Court says that fake religious vaccine exemptions are not protected by the First Amendment

In April, 2010, a Federal District Court in New York denied a mother’s bid for a religious exemption to New York state’s mandatory vaccination rules. According to the article in the New York Law Journal, “Martina Caviezel, a self-proclaimed pantheist, sought a preliminary injunction allowing her to enroll her 4-year-old daughter in a Great Neck, N.Y., pre-kindergarten without getting the shots the state says the child needs. Caviezel relied on Public Health Law §2164(9), which exempts children from the requirement whose parents or guardians “hold genuine and sincere religious beliefs which are contrary” to vaccination.”

Around September 2009, Caviezel submitted the New York exemption form to the school  requesting that her youngest child be exempt from the requirement that children be vaccinated against measles, mumps, rubella and other diseases. The school principal told her that her request would likely be denied. Caviezel  declined to meet with school superintendent to further discuss the exemption. She then sued after her request was denied, alleging civil rights violations.

At a hearing in March, 2010, Caviezel testified that her other three children were properly vaccinated. But she said she grew skeptical of immunizing her youngest daughter, as her religious beliefs in pantheism grew.

Also according to the article:

Caviezel was ordained as a minister after taking a one-day seminar at a Buffalo, N.Y., church called “Sanctuary of the Beloved.” She said she was not a member of any formal religious organization but described her religion as seeing “God in everything…in the flowers in the spring when the flowers bloom, in the miracle of birthing.”

She said she practiced her religion “mostly” by breathing, because by breathing, “I can be present to the presence of God.” She also testified that she expressed her beliefs through “gratitude” — by being thankful throughout the day.

Caviezel admitted that the church where she was ordained had not said anything about immunizing her children during the course she took there.

Eastern District Judge Arthur D. Spatt concluded, the Caviezels’ belief, while genuine and sincere, was not religious. “The judge cited Caviezel’s admission that her church was not opposed to vaccinations and that she took Motrin and essential oils as evidence of “a selective personal belief” regarding medicine, rather than a religious one. The judge discounted Caviezel’s fear of “injecting disease” into the body and the subsequent “unnecessary” scarring marks of the vaccination as “personal rather than religious fears.” The judge also pointed out that both Caviezel and her youngest daughter already had an “unnecessary marks”, pierced ears, to their bodies.

“The Court finds that her reluctance to have her daughter vaccinated does not arise from a religious belief, but from a personal, moral or cultural feeling against vaccination for her young child,” Judge Spatt concluded.

In Caviezel v. Great Neck Public Schools, (2d Cir., Oct. 12, 2012), the 2nd US Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed the district court and rejected the parents’ constitutional challenges to New York’s denial of a religious exemption of the requirement that their children be vaccinated prior to attending public schools.  The 2nd Circuit agreed with the trial court’s conclusion that the plaintiffs failed to show a genuine and sincere religious belief when requesting an exemption for vaccinations. It also rejected that Caviezel’s First Amendment right to Free Exercise of Religion were violated by the lower court’s ruling.

Like another decision where the court ruled that the state has right to reject religious exemptions to protect children, someone tried to use a religious belief in a cynical attempt to prevent her children from being vaccinated. And once again, the courts continued to uphold Jacobson v. Massachusetts which clearly allows public authorities to mandate vaccinations for the greater good of society. In addition, the US Court of Appeals rejected the false belief that the First Amendment of the US Constitution provides protection to people who think that they can get vaccine exemptions even if they cannot prove that they actually belong to a religion that has some anti-vaccine belief.

My opinion: exemptions should be eliminated except for clear medical issues, which will simplify everything. It’s clear that religion is being abused as by the vaccine denialists, since very few mainstream religions deny the use of vaccines. Moreover, religious questions should NEVER be a questions with regards to public schools. Much like prayer or creationism, religious vaccine exemptions belong in religious schools not in public schools which simply cannot be involved in religious discussions per the Establishment Clause of the US Constitution.

