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Reporting from in and around Illinois.Listen to Statewide on WNIJ Saturdays 6-7 a.m. and Sundays 6-7 p.m.

Statewide: Vaccines and religious exemptions

COVID-19 vaccine mandates have been implemented as a way to increase the number of people getting the shots. However, both the federal and state orders allow those with religious objections to skip the vaccinations. Governments have protected that choice for years.

But during a pandemic, there are concerns some are exploiting a loophole. We examine the history of religious exemptions and efforts to tighten the rules.

We also hear how the return to the classroom hasn't been easy for some young learners. Those stories and more on this week's Statewide.

* Learn how religious exemptions to vaccines became more common, especially in the last half century.

* Christine Herman speaks with a pastor from Champaign-Urbana, who also works as a hospital chaplain. What he's learned from the pandemic and what he tells his congregation.

* Maureen McKinney talks to Chicago attorney Antonio Romanucci, who represents George Floyd's family, about stalled efforts at federal police reform.

* Juanpablo Ramirez-Franco from WNIJ tells how the discovery of a bee has led to a fight over an airport expansion project.

* Advocates are calling for the governor to commute the sentences of some inmates convicted of assaulting prison staff. They argue the inmates suffer from mental illness made worse by prison conditions like solitary confinement.

* Peter Medlin has a story on the state's Global Scholar program.

* Adriana Cardona-Maguigad reports how the return to school has proven difficult for some young students.

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