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Judge Says Constitution Doesn’t Exempt Religious from Vaccinations

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.

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613 comments

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9:51AM PDT on Jul 11, 2014

On a more serious note, I've just spotted the following from Darlene ..........
7:41AM PDT on Jul 11, 2014 .......... "Teresa: You have been on this thread as long as I have. What I can't stand to see is the pro-vaxers being rude and trying to discredit anyone who has real issues and concerns about this very important topic about the effectiveness and safety issues of vaccines and the push to make vaccines mandatory despite the safety and effectiveness issues." ..............
If you had been concentrating Darlene, (and doing a little less skipping from thread to thread) you would have noticed that you are posting on .....
"judge-says-constitution-doesnt-exempt-religious-from-vaccinations."
which has absolutely NOTHING to do with your comment !!! Try again !!

9:46AM PDT on Jul 11, 2014

Thos stopped being a discusssion 2 months ago Darlene. You are NOT discussing…..you are propagandizing for wholisitic medicine. Stating something over and over 1000 times is NOT a discussion……its propaganda.

Stating it 1000 times doesnt make it any more important.

9:41AM PDT on Jul 11, 2014

We are giving the worried people FACTS rthat they simply REFUSE to accept. MUch like yourself. I ddont care what delusuons you wish to suffer under. Being CONCERNED doesnt make you RIGHT and doesnt mean you CONCERNS are VALID.

You can be appaled as much as you like.

9:36AM PDT on Jul 11, 2014

7:33AM PDT on Jul 11, 2014 .........
"Pamela et al.: Vaccines is not the only way to prevent some infectious diseases especially the flu. Diet, exercise, lifestyle choices all contribute to whether you will catch the flu and if you do how you will recover." ......(Darlene) .........
You'll never give up, repeating yourself, will you ? A few things were actually missing in that list as effective against INFECTIOUS diseases. Others would be to quarantine yourself permanently (at home), only eat what you have raised or grown yourself (without GMOs, herbicides or pesticides obviously) ...etc... but there isn't enough space here to list them all, so I'll just skip to the most important - STOP BREATHING !!!


7:43AM PDT on Jul 11, 2014

Darlene, "there are issues with the newer vaccines, required vaccine schedules and that other options are not given".

Other options are given, most of the Moms I know have used some combination of selection and separation, titer tests and delay, as well as supplementing. Middle ground.

7:41AM PDT on Jul 11, 2014

Teresa: You have been on this thread as long as I have. What I can't stand to see is the pro-vaxers being rude and trying to discredit anyone who has real issues and concerns about this very important topic about the effectiveness and safety issues of vaccines and the push to make vaccines mandatory despite the safety and effectiveness issues. We have to find a way to move forward and discuss these problems with respect. I am appalled at the way that pro-vaxers carry on mocking, ridiculing and dismissing any concerns that people have about vaccinations. How are we going to solve these problems like this? I have my own work to do but when I continue to see that people that have concerns about vaccines are hounded by the same people I have to speak up and say something. Start being respectful and I will comment less. As well PR pieces that don't tell people the WHOLE story about the risks of vaccines is troublesome - a problem cannot be solved without ALL the facts, good, bad and ugly.

7:34AM PDT on Jul 11, 2014

WE have to respectfully look for solutions. Using essential oils, watching your diet, getting enough Vitamin A, D and C can go a long way to protecting people from catching infectious diseases and recovering fully if they do catch an infectious disease which is still very possible as the newer vaccines are not that effective. There are effectiveness issues with the MMR and flu vaccines so it is very important to have knowledge of alternative ways to protect yourself and your family from infectious diseases. It is fool hardy to rely solely on vaccines to protect you.

7:33AM PDT on Jul 11, 2014

Pamela et al.: Vaccines is not the only way to prevent some infectious diseases especially the flu. Diet, exercise, lifestyle choices all contribute to whether you will catch the flu and if you do how you will recover. Small pox was a successful vaccine and small pox was eradicated by hygiene, isolation/quarantine and ring vaccination."Ring vaccination was used to control smallpox until the last naturally occurring case in 1977. When an infection was diagnosed, all people who were or may have been exposed were identified and vaccinated. Then, a second "ring" of people who may have been exposed to the first ring were also identified and vaccinated." All these things are important when it comes to infectious diseases. If you don't have to take a vaccine and avoid the adverse risks of the vaccine that is a good choice. Nobody is arguing with small pox vaccines - there are issues with the newer vaccines, required vaccine schedules and that other options are not given. There still has to be more research into natural immunity vs vaccine induced immunity. This is a discussion - there are concerns - people are suffering from serious adverse reactions to vaccines. WE have to respectfully look for solutions. Using essential oils, watching your diet, getting enough Vitamin A, D and C can go a long way to protecting people from catching infectious diseases and recovering fully if they do catch an infectious disease which is still very possible as the newer vaccines are not that effecti

2:54AM PDT on Jul 11, 2014

Darlene, you babbled, "Kevin: Do you honestly think that the European sources of documentation about the First NAtions people were unbiased? Or that what happened can all be explained because the First NAtions did not have domesticated animals? No wonder you take vaccines no questions asked ".............first of all, WHAT ON EARTH does what Europeans thought about "First Nations" people being biased (or not) have to do with the subject, and secondly, WHEN did Kevin ever say that he promoted the use of vaccines with "no questions asked"? Now, please answer the questions. You've steadfastly avoided answering any questions for 3 months now...........digressed, changed the topic, answered a question with another unrelated question, blah, blah, blah.

2:19AM PDT on Jul 11, 2014

Good grief, here it is already the 2nd week in July and Darlene is STILL arguing about history and where smallpox may or may not have originated, and whether a book is factual or not that has NOTHING to do with the subject of this article. Bottom line is that it doesn't matter WHERE smallpox originated or where measles originated but WHAT TO DO TO STOP THEM. Washing your walls with Lysol is not going to keep you from contracting polio or measles, Darlene! Drinking a gallon of some herbal concoction is not going to protect you from whooping cough nor is slathering lavendar oil all over yourself.

Here's a question for you, Darlene. Is stupidity a contagious disease? If so, what would YOU, personally do to prevent contracting it..............wait, think carefully, because whatever you might advise, most here would suggest it was ineffective or not done "in time" for you.

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Kathleen J. Kathleen is currently the Activism Coordinator at Care2. more
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