As Susan K. Livio reports for NJ.com, 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.
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Arizona Governor's "Religious Freedom" Veto Was the Right Move
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