Like many, I have been following the battle by the vaccine concerned against New Jersey Legislature’s attempt to remove the religious exemption to childhood vaccination. Last year, New York removed religious exemptions by strong-arming one legislator to change his previously cast vote in opposition. In New Jersey, it’s coming down to a last-ditch compromise to carve out or preserve religious exemptions for families who can afford to send their children to private schools where the schools will allow/honor religious exemptions. I have to say, that’s a new one to me.
Here is the way one news story describes it:
“The compromise would end religious exemptions for vaccines in public schools and day care centers — but allow private institutions to admit children whose parents declined to have them vaccinated, according to Sens. Joe Vitale, the bill’s sponsor, and Declan J. O’Scanlon.
Private schools would be required to post outside the building the number of unvaccinated children at each facility.”
My guess is that the posting of the number of unvaccinated on a school’s building is a way to not so subtly pressure private schools to reject accepting the religiously vaccine exempt. It’s like a giant scarlet letter or a sign saying “Caution: this is a leper colony. Enter at your own risk!” I find this requirement fairly appalling. It may work for schools which do not have a significant percentage of religious exempt students, but I know from my dealings with similar issues in California, that some schools are not financially viable if they lose all their vaccine exempt students to home schooling or departure from the state. So, I believe that if the bill passes, some schools will become safe-havens for the religiously exempt.
What about families who don’t have the money to send their children to private schools?
Well they are out of luck under the bill. Whatever rights the richer among us have to exercise our religious rights/freedoms do not apply to the poor, as many in the community have lamented.
I guess that is just tough luck for them. Sucks to be poor. It’s too bad there is no law against that kind of blatant discrimination.
Oh wait, there is. It’s called the Constitution, and specifically the parts that talk about religious freedom and the equal protection under the law. As many of you might know from past posts, I am not a big fan of lawsuits challenging the removal of the personal belief or religious exemptions to vaccination. All past constitutional challenges have failed, and I have repeatedly predicted that future challenges will also fail, so long as we are talking about the complete removal of that right.
However, I am equally certain that a law which only removes the right for those too poor to send their kids to a private school will be struck down on constitutional grounds.
I think what happened is that in a desperate attempt to pass the bill through the Senate, they came up with this ill thought out, idiotic idea. That fact that the Dems are proposing a bill which so obviously discriminates against the poor, shows how that the irrationality of the issue has caused politicians to lose sight of their core values. But as indicated, the New Jersey courts will not let this stand.
To all you braving the cold tomorrow, (including my Cali. Latinas friends, the New Yorkers and Oregonian health freedom fighters) keep up the fight! If it doesn’t work out, a slew of lawyers will soon be joining you for the next phase.
Rick Jaffe, Esq.