It’s always nice to see Chris Christie step on his dick, but perhaps Chris and the rest of the 27 percenters who are going to retroactively anti-vaccinate their kids might want to consult the laws of his state, which require vaccination except for medical and religious exemption.
That religious exemption, by the way, is just something that has happened over the years to make nice to some religious nuts. It came about because state legislators decided that the unvaccinated offspring of a few crazy god botherers wouldn’t disrupt herd immunity, so why argue with them? It’s the same logic behind telling your kids to ignore the bullshit that comes out of Crazy Aunt Mabel’s mouth at Christmas dinner — she’s just not worth the trouble.
The last time anti-vaxxers tried to challenge the law in New York, which has a law similar to Jersey’s, they were rejected. The Federal court in New York not only slapped them down, but pointed out that the state isn’t even required to have a religious exemption and could have simply required vaccination for every student who doesn’t have a medical exemption. I’m including a couple of paragraphs from the ruling after the break, because we’re not talking about a subtle point or something that lacks precedent. The precedent was set over a hundred years ago and reinforced every time some yahoo decided to challenge it.
In short, it’s time to stop being nice to the anti-vaxxers and the morons who are trying to make a quick political buck from them. It should not be a casual thing to decide not to vaccinate your kids, and the states should make it a lot tougher than it’s been. If Christie thinks there’s something wrong with it, he should explain just why he hasn’t tried to change the laws in his own state.
The First Amendment to the United States Constitution provides that “Congress shall make no law … prohibiting the free exercise [of religion].” U.S. Const. amend. I. This prohibition has been construed to apply to the States through the Fourteenth Amendment by way of the doctrine of incorporation. See Cantwell v. Conn., 310 U.S. 296, 303 (1940). All Defendants have moved to dismiss the First Amendment claims. See Dkts. 32, 33.
Plaintiffs argue that the vaccination program at issue denies their children the constitutional right to free exercise of religion, but not only has the Supreme Court strongly suggested that religious objectors are not constitutionally exempt from vaccinations, Jacobson v. Commonw. of Mass., 197 U.S. 11, 35-39 (1905), courts in this Eastern District have resolutely found there is no such constitutional exemption. In Caviezel v. Great Neck Public Schools, under nearly identical facts and citing Jacobson, the court held that “the free exercise clause of the First Amendment does not provide a right for religious objectors to be exempt from New York’s compulsory inoculation law.” 739 F. Supp. 2d 273, 285 (E.D.N.Y. 2010) (Spatt, J.) ajf’d, 500 F. App’x 16 (2d Cir. 2012), cert. denied, 133 S. Ct. 1997 (U.S. 2013). Similarly, in Sherr v.Northport-East Northport Union Free School District, the court explicitly held that no constitutional right to religious exemptions exists and found that the statutory exemption New York provides “goes beyond what the Supreme Court has declared the First Amendment to require.” 672 F. Supp. 81, 88 (E.D.N.Y. 1987) (Wexler, J). Although Plaintiffs opine that Jacobson is bad law and ask this Court to overturn the Supreme Court decision, “this the Court cannot do.” Caviezel, 739 F. Supp. 2d at 285. Accordingly, Plaintiffs’ First Amendment claim is dismissed.
As to the Plaintiffs’ substantive due process causes of action, the Second Circuit has found that Jacobson flatly defeats any such claims. Caviezel v. Great Neck Pub. Sch., 500 F.App’x 16, 19 (2d Cir. 2012) cert. denied, 133 S. Ct. 1997 (U.S. 2013). Indeed, the Second Circuit cited McCartney v. Austin for the proposition that New York’s vaccine program is well within the State’s police power and thus its constitutionality is too well established to require discussion. Id. at 19 (citing 31A.D.2d370, 371 (3d Dep’t 1969)). In light of the Second Circuit’s holding, Plaintiffs’ challenge to New York’s vaccination practice on substantive due process grounds fails and is dismissed.
Plaintiffs also claim that Defendants are violating their rights accruing under the Fourteenth Amendment’s Equal Protection Clause. However, Plaintiffs have not asserted any facts tending to show that Defendants favored any religion over another, or that Plaintiffs are part of any protected class. In short, Plaintiffs fail to allege the facts necessary to state a claim upon which relief can be granted under the Equal Protection Clause, and thus their claims alleged thereunderare dismissed. See Caviezel, 739 F. Supp. 2d at 282 (dismissing equal protection claims).