Saturday, April 7, 2018

Vaccine Exemption Bill Violates the First and Fourteenth Amendments, Fairness

New Jersey law mandates childhood vaccination against infectious diseases like Mumps, but allows for religious exemptions. The legislature is currently advancing a bill that would make it harder for parents to exempt their children from the mandate on religious grounds. The state’s Assembly Health Committee voted 7-3 in favor of the bill, which now goes to the full assembly.

As Susan K. Livio reports for, current law “requires only that parents send the school district a letter stating vaccines violate their family's religious beliefs.” Among other added requirements, the new legislation updating the law (A3818)

says parents who want to claim a religious exemption must submit a notarized statement to the school explaining how permitting their child to be vaccinated "would violate, contradict, or otherwise be inconsistent" with a [religious] tenet or practice.

The letter must show the parents' request is not solely based on "political, sociological, philosophical, or moral views, or concerns related to the safety or efficacy of the vaccination."

Opponents attending the committee vote were loud and boisterous, claiming the new law would be “burdensome, intrusive and discriminatory, and sharply questioned why the government had the right to judge their beliefs.”

I left these comments:

I oppose exemptions based only on religious beliefs. What about people who object based on rational convictions? As a matter of fairness, why shouldn’t “solely political, sociological, philosophical or moral views” count any less than religious views?

A religious exemption seems to violate the Constitution. The Establishment Clause of the First Amendment states that “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion.” This means the government may not officially recognize or legally favor one religion over others, or any religion over non-religion. What is a religious exemption but favoritism toward religion; i.e., an establishment of religion?

The Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment states that “No state shall . . . deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.” Where is the equal protection in a law that discriminates in favor of conscientious objectors based on religious conviction as opposed to political, sociological, philosophical, moral, or other non-religious conscientious objectors? Coupled with the First Amendment, the principle is clear: The government should never discriminate for or against any individual or segment of the population in the enforcement of its laws when it comes to matters of conscience. Rather, it should protect everyone’s rights, people of faith and people of reason, equally and at all times.

I believe in vaccination, and sympathize with the spirit of the legal mandate. That said, I have strong reservations, on individual rights grounds, about a vaccination mandate. But if we’re going to have one, it should be applied evenly for both constitutional and fairness reasons. Either recognize all conscientious objections, or none.

Related Reading:

On Mandatory Vaccinations, Protect Everyone’s Right to Object, Not Just Religionists’ Rights

Arizona Governor's "Religious Freedom" Veto Was the Right Move

Two Views on Religious Exemptions from Anti-Discrimination Laws


Mike Kevitt said...

"But if we're going to have one, it should be applied evenly...,or none". True, but I think you're being soft where hardness is needed. You, and ALL of us, should insist and demand in the strongest civil terms possible, and in terms of individual rights, that there be no vaccination mandate of any sort, rather than merely stating that we have strong reservations.

Of course, we can't state all the needed arguments involved here, on a blog site, but we must state the hard stand and plant the harbinger of its continually being brought to the fore along with all the needed arguments for it, so people have to deliberately, bare faced, evade and ignore it, in public, if they don't like it, if they don't like the face of reason. And then, we must make that happen. That's the hard part. But, that must happen.

In the unlikely hood of success, great. In the likely hood of the door slammed in the face of reason, then, we proceed appropriately. In the overall big picture of individual rights, proceeding appropriately when the door is slammed in the face of reason can be the HARDEST part, consisting of (?), well, we might have to see.

Michael A. LaFerrara said...

I say "strong reservation" because I do believe that the government has a roll, within its mandate to protect individual rights, to step in in cases of epidemic or child neglect. I'm not enough up on the medical issue to make a difinitive statement against a vaccine mandate.

Mike Kevitt said...

Thanks. Fair enough.