Judge Says Constitution Doesn’t Exempt Religious from Vaccinations

Immunization rates among school-aged children have dropped significantly in the last two decades. The decline is directly attributable to the misguided fears about the safety of vaccinations, a belief started by thoroughly debunked research which linked vaccines to the rise in autism. Schools have always required children to be up to date on their vaccinations when enrolling. Exemptions are allowed for those with documented medical reasons, as well as religious beliefs. While these exemptions are still rare, the increase in religious (and in some states personal belief) exemptions have led to a precipitous decline in vaccinated children.

It has also led to a public health crisis of major outbreaks of vaccine preventable diseases.

The New York City Department of Education has one of the strictest exemptions policies in the nation. While it does allow for medical and religious opt-outs, both require specific documentation. In the case of religious exemptions, parents are required to give a detailed explanation, including the specific religious principles which support their objection to vaccinations. Even if approved, the granting of these exemptions comes with a caveat. If there is a case of a child contracting a vaccine preventable disease, all non-vaccinated children are prevented from attending school until it is determined the threat of exposure has been eliminated. This can mean a student can be kept out of school for up to a month at a time.

This policy is credited for reducing the spread of the recent measles in one community during an outbreak that occurred from February through April of this year.

During that time, 25 people contracted the disease, including two children. One of the children was home schooled. The child’s sibling, who attended public school and had a religious exemption, was prevented by city health officials from going to school. The second child also contracted measles. By keeping the second child away from school, the disease was prevented from spreading in the community.

Three families decided to challenge the New York City law when their children were required to remain home. Two of the families, whose children had to remain home during a chicken pox outbreak, claimed the policy violated their First Amendment rights to religious expression, as well as their Fourteenth Amendment rights to equal protection. A third parent sued after her medical and religious exemptions were rejected. She believed that vaccinations “intoxicated” her child as an infant and that her trust in the Lord would protect her 7-year-old daughter from the disease and pestilence that was propagated by the devil.

This week, a Brooklyn federal judge upheld the policy.

In his ruling, District Judge William Kuntz stated that no constitutional rights were violated by requiring the students to remain home from school. He based his ruling on two cases, including a more than century-old Supreme Court ruling that gave the state broad power when it comes to public health matters. In that case, a man refused a vaccination for small pox and was fined $5 in 1905.

The judge also went further to suggest that the granting of religious exemptions went beyond what is required by the First Amendment. He noted a more recent case, also from the Brooklyn federal court, which held that “the free exercise clause of the First Amendment does not provide a right for religious objectors to be exempt from New York’s compulsory inoculation law.” His ruling did not say that the plaintiffs were required to vaccinate their child, however, just that the city was within their rights to enforce the policy.

The policy does not prevent the plaintiffs from exercising their religion, nor does it favor one religion over another. However, the state has a duty to protect the public’s health, and preventing non-vaccinated children from attending school when there is a risk of exposure is within the state’s jurisdiction. While the vaccination policy covers both public and private schools, private schools have greater latitude in how they grant exemptions and handle non-vaccinated children.

The mother of the 7-year-old eventually put her daughter in a private school.

The ruling is seen as a blow to the anti-vaccination movement. While New York does not allow for “personal belief” exemptions, states that do are considering reexamining such policies due to the numerous outbreaks of vaccine-preventable diseases over the past several years. The attorney for the plaintiffs has said they would appeal the ruling and have asked for a rehearing in the Brooklyn court.


Jim Ven
Jim Ven8 months ago

thanks for the article.

Jim Ven
Jim Ven8 months ago

thanks for the article.

Dennis D.
Dennis D2 years ago

Darlene B. For the umpteenth time there is no credible study. That has ever found a connection between autism and vaccines. That is your fear mongering and snake oil. It is deceitful and deplorable.

Jonathan Harper
Jonathan Harper2 years ago


Joseph Glackin
Joseph Glackin2 years ago

Mary B.--

The sad thing is the article she cites is from 2002, and is far more equivocal than she pretends.

Mary B.
Mary B2 years ago

Joseph G......Darlene is Canadian and our childhood immunizations are the same since 2001. I have told her this MANY times and then she refers to the flu vaccine that does have a miniscule amount of thimerosal in it.....Then I have told her that the flu vaccine is a choice made by adults or parents of children to have......and then we start again......months and thousands of posts and multiple threads...

Joseph Glackin
Joseph Glackin2 years ago


I wish you would READ the responses your comments draw:

"Since 2001, no new vaccine licensed by FDA for use in children has contained thimerosal as a preservative and all vaccines routinely recommended by CDC for children under six years of age have been thimerosal-free."

That is from the Center for Disease Control, as is:

"Unfortunately, we have not seen reductions in the numbers of children identified with autism indicating that the cause of autism is not related to a single exposure such as thimerosal."

So, the "villain" was removed 13 years ago, but the occurrence of autism has increased.

Once again your theory is debunked by reality. You should find a source later than 2002.

Darlene Buckingham

A study published by the journal Lab Medicine determined that vaccinations may be one of the triggers for autism. Researchers discovered that substantial data demonstrates immune abnormality in many autistic children consistent with impaired resistance to infection, activation of inflammatory responses and autoimmunity. Impaired resistance may predispose to vaccine injury in autism.
QUOTEGiven current available data, thimerosal would stand not a chance of approval as a new injectable medication by modern standards, and because thimerosal alternatives exist for all the scheduled childhood vaccines, we call for its summary removal and safe disposal from every repository in this country. We also encourage an intensive effort to find economical thimerosal-free childhood vaccines for the rest of the world.

Joseph Glackin
Joseph Glackin2 years ago

(cont'd)"...Unfortunately, we have not seen reductions in the numbers of children identified with autism indicating that the cause of autism is not related to a single exposure such as thimerosal."

By your "science", there should be no autism in children under 12. Unfortunately, that is not the case.
You are entitled to not get vaccinations. The public is entitled to be protected from potential disease carriers. You have made your choice, accept the consequences.

Joseph Glackin
Joseph Glackin2 years ago

Darlene B.~~~~~~

I see the solar winds have blown you in from whatever planet, so I brought you some SCIENCE:

"Three leading federal agencies (CDC, FDA, and NIH) have reviewed the published research on thimerosal and found it to be a safe product to use in vaccines. Three independent organizations [The National Academy of Sciences’ Institute of Medicine, Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP), and the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP)] reviewed the published research and also found thimerosal to be a safe product to use in vaccines. The scientific community supports the use of thimerosal in influenza vaccines.

Is thimerosal safe when used as a preservative in vaccines?
CDC places a high priority on vaccine safety, surveillance, and research. CDC is aware that the presence of the preservative thimerosal in vaccines and suggestions of a relationship to autism has raised concerns. These concerns make the decisions surrounding vaccinations confusing and difficult for some people, especially parents. Numerous studies have found no association between thimerosal exposure and autism. Since 2001, no new vaccine licensed by FDA for use in children has contained thimerosal as a preservative and all vaccines routinely recommended by CDC for children under six years of age have been thimerosal-free, or contain only trace amounts, except for some formulations of influenza vaccine. Unfortunately, we have not seen reductions in the numbers of children identi