March 2018 Church & State - March 2018

Judge Dismisses Lawsuit Over California Parents’ Religious Objections To Vaccines

  Liz Hayes

A federal judge on Jan. 25 agreed to dismiss a lawsuit filed by parents who object to California’s law that doesn’t allow them to claim personal or religious beliefs as an excuse to ignore immunization requirements.

In 2015, California adopted Senate Bill 277 that repealed the personal-belief exemption to vaccination requirements. The law requires public and private school students to be immunized against 10 diseases including chicken pox, measles, mumps, tetanus and whooping cough. The only exceptions are for children who are home-schooled, have a physician’s recommendation that they shouldn’t be immunized for medical reasons or qualify for an individualized education program.

About two dozen parents of unvaccinated or partially vaccinated children objected to the law and filed the suit in 2016, alleging that about 30 state officials had denied “the ability of parents to invoke their natural rights of self-preservation and[/]or opt out of this criminal assault on their children’s lives by being coerced, intimidated, and forced into compliance under this dark cloud of medical and political tyranny.”

The parents, who filed the Middleton v. Pan case pro se – meaning they were representing themselves rather than proceeding with an attorney – believe vaccines are toxic and that state officials conspired with pharmaceutical companies in creating the law. The parents claimed the officials ran afoul of the Racketeering Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act, violated families’ constitutional rights, including their religious freedom, and committed conspiracy to promote the sale and use of biological and chemical weapons on California citizens, among other claims.

In December, U.S. Magistrate Judge Alicia G. Rosenberg recommended the suit be dismissed, noting, “Man­da­tory vaccination laws are within the scope of a state’s police power.” Rosenberg also said the law did not run afoul of the Constitution’s religious freedom guarantees.

In a brief order on Jan. 25, U.S. District Judge Stephen V. Wilson accepted Rosenberg’s recommendation and dismissed the case.

Can't make it to D.C for SRF?

Join us at the Summit for Religious Freedom virtually!

If you can’t make it to the nation’s capital for the Summit for Religious Freedom, you can still participate in an impressive virtual program of live, curated sessions from the comfort of your home, local coffee shop or anywhere with an internet connection.

Find out more and register today!