With falling vaccination rates and a measles outbreak gripping parts of New York, state lawmakers' action to eliminate religious exemptions for vaccinations necessary to protect against common childhood diseases was a sound, evidence-based decision made to better public health, physicians tell a New York court.
A group of parents sued the New York state on behalf of their children after lawmakers in June 2019 eliminated the nonmedical religious exemption to the state's vaccination law. The change means the law now requires all New York children, except those who qualify for a medical exemption, to be vaccinated before entering school. The families, who previously had religious exemptions from vaccines, argue that when lawmakers changed the exemption, they violated the families' state and federal constitutional rights that allow them to exercise their religion freely. They also argue the repeal violates the U.S. Constitution's Equal Protection Clause and forces them to engage in compelled speech or otherwise violate New York's compulsory education laws. The trial court dismissed the case and the families have appealed the decision to the Supreme Court of the State of New York's Appellate Division. The Litigation Center of the American Medical Association and State Medical Societies, the Medical Society of the State of New York and the New York State American Academy of Pediatrics filed an amicus brief supporting the State of New York in the appeal, saying "eliminating religious objections was clearly in the best interest of public health." Read more.