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New Jersey Bill Would Limit Vaccination Exemptions

June 28th, 2018


New Jersey advanced a bill that would require children to receive a vaccination unless their parents explained how it violated their religious beliefs.

New Jersey advanced a bill that would require children to receive a vaccination unless their parents explained how it violated their religious beliefs.

New Jersey law requires school children to receive numerous vaccinations when they reach a certain age, but there are exceptions for parents who want to avoid a vaccination for religious reasons. Some physicians have commented that this loophole in current law is too expansive and can seriously harm children. In response to these concerns, the Assembly Health Committee recently advanced a bill which would make parents have to explain how a vaccination violates their family’s religious beliefs.

The bill is sponsored by Assemblyman Herb Conaway, who is also a licensed physician. Conway first began pushing for the legislation at an Assembly Health and Senior Services Committee hearing. After several hours of testimony from people who supported and those who opposed the vaccination bill, the committee eventually approved the bill.

Current New Jersey Law

The state of New Jersey currently allows religious and medical exemptions from childhood vaccines for diseases like chickenpox, measles, mumps, and rubella, which are mandatory for children who attend daycare as well as public and private schools. The number of religious exemptions claimed by children in New Jersey has increased significantly over the last few years. The state’s Department of Health reports that 10,407 children (comprising 2% of the state’s school population) asserted the religious vaccination exemption.

The Content of the Proposed Law

The proposed law would allow for parents to obtain religious exemptions if they provide a written statement by a licensed physician that states the reasons why vaccines should not be administered to the child for religious reasons. This letter must demonstrate that these religious practices are consistently held by the person. Additional documentation that a person would be required to provide include an acknowledgement that the parent understands the risks and benefits of vaccination as well as a signed statement from a New Jersey physician that confirms counseling risks and benefits.

Arguments Against the Vaccination Exemption

People who oppose similar vaccination requirements have argued that parents should have the right to choose which vaccines children receive. Other people have commented that they think vaccines cause more harm than good and that there is a lack of research demonstrating why vaccines are helpful to children as well as a large amount of evidence suggesting that significant harm can be created by vaccination.

The Goal of the Universal Life Church’s Blog

The area of federal law concerning the required separation of church and state is long established, but each year there are numerous complications and developments that test the boundaries of these laws. While it remains uncertain whether the vaccination bill will become a law, it is important to note that there have been several similar regulations and that it is likely that eventually, one of these bills will become a law. By reading the Universal Life Church’s blog each month, you can stay up to date with the most recent developments concerning the separation between church and state.

(image courtesy of Kate Krivanec)

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