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article imageReligious objections do not outweigh public health, says NY judge

By Ryan Hite     Jun 25, 2014 in World
New York - A judge in New York City upheld the state’s policy of barring unvaccinated children from public school classrooms if another student is ill with a vaccine-preventable illness.
According to The New York Times, Judge William F. Kuntz II of the Federal District Court in Brooklyn ruled against a group of parents who sued the city for turning their children away from public schools during outbreaks of contagious diseases like measles because they were not vaccinated.
The families claimed that their right to practice religion was being violated, but Kurtz drew upon 109-year-old Supreme Court case that granted the state broad powers to intervene in public health matters.
Kurtz wrote on the Supreme Court ruling, saying “strongly suggested that religious objectors are not constitutionally exempt from vaccinations.”
The plaintiffs’ attorney Patricia Finn filed an appeal with district court, asking that the case be re-heard, on Thursday.
The suit is just one of the cases involved in the city’s efforts to combat resurgent childhood diseases, which are beginning to flourish again thanks to anti-vaccine parents who believe that the medicines can hurt their children or that they are contrary to God’s laws.
City officials passed stricter vaccine requirements last year for students in public schools and issued far fewer waivers than it has in the past. Under these new policies, some unvaccinated children may attend school, but if a child becomes sick with measles, mumps, pertussis or another vaccine-prevented disease, the unvaccinated children must stay home, sometimes even for up to a month.
The state of New York only grants waivers to children whose families are religiously opposed to vaccination or to children who would be medically harmed by the vaccine which would be determined by a physician. This would include children with immune disorders or conditions that make them vulnerable to complications of immunization.
Unlike many other states, New York does not grant parents vaccination waivers on philosophical grounds. Parents who object to vaccines out of principle or who mistakenly believe that they cause autism are no longer able to skirt these rules as easily as in the past.
Two of the families sued the city on First Amendment grounds, arguing that the government was interfering with their ability to practice their religious traditions. The third only offered religion for the reason she rejected vaccinations after the city refused to grant her daughter an exemption on medical grounds, casting doubt on the religious claims.
“Disease is pestilence,” said one of the the mothers, 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.”
Kuntz’s ruling came from a 1905 Supreme Court ruling that upheld the state of Massachusetts’ right to fine a citizen 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 in all cases involving the state.
More about Vaccines, religion vaccines, vaccine deniers, First amendment
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