As the dangers of not having children vaccinated become more well known, states are starting to cut back on the categories of exemptions given to parents who want to avoid vaccinating their children but yet want them to attend the same schools as other children and thus put them at risk. Vermont is the first state to remove the exemption based on parents’ philosophical beliefs. But since it keeps the religion exemption intact, some parents are suddenly ‘finding religion’.
Vermont earlier this year became the first state to remove a philosophical exemption allowing parents to skip the immunizations required to enroll in school but keep the religious exemption in place.
And while some states require evidence — a statement of religious beliefs, for instance — to support the claim that a child should be exempt for religious reasons, Vermont requires only checking a box on a form next to the word “religious.”
“The vast majority who used the philosophical exemption are planning to or are being forced to use the religious exemption,” said Jennifer Stella, president of the Vermont Coalition for Vaccine Choice.
Because Vermont is first down this particular path, there’s no answer to the question of whether states see a new-found interest in religion upon removing the philosophical exemption. But Shawn Venner and Aedan Scribner, who are raising their 8-month-old daughter, Zelda, in Cabot, said the issue may spark a revival.
“I grew up here in Cabot, and would love my daughter to be able to go to the same school I did,” said Scribner. “But to get her into that school I’m going to have to do something like convert religiously.”
The couple said they are not opposed to all vaccines for their daughter, but strongly support choice in the matter.
There’s been talk among friends of starting a new religion, Venner said, “a religion that says we’ll pretty much have a choice.”
So now we can expect people to profess bogus beliefs in old religions or newly created ones just in order to avoid vaccinating their children. As long as religions get special treatment, we will have this kind of abuse.