SACRAMENTO, Calif. —Pointing to statistics showing that the number of vaccinated schoolchildren has not reached levels which would pose a significant danger of disease outbreaks, The Rutherford Institute is warning the California State Assembly against adopting legislation that would deny families with religious and/or “personal” beliefs an exemption from certain childhood vaccinations required for attendance in public or private schools.
If enacted, SB No. 277 would eliminate a provision of California law that currently allows families to be exempted from certain childhood vaccinations due to religious and/or “personal” beliefs. Noting that the total elimination of a vaccine exemption for those with conscientious objections is a disproportionate response to any risk posed by the presence of unvaccinated persons within the population, constitutional attorney John W. Whitehead is urging the California legislature to align itself with the 47 other states that provide religious exemptions for vaccines.
“If SB No. 277 is enacted, it will place families in the dilemma of adhering to their deeply-held beliefs or forgoing the opportunity of a public education,” said Whitehead, president of The Rutherford Institute and author of Battlefield America: The War on the American People. “The state should not ask citizens to sacrifice their religious beliefs and right to conscientiously object to something that runs afoul of those beliefs except where the threat to public welfare is clear and present.”
Currently, all but two states (Mississippi and West Virginia) allow an exemption for parents who have sincerely-held religious beliefs in opposition to certain vaccinations required for children attending public and private schools. California law currently provides an exemption based on both religious and “personal” beliefs. However, in response to an outbreak of measles earlier this year traced to California’s Disneyland, legislation was introduced in the California Senate, Senate Bill 277, that would eliminate the exemption for both religious and personal beliefs. Despite strong opposition, Senate Bill 277 was approved by the state Senate on May 14, 2015, and sent to the California Assembly for vote.
In making a case for the state to preserve an exemption for those with religious and/or “personal” objections, The Rutherford Institute points out that accommodating religious beliefs when it comes to vaccination requirements is not only almost universally recognized, but is in keeping with the nation’s long history of respect for and toleration of religious beliefs. For example, the Institute’s letter cites George Washington, who wrote “the conscientious scruples of all men should be treated with great delicacy and tenderness; and it is my wish and desire, that the laws may always be as extensively accommodated to them, as a due regard to the protection and essential interests of the nation may justify and permit.” The Institute also asserts that there is no compelling health and safety reason for not accommodating persons with personal beliefs in opposition to vaccinations. The threshold number of children who are presently vaccinated is enough to provide the entire population with protection from outbreak under the principle of “herd immunity.”