The U.S. Supreme Court, by deciding not to revisit a decision by the Federal 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals, has in effect endorsed that decision to allow New York State to continue to require childhood vaccinations as a condition for attending public schools and daycare centers.
The news was reported by many media outlets, including the Associated Press.
The U.S. Court of Appeals handed down its decision in January, which held that New York's requirement -- that children be vaccinated in order to attend public school -- does not violate parents' religious rights under the U.S. Constitution.
By declining to review it, the Supremes thereby adopted the 2nd Circuit's thinking that students who receive religious exemptions from the vaccination law may be kept out of school during disease outbreaks. The 2nd Circuit had rejected claims by three New York City parents, who said the individual right to religious liberty granted by the First Amendment trumped the state's goal of preventing the spread of diseases in schools.
The parents claimed that a growing body of evidence showed vaccines can do more harm than good, to which the Appeals Court had responded to the effect that such a determination was up to legislators, not individuals nor groups of parents.
As we here at the American Council have been affirming since our founding in 1978, vaccines to protect children from previously-devastating contagions, as approved by the CDC and its Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP), are very safe and highly effective.
We, of course, applaud the 2nd Circuit's decision and its implied endorsement by the high court. If we could have our way, we would disallow all "religious" exemptions from vaccination, as saving lives -- especially of vulnerable children attending school -- should be the first precept of any valid religion.
As our former trustee and vaccine expert, Dr. Paul Offit, has said, if any parent can show where in their religion's sacred text it proscribes vaccination, he'd be amenable to granting an exemption. However, there are no such directives in any organized religious text.
(Sadly, despite California's recent salutary elimination of "philosophical" exemptions, there are still roughly 20 states which allow parents to skip having their kids vaccinated by merely signing a form. These too should be eliminated in the name of public health.)
For reliable information about children's vaccines, see our publication here.