A father from New York is suing the city and state because he has been denied religious exemption to a law that requires his child be vaccinated for 11 communicable diseases in order to attend school. The dad, who is Catholic, took action after his 4-year-old son was removed from his public school pre-k class just before the Christmas break. In the parents' affidavit, which they filed this week, they stated: “Immunization demonstrates a great lack of faith in the gift of health and the promise of protection that we are given at birth and through baptism we put our child in the hands of the Lord ... God wants us to put our faith for disease prevention in him exclusively.”
But, in the eyes of a judge, their beliefs aren't "genuine" or "sincere" enough to justify getting around the vaccination law -- which applies to all public, private, AND Catholic schools in New York City.
According to the family's lawyers, the child's parents object to vaccinations because they could contain fetal cells and animal blood and are created by manipulating diseases. Obviously, judging by their affidavit, they also feel that God, and not man, should be solely responsible for what happens to a person's health.
I was born and raised Catholic and have received all of my immunization shots. My 2-year-old daughter's immunization records are up to date, and yep -- she even got her first flu shot this year. I respect this family's belief, though I don't share it and instead feel strongly that God would approve of man's ability to use his intellect in such a sophisticated and positive way that he could develop medications and vaccinations to help prevent disease.
In the case of vaccinations and school, I don't feel religious beliefs are a good enough excuse. Disease is a social problem. Your religious beliefs are yours and you are entitled to follow them as you please AS LONG AS you are not endangering anyone else or possibly infringing upon their health.
The fact that parochial schools in NYC maintain the same immunization laws as public and private schools serves as enough of a reason why this family should not be exempted from immunizations because of their religious beliefs. I would never push for a child to be thrown out of his pre-k class and think that move was rather cruel, but what choice did the child's school have? Whether they approve of the vaccination law or not, this family is breaking it.
Do you think this family has the right to keep their son in school and not have him vaccinated based on their religious beliefs?
Image via r.f.m II/Flickr