Update: with new data showing that increased religious exemptions to vaccination is causing an increase in whooping cough infections in New York, it’s probably time to eliminate religious exemptions.

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The Original Skeptical Raptor
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Lifetime lover of science, especially biomedical research. Spent years in academics, business development, research, and traveling the world shilling for Big Pharma. I love sports, mostly college basketball and football, hockey, and baseball. I enjoy great food and intelligent conversation. And a delicious morning coffee!


  • dc

    Weird, the link to the “data” showing increased religious exemptions causing increased whooping cough goes nowhere??? hmm. Guess what else is causing the whooping cough outbreaks? The vaccine itself. Here is an actual article explaining it. http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation/2014/06/19/whooping-cough-resurgence-explained/10684325/

    • I guess it’s difficult to search PubMed for link, especially since I put the full citation in the article. But links are all fixed.

      You are so guilty of confirmation bias, just looking for data that may or may not support your own beliefs. Real science takes ALL the data, determine which is the highest quality, and then determine if a hypothesis is supported or nullified. That’s REAL science, not your lame ass attempt to find one thing that may or may not have anything to do with vaccines.

      By the way, REAL science tells us, over and over and over, that unvaccinated kids are up to 6-25X more likely to get whooping cough and have it for a longer period of time. Do you understand that basic level of mathematics?

      http://www.skepticalraptor.com/skepticalraptorblog.php/effectiveness-of-pertussis-vaccines-science-vs-lies/

      And as for your baboon study in USA Today, this has not been replicated in humans, the number of baboons was very very low, and still, there is no evidence that the transmission of pertussis in humans happens in this matter at a rate higher than what can be observed from real life infections from pertussis.

      http://www.redwineandapplesauce.com/2014/05/05/making-sense-out-of-the-baboon-pertussis-study/

      • dc

        Here’s what the bottom of your study states. DISCLOSURE: Dr. Halsey receives compensation for participation in Safety Monitoring Committees from Merck and Novartis for studies of vaccines unrelated to the vaccines in this study. He is also participating in the defense of a lawsuit for GlaxoSmithKline on patents related to immunization schedules. Dr. Halsey conceptualized the study, assisted with critical feedbacks, reviewed and revised the manuscript, and approved the final manuscript as submitted.

        Anyways, the information is easy enough to find over and over again, if your able to put your critical thinking hat on. This press release by the FDA basically says the same thing I said before. FDA should be good no? Or is that lame ass too?

        http://www.fda.gov/NewsEvents/Newsroom/PressAnnouncements/ucm376937.htm
        .
        I also want to make one other fact know about your “REAL SCIENCE” in regards to Merck financing that silly article about using religion to be exempt. You probably know that Merck is in the middle of TWO class action lawsuits for FRAUD after they faked data to mask the low efficacy of the mumps component of its MMRII vaccine and within the company know as Protocol 007. BUT the stories you will probably blog about are the “antivaccers” causing a measles outbreak! When in fact Merck lied to parents, pediatricians and the Government (who spent billions of dollars on their vaccine) and injected Millions of babies and children with a useless vaccine for over ten years. Take a minute would you and do the math on that. It’s not so basic so it might be above your skill set. 😉 Keep reading your corporate sponsored news and regurgitate it for your blog and call it “REAL SCIENCE”.
        When the CDC states an epidemic of the whooping cough despite high rates of vaccination, and concludes that the vaccine has worn off, you reach for something that really isn’t much to discuss. It’s like you had some sort of epiphany when the facts show over and over on the CDC studies that vaccination is very high in this country. There are much bigger issues regarding basic requirements for approving a vaccine. Is it pure? Is it safe? Does it work? The millions of people who are affected by that alone, should deserve all of the attention. What a waste of my time. Ughh.

        • I understand what you’re saying. Because you’d whore yourself out for $20, every scientist shares your pathetic morals and ethics.

          Good to know.

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