July 13, 2024

The state emphasized that the Supreme Court has consistently held that the state possesses police power to issue vaccine mandates.

Back in 2023, We The Patriots USA (WTP), a non-profit organization focused on preserving and expanding Americans’ freedom, appealed the district court’s judgment dismissing claims against the Connecticut Office of Early Childhood Development, challenging Public Act 21-6. The measure revised the Connecticut General Statutes to repeal religious exemptions from state immunization requirementsfor schoolchildren, college and university students, and childcare participants.

The district court earlier granted the motions of defendants to dismiss certain plaintiffs’ claims against the state agencies as barred by the Eleventh Amendment, dismiss the organizational plaintiffs’ claims for lack of standing and dismiss all counts of the complaint for failure to state a claim.

According to a recent post by WTP on its website, defendants in the lawsuit to restore religious exemptions for schoolchildren in Connecticut have already filed their briefs in response to the 2023 appeal. The state and three school board defendants twice requested extensions of time to file, moving the deadline from March 6 to May 20.

The main point of the state’s legal argument was that there was a public health crisis in Connecticut caused by the rising number of religious exemptions, which necessitated the removal of the said exemption. The exemption had been in place since 1959. As per the state, these exemptions posed such a threat to public health that even if they were required to demonstrate a compelling state interest in removing the religious exemption under strict scrutiny analysis, they would be able to prove that one existed.

The non-profit organization disagreed.

“We were denied the opportunity to participate in discovery which would have compelled the state to provide actual data to prove that the religious exemptions were rising to the extent that they posed any threat at all to public health in Connecticut,” WTP pointed out. “We are confident that, were we given that opportunity, the evidence would demonstrate the opposite.”

Connecticut maintained that its repeal law was neutral since it applied equally to people of all faiths. It claimed that the move was not hostile to any particular religion.

“But this is inaccurate since the law targeted those with religious beliefs opposed to vaccinations by denying them an education on that basis while leaving the doors to the schoolhouse wide open to anyone who does not hold such beliefs,” WTP argued.

Moreover, the state emphasized that the Supreme Court has consistently held that the state possesses police power to issue vaccine mandates. WTP believes that this point is a red herring since they are not challenging those rulings in the case. Its point is that CT’s elimination of the religious exemption in 2021 ran afoul of the Constitution, not that the state has no power to enact a school vaccine mandate.

WTP is already working on the reply brief to rebut the state’s arguments, which is expected to be filed by May 31.

“If the Justices vote to grant our petition, our case will be scheduled for oral argument before the Court, which would take place in October at the earliest. We are hoping the Court will decide by the end of June, in which case we will immediately notify all of our followers and subscribers,” the group said.

Alabama Senate bill to grant religious exemptions without too much fuss

Meanwhile, in Alabama moves have been made to make it easier to receive a religious exemptionfrom school vaccination requirements.

State Sen. Arthur Orr (R-Decatur) recently introduced SB 246. Said proposal indicated that a “parent or guardian may not be required to explain the reason for the exemption, certify the exemption with any third party, or otherwise receive approval from the local board of education or any other entity.” It would also provide that a public institution of higher education must provide religious and medical exemptions to vaccination requirements.

“This would prevent people from having to go explain their religious exemption motivations or their religious beliefs to government bureaucrats at the health department,” Orr said in an interview back in March.

The current mandate is that parents seeking an exemption must go to the county health department and get a certificate of religious exemption. They would have to file a written objection and receive information about the consequences of not immunizing their child.

“It ought to be simple: If we’re going to have a religious exemption, we ought to have a religious exemption. We shouldn’t have parents having to explain their religious beliefs when it comes to vaccinations,” Orr added, pointing out that people shouldn’t have to go to the government “to validate their religious beliefs.”

Meanwhile, critics have already expressed “concern” about the said move. Mark Jackson, executive director of the Medical Association of the State of Alabama, said they have not taken a position on Orr’s bill but expressed concerns with exemptions.

According to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the measles, mumps and rubella vaccination rate in Alabama was under 94 percent in 2022-2023, down from 95 percent for the 2021-2022 school year. The agency argued that at least 95 percent of the population needs to be vaccinated against measles to create herd immunity.

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