In the United States, the First Amendment of the Constitution protects our right to practice the religion of our choice. The State and City of New York have passed laws that offer increased protection from interference with religious practice and discrimination based on religion. Just like the right to move your fist ends at the tip of another person’s nose, the government will limit the right to a religious practice that they believe endangers the community as a whole. Justice Denise Hartman upheld the law abolishing religious exemptions to vaccinations, referring to a US Supreme Court decision from 1944, “The right to practice religion does not include liberty to expose the community or the child to communicable diseases.”
What Parents Should Know
Schools must ensure that all students are vaccinated within 14 days of starting school, in keeping with the laws passed last year as a result of the worst measles outbreak of the century. Justice Hartman expressed her empathy for the suffering of families that must now choose between their religious beliefs and their child’s education, as they may now have to either homeschool their kids or move to another State. The “potential harm” from allowing unvaccinated children in school, she believes, outweighs the religious objections of parents that refuse to vaccinate. There are still medical exemptions available for individuals with weakened immune systems or other disorders that would make vaccination a danger to their health.
What Schools Should Know
Schools are facing serious fines and will be subjected to surprise inspections this Fall to ensure full compliance with the law. Private schools that catered primarily to families that do not vaccinate will likely shut down, with authorities on alert for schools now calling themselves “homeschool co-ops,” but operating in the same manner as before the laws were passed.