The New Jersey Assembly passed a measure that removes religious exemptions as a reason for parents to not vaccinate their children. The bill still needs to pass the state’s Senate, but momentum is certainly on the side of more restrictive vaccine laws.
The bill is an amendment to the current mandatory vaccine law, (A-3818).
As it stands, children attending public and private schools in New Jersey are mandated a number of states decided vaccines. However, the current law allows parents to opt out of the mandatory nature of the law for medical reasons or violations of religious tenets. A newly amended bill removes the religious option from the law.
Parents across the state are seemingly divided on the issue, with many parents noting that this is a clear violation of parental rights. But that isn’t stopping politicians, particularly those on the Democratic side of the aisle, from lending their support to the more restrictive amendment.
“I think many, including those who availed themselves of it, have been uncomfortable with the government intruding into the religious space,” said health committee chairman Herb Conaway Jr. (D-Burlington), who is a sponsor of the bill and the amendment. “I was convinced when you took everything together, the uncomfortable nature of asking someone about their religious tenets, and the difficulty government has in deciding whether those religious tenets are bona fide, that it would be simpler to remove the religious exemption, in furtherance of the goal of near universal mandatory vaccination.”
Conway went on to label the potential change a public health concern.
“It’s no secret I believe public health is critically important to protecting the lives of children and the public at large. But I also believe strongly in the First Amendment, and I think the government should tread very lightly — if at all — regarding religion and religious tenets,” Conaway said. “I think this bill and the amendment puts us on the right path with respect to the demands of public health, and our long tradition of noninterference with religion.”
The Path To Squash NJ Vaccine Religious Exemptions
Here’s what must happen in order for New Jersey parents to lose religious rights in concern with vaccine laws.
The bill will need to pass the full Assembly and S-2173 would need to be amended and passed. The original S-2173 sponsors, Loretta Weinberg (D-Bergen) and Joe Vitale (D-Middlesex), have not committed to sponsoring the new amendment to their bill, but that doesn’t mean they won’t.
CDC’s 2017/2018 statistics show that 2.2 percent of kindergarteners received a religious vaccine nationally. This is up from the previous year’s national average of 2.0. New Jersey’s exemption rate rose to 2.2 percent in 2017-2018 from 1.9 percent in the previous year. These aren’t overwhelming stats, but they do provide evidence of a trend.
That said, the media’s current assault on the measles narrative is helping to usher in more restrictive law discussions among local politicians. Nationally, the push to eradicate a number of rights, including gun ownership and free speech, are gaining steam. New Jersey is a particularly bad environment for basic rights.