The anti-vaccination movement has resulted in a serious health hazard being created for everyone. One simple way to make sure that people vaccinate their children is to require vaccinations for all children attending school. But it turns out that all you have to do is claim that you object to vaccinations for religious reasons and you are exempt from that requirement, another example of the ridiculous ‘respect for religion’ trope that plagues the US.
While the state of New York grants religious exemptions, the city of New York was stricter, though in my opinion still too lax.
Last year, city officials passed new stricter vaccine requirements for students in public schools and issued fewer waivers than it has in the past. Under the new policies, some unvaccinated children may attend school, but if a child in the school becomes sick with measles, mumps, pertussis or another vaccine-prevented disease, the unvaccinated children must stay home, sometimes for up to a month.
But even this was too much for these anti-vaxxers and three families went to court.
Two of the families who sued the city did so on First Amendment grounds, arguing that the government was interfering with their ability to practice their religion. The third parent only offered religion as a basis for rejecting vaccinations after the city refused to grant her daughter an exemption on medical grounds, casting doubt on the sincerity of the religious claim.
“Disease is pestilence,” said the mother, Dina Check, “and pestilence is from the devil. The devil is germs and disease, which is cancer and any of those things that can take you down. But if you trust in the Lord, these things cannot come near you.”
It is ridiculous that people with these crazy views are allowed to endanger everyone else’s children. Fortunately, the judge hearing the case was having none of it and said that the religious exemption should not hold.
A federal judge in New York City has upheld the state’s policy of barring unvaccinated children from public school classrooms if another student is ill with a vaccine-preventable illness.
Kurtz wrote that the Supreme Court ruling “strongly suggested that religious objectors are not constitutionally exempt from vaccinations.”
Kuntz’s ruling drew from a 1905 Supreme Court ruling that upheld the state of Massachusetts’ right to fine a citizen $5 for refusing to be vaccinated against smallpox. The man claimed that his religion forbade it, but the Supreme Court ruled that public health concerns take precedence over religious objections.
It is incredible that in the 21st century when we have made such advances with vaccines, such crazy medieval religious ideas are still allowed to influence public policy.