Court upholds policy denying religious exemption to vaccines

us exemption to vaccinesCourt upholds policy denying religious exemption to vaccines 2014/06/24 by Dorit Rubinstein Reiss Dorit Rubinstein Reiss47 Comments460Shares4421611      4 VotesLast week the Federal District Court of the Eastern District of New York rejected a claim brought by three plaintiff families against various aspects of New York’s school immunization requirements. The decision did not include any legal innovation: it was completely based on well-established precedent that schools can deny a religious exemption to vaccines. But it offers a chance to reflect on what that precedent is, why it is in place, and what it means for us.The take-home point? Our immunization jurisprudence gives states substantial leeway to protect the public health via vaccination requirements, specifically, in this context, by allowing states to decide whether, and under what conditions, to exempt students from school immunization requirements. But states have to actually use that power to achieve anything. By leaving the floor to the passionate, if passionately wrong, anti-vaccine minority, we are allowing them to undermine the right of the rest of us to be free from preventable diseases.In other words, those who vaccinate need to speak up and make it clear to their elected representatives that they want state law to protect their children – and the community – against outbreaks of preventable diseases. The laws will not enact themselves, and our representatives need to know the public wants this protection, that the public does not want high rates of measles cases or other diseases.Just like the diseases, anti-vaccine legislative successes are preventable. And just like the diseases, doing nothing won’t prevent them. Phillips v. City of New York On June 4, 2014 Judge William F. Kuntz, II granted a motion to dismiss in the case of Phillips v. City of New York. The case actually included three cases, of different types. Two of the cases included children who were unvaccinated since their parents were granted religious exemptions. Their parents were challenging the fact that these unvaccinated children were required, under the statute, to stay home when cases of vaccine preventable diseases arose. The third case, brought by Dina Check on behalf of her daughter, Mary, challenged the denial of a religious exemption to Dina. A lower court found that Check’s reasons for not vaccinating were not, in fact, religious. Dina Check’s explanation of the religious aspects of her decision was:I am requesting this religious exemption because it is my strong belief that all vaccines are made with toxic chemicals that are injected into the bloodstream by vaccination. According to the FDA all vaccines are made with foreign proteins (viruses & bacteria’s), and some vaccines are even made with genetically engineered viral and bacterial materials…. I believe that man is made in God’s image and the injection of toxic chemicals and foreign proteins into the bloodstream is a violation of God’s directive to keep the body, (which is to be treated as a temple), holy and free from impurities…. (Check ex rel. MC v. New York City Dept. of Educ. E.D. N.Y., 2013. Slip Copy, 2013 WL 2181045.)(This case was originally discussed in a prior article.)Unsurprisingly, the court did not find this explanation to be particularly grounded in religious reasons.That, however, was not the basis of the court’s decision. All three plaintiffs were attacking the exclusion of their children from school for lack of vaccination. Their main claims were:Excluding children not vaccinated for religious reasons violates the First Amendment.Excluding unvaccinated children violates their or their parents’ substantive due process rights as protected by the Fourteenth Amendment.Excluding unvaccinated children violates their right to equal protection, also protected by the Fourteenth Amendment.As to the First Amendment claim, the court pointed out that the case of Jacobson v. Massachusetts, 197 U.S. 11, 35-39 (1905) “strongly suggested that religious objectors are not constitutionally exempt from vaccination”, and that New York courts have followed that lead. Indeed: no court in the United States – state or federal – has ever found that a religious exemption is required.A substantive due process claim is a claim that in some circumstances, a state simply cannot take away the right to – in this case – liberty, because the liberty in question is too fundamental. Substantive due process has fallen into some disrepute since the New Deal, and is now used only rarely and for cases that are not related here. The court here found that Jacobson defeats such a claim, saying that “New York’s vaccine program is well within the state’s police power and thus its constitutionality is too well established to require discussion.”The court also found that there is no evidence of discrimination, since there is no evidence of preferring one religion over another or that the plaintiffs are of a protec

Source: Court upholds policy denying religious exemption to vaccines


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