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Illinois vaccine religious exemption – far from perfect

The times are a-changing. States are starting to get tougher with vaccine refusers who are sending their kids to school. Next up a change in Illinois vaccine religious exemption requirements.

It looks like California SB 277, which eliminated non-medical exemptions for vaccines, and mandated vaccinations for most children entering public or private school, has started a positive trend with regards to vaccination requirements. Of course, the drop in vaccination rates and the abuse of exemptions started the trend.

Illinois vaccine religious exemption law


Illinois SB 1410, an attempt to tighten up vaccine exemption regulations, was signed into law by the Illinois Governor on 3 August 2015. The law will take effect on 16 October 2015.

Essentially, the law stated:

[infobox icon=”quote-left”]Provide that parents or legal guardians who object to health, dental, or eye examinations or immunizations on religious grounds must present to the appropriate local school authority a Department of Public Health objection form, detailing the grounds for the objection and signed by the parent or legal guardian..

Requires the Department of Public Health to develop and publish a uniform objection form for this particular use. Provides that if the physical condition of a child is such that any one or more of the immunizing agents should not be administered, the child’s parent or legal guardian must present to the appropriate local school authority a statement signed by the child’s regular examining physician, advanced practice nurse, or physician assistant attesting to that fact. Effective immediately.[/infobox]

In summary, the Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH) will require certification from a licensed health care provider attesting that they have received proper education about the benefits of vaccines. It also requires the guardian or parents to attest to the religious beliefs that demand an exemption to vaccines. However, according to the law,

[infobox icon=”quote-left”]…however, general philosophical or moral reluctance to allow physical examinations, eye examinations, immunizations, vision and hearing screenings, or dental examinations does not provide a sufficient basis for an exception to statutory requirements.[/infobox]

Of course, medical exemptions are still allowed, though it appears that medical attestation to those conditions have always been required.



Issues with the law


Although the law is a huge step in the right direction of mandating vaccines for anyone whose children avail themselves of a public education, I still have several issues with this law:

  • No mainstream (or even most minor religions) are opposed to vaccines.
  • The religious exemption becomes a route for abuse of vaccine exemptions, creating a system of either outright lying or invented religious beliefs.
  • The school district or the school needs to determine if the religious exemption is valid. Where in the constitution and laws of this country do public officials have a right to determine what religions are valid and what are not? School officials need to be agnostic (sorry) about religious beliefs.
  • We create whole system of finding physicians who will easily attest to “vaccine education” for those who want it.
  • Religious belief should never be a matter of importance to protecting children’s lives in public schools. Period. Why should parents who reject religion have their children harmed by people who hold on to false, and ridiculously unsupported, beliefs that vaccines are against their non-existent religion?

Religion should have nothing to do with medical decisions, especially when the religious belief is contradictory to the vast wealth of scientific data. If we let religion control medicine and science, we’d still think that the sun and stars revolved around the earth, and that magic water from Lourdes can cure disease.

Our country was founded on the principle that religions are completely separated from the government. You know, that simple Establishment Clause of the First Amendment to the US Constitution, which states “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion…” (Editor’s note–I’m not sure that my favorite vaccines and law writer, Dorit Reiss, would agree with this opinion. I am not a constitutional law expert, nor do I play one on the internet.)

By allowing people to invent religious beliefs with the sole purpose of avoiding vaccinations for their children, public officials have to legally determine whether a religion is valid or not. Make it easy for these vaccine deniers–you want your children to go to school? Get vaccinated. Period.

But, at least Illinois is making it a bit harder. They’ll probably change the law in a few months because of attempts by the antivaccination cult to abuse the law.

Michael Simpson

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