October 2019 Church & State Magazine | AU Bulletin

A state court in New York has upheld a recently pas­sed law that ends religious exemptions for vaccinations.

Judge Denise Hartman of the New York State Supreme Court ruled in late August that the law does not infringe on religious freedom. In her ruling in F.F. v. State of New York, she noted that practices that endanger others may be curbed even if they are religious in nature, reported the news site Gothamist.

“For at least a century, the courts have repeatedly upheld the states’ compulsory vaccination laws,” Hartman wrote in her opinion. She quoted a U.S. Supreme Court ruling from 1944 that said, “[T]he right to practice religion does not include liberty to expose the community or the child to communicable disease or the latter to ill health or death.”

New York legislators passed the law in June after an outbreak of measles in the state. A group of parents challenged the law and hired Robert F. Kennedy Jr., a lawyer who promotes the discredited idea that vaccinations cause autism, to represent them in court.

New York Attorney General Letitia James praised the decision.

“Vaccines ensure the health and safety of our children, our families, and our communities,” she told Gothamist. “This law will help protect New Yorkers from experiencing any additional public health crises, which is why we vigorously defended it.”

New York’s Supreme Court is not the highest court in the state, and the anti-vaccination parents say they will appeal.