Supreme Court dismisses religious school vaccination exemption case

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Supreme Court
The United States Supreme Court is seen in Washington, United States, November 27, 2017. |

The United States Supreme Court has rejected an appeal by parents challenging New York’s repeal of religious exemptions to school vaccination mandates.

In An order released on Monday morning, the country’s high court declined to hear arguments in the case of FF, as parent of YF v. New Yorkwhich focuses on a lawsuit challenging a 2019 law repealing religious exemptions for vaccines.

The denial of certiorari leaves standing a lower court decision that found the parents’ arguments were unfounded.

In June 2019, then-New York Governor Andrew Cuomo signed a bill removing religious exemptions for vaccines in schoolchildren. By law, children cannot attend school or daycare in New York City without a certificate from a health care provider that the child has received all required vaccinations.

The law was passed amid a measles outbreak affecting dozens of states. While providing medical exemptions, the law no longer allows exemptions for students whose parents or guardians have genuine religious beliefs that do not allow the child to receive the vaccines.

“The science is crystal clear: vaccines are safe, effective, and the best way to protect our children,” Cuomo said after signing the bill.

“While I understand and respect freedom of religion, our first job is to protect public health. And by signing this measure into law, we will help prevent further transmission and stop this outbreak in its tracks.”

A group of families identified by initials, who had various religious objections to vaccinations, filed a lawsuit against the state on behalf of their minor children, claiming that the policy forced them to either violate their beliefs or send their children to school. children at home.

“In lobbying for its passage, many lawmakers publicly mocked and ridiculed those seeking religious exemptions for their children, and the legislature left a medical exemption untouched,” the parents’ appeal to the Supreme Court said. the United States. bed. “And it is undeniable that the repeal has left tens of thousands of students with the choice of the Hobsons to violate their sincere religious beliefs or be denied the right to receive any form of in-person instruction.”

Albany County Supreme Court Acting Justice Denise Hartman refuse families a preliminary injunction in August 2019, finding in part that protecting children’s health “by achieving threshold levels of inoculation for community immunity against communicable diseases is unquestionably a compelling state interest.”

“Courts have consistently held that states need not wait for vaccination rates to fall below the community immunity threshold or for disease outbreaks to occur before mandatory inoculations are needed for children to attend. school,” Hartman noted.

In March 2021, the Appellate Division of the Third Department of the New York Supreme Court upheld the decisionconcluding that the repeal was “motivated by a prescient concern for public health” rather than “an active hostility to religion”.

“Repeal relieves public school officials of the challenge of distinguishing sincere expressions of religious beliefs from those that may be fabricated,” Appeals Judge Stanley Pritzker wrote in the opinion.

Pritzker contrasted his court’s decision with the 2020 ruling by the United States Supreme Court Roman Catholic Diocese of Brooklyn c. Cuomowhich rolled back state-level COVID-19 gathering restrictions for places of worship.

“As noted by the judge [Brett] Kavanaugh in a concurring opinion, the settlement created a privileged class of businesses and he therefore had to justify why places of worship were excluded from this privileged class,” Pritzker continued.

“In contrast, here the religious exemption previously created an advantage for the covered class, and now the removal of the exemption subjects those of the previously covered class to vaccine rules that are generally applicable to the public.”

The case was appealed to the United States Supreme Court after the state’s highest court, the Court of Appeals, declined to hear the case.

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