Attorneys Sussman and Kennedy filed a lawsuit in New York State (NYS) Supreme Court challenging the constitutionality of the NYS legislature’s June 13, 2019 repeal of the religious exemption to vaccination, Public Health Law Section 2164(9). The plaintiffs, 55 NYS families who held lawful religious exemptions, request that the court enjoin the enactment of the repeal temporarily, preliminarily and permanently. The plaintiffs are of diverse religious faiths, including Christianity, Judaism and Islam. As a result of the repeal, these families can no longer educate their children in any schools or camps in New York without violating their religious faith. The parents who bring the suit seek to represent thousands of other families likewise affected by the repeal. Kennedy, Chief Legal Counsel for Children’s Health Defense, stated, “Religious rights are fundamental. It is unconstitutional for the state to deprive people of such important rights when religious animus has played a key role. To enact such harsh legislation without any legislative fact-finding, and with the legislators’ open display of prejudice towards religious beliefs different than their own, is simply un-American; it is essential that we fight this.”
Currently, 47 out of 50 states in the U.S. allow parents to make decisions regarding administering vaccines to their children, by providing religious and philosophical exemptions. California joined West Virginia and Mississippi in 2015 by removing these exemptions, despite widespread opposition by the public, doctors, and scientists who are not among the vaccine extremists. While it is too early to tell how increased childhood vaccination rates in California will affect childhood health outcomes, West Virginia and Mississippi have some of the worst childhood health outcomes along with high vaccination rates. Now, vaccine extremists in New Jersey want to follow these states and restrict parental choice by passing legislation that restricts conscientious objections to vaccines.
Recognizing that browbeaters should not be allowed to ride roughshod over citizens’ sincerely held religious or conscientious beliefs, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), on January 18, announced that it was forming a Conscience and Religious Freedom Division within the HHS Office for Civil Rights (OCR). The new Division’s mandate will be to enforce “federal laws that protect conscience and the free exercise of religion and prohibit coercion and discrimination in health and human services.” To date, most news stories about the new OCR Division have focused on the Division’s role in standing up for the moral or religious beliefs of health care providers, especially in regards to abortion and religious beliefs. However, the Conscience and Religious Freedom Division has indicated that it may also be willing to receive and respond to complaints from citizens who have been prevented from freely exercising their conscientious and religious beliefs related to vaccination. From now until March 27, 2018, citizens have an opportunity to tell the OCR that they want the Conscience and Religious Freedom Division to explicitly include vaccine-related situations in the categories of complaints that the Division will consider. This is a big opportunity to not only retain the right to refuse vaccines on religious and conscientious grounds but also perhaps to reinstate religious and/or philosophical exemptions in California, West Virginia and Mississippi.
Every summer, Americans celebrate the 4th of July to mark the day in 1776 when the American colonies agreed they would no longer be ruled by an aristocracy. The Declaration of Independence begins with, “We hold these truths to be self evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights.” That Declaration was a rejection of oppression by a ruling aristocracy and the pledge that this country would uphold the unalienable natural right to life and liberty that belongs to every person. 240 years later, we find ourselves again fighting for freedom from oppression because we have allowed the rise of a new ruling aristocracy, an elitist class of privileged citizens who want the legal right to judge, shame, segregate, discriminate against and punish fellow citizens who do not share their beliefs. Nowhere is this truth more self evident than in the oppressive implementation of one-size-fits-all mandatory vaccination laws that fail to respect biodiversity or human rights and crush citizen opposition, in violation of the informed consent ethic and freedom of thought, speech, conscience and religious belief. When a ruling aristocracy uses the heel of the boot of the State to create fear and oppress average citizens for their beliefs, there is no other word for it but tyranny. The appropriation of unaccountable authority by medical trade and the militarization of public health in the 21st century should be of concern to every person who values life and liberty.