June 2021 Church & State Magazine | People & Events

A recently enacted Connecticut law that curbs the use of religious exemptions for state-mandated vaccines for students has come under fire in court.

In late April, Gov. Ned Lamont (D) signed the measure into law. Under the law, religious exemptions from mandatory vaccines will end with the 2022 school year. Children already attending school who had claimed an exemption will still be able to use it, but new religious exemptions won’t be granted.

The law applies to public and private schools, higher education, daycare and child care centers.

State legislators took action after an outbreak of childhood diseases that had previously been under control. Several states have moved to eliminate religious exemptions from vaccinations recently, arguing that they have exacerbated the problem.

Medical officials supported the move.

“The exemption has been used in recent years to skirt the vaccine law, causing many schools to fall below the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s threshold of 95% needed for herd immunity against highly contagious diseases like Measles, Pertussis, Tetanus, and Meningitis, among others,” the Vaccination Alliance of Connecticut said in a statement.

“When it comes to the safety of our children, we need to take an abundance of caution,” Lamont said in a statement. “This legislation is needed to protect our kids against serious illnesses that have been well-controlled for many decades, such as measles, tuberculosis, and whooping cough, but have re­emerged.” After signing the bill, he tweeted, “Proud to sign this bill into law to protect as many of our school children as possible from infectious diseases as we can.” 

The lawsuit is sponsored by We the Patriots USA, a group that spreads misinformation about vaccines. It called Lamont a “tyrant” for signing the bill. It is representing three couples with children who say they object to vaccines for religious reasons. One couple is Muslim, one is Catholic and one is Greek Orthodox.