efficiently transmit infection in household settings.” Meanwhile, “vaccination status is no longer used to inform source control, screening testing, or post-exposure recommendations,” the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s freshly updated recommendations for healthcare workers observe.
Enter Fulton Brown, who worries about the COVID-19 vaccine “trials not having proper control groups.” An NPR piece from February 2021 observes that “many people who had been in the placebo group” for Pfizer and Moderna vaccines “have now opted to take the vaccine.” “[L]osing those control groups makes it more difficult to answer some important questions about COVID-19 vaccines,” NPR paraphrases Dr. Steven Goodman, a clinical trials specialist at Stanford University.
In the absence of proper control groups, the unvaccinated “are volunteering ourselves as the control group for the testing” of the vaccine, Fulton Brown tells the Thinker.
Fulton Brown’s Plan for Action
Throughout autumn quarter, Fulton Brown will oppose UChicago’s testing mandate with a weekly prayer circle on the grass in front of Ryerson. These meetups will begin at noon on Fridays, with the first occurring on September 30.
Fulton Brown is pondering whether to distribute rosaries and fliers, but what is set in stone is her banner. It incorporates an image of the Virgin Mary, who is in the Catholic tradition the mother of Jesus Christ, a model for prayer to the Lord, and someone who champions the humble and scatters the proud “in the conceit of their heart” (Luke 1:46–55):
Fulton Brown’s turn to spiritual warfare corresponds with an article that she sent the Thinker presenting the recent glorification of “the science” as pseudo-religious. “Western medicine has been structured to contain the key components of the previous faiths (e.g. white coats are its priest’s robes, vaccines are its holy waters),” the article notes. It adds that the “attachment to ‘fixing’ someone is incredibly alluring” among doctors, whose mentality is sacramental: “[I]f my patient would only take this mRNA vaccine he could be saved.”
Should you have any questions regarding Fulton Brown’s weekly prayer group, write her at Rfulton@uchicago.edu.
Declan Hurley is the Chicago Thinker’s Publisher and Editor-in-Chief. A rising fourth year at the University of Chicago who is studying Economics and History, Declan is also a small-business owner, the editor of FDL Review, and an active participant in the politics of his home state, North Carolina. He loves to partake in the battle over ideas; and, in his free time, he likes to run, read, and review public-opinion polling.