We, the undersigned attorneys, strongly oppose SB 277, the proposed California legislation that unnecessarily removes all philosophical and religious exemptions from school vaccination requirements. We join thousands of Americans who conscientiously intend to protect their right to informed consent for medical procedures and to retain their Constitutional right to make parental decisions regarding their children’s health. For multiple reasons, our view is that SB 277 is unconstitutional both under the United States and California Constitutions. Perhaps even more important is our view that enactment of SB 277 is not in the best interests of our children and our nation.
If enacted, SB 277 would repeal philosophical and religious exemptions for adults and children. There is no compelling reason to disrupt the current California legal framework in which exemptions to vaccination, both religious and philosophical, are respected and preserved. Public acceptance of vaccination is not in question, and vaccination uptake rates are high and stable. There exists no compelling public health emergency that justifies the radical change to California law contained in SB 277. A small percentage of the population elects to exempt themselves from vaccination. Government mandated medical procedures – which by their nature are coercive and derogate informed consent – may have unintended consequences that will disrupt the social fabric and likely create enhanced suspicion about the vaccine program and the safety of vaccines.
Religious exemptions are permissible under the Free Exercise Clause of the First Amendment. The United States Constitution provides that “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.” Accordingly, parents should have the religious freedom to oppose medical procedures and to not have government dictate their expression of religious belief.
We also must point out that vaccines can cause injury to children. For this reason, Congress passed the National Childhood Vaccine Injury Act of 1986. This legislation created the national Vaccine Injury Compensation Program, which since its inception has paid more than $3 billion to the victims of vaccine injury. The legislation provided almost complete immunity from liability to vaccine manufacturers on the ground that vaccines are “unavoidably unsafe”, even if properly prepared and manufactured under FDA standards. Bruesewitz v. Wyeth LLC, 562 U.S. 223, 131 S. Ct. 1068, 1089, 179 L. Ed. 2d 1 (2011). At the same time, the Vaccine Injury Compensation Program limits compensation for pain and suffering and does not allow for a trial by jury, as guaranteed by the Seventh Amendment to the United States Constitution, or for discovery of information about vaccines or their safety. 42 U.S.C. §300aa-1 et seq.
The United States Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit has recognized that medical science is “a field bereft of complete and direct proof of how vaccines affect the human body.” Althen v. Sec’y of Health & Human Servs., 418 F.3d 1274 (Fed. Cir. 2005). Medical science cannot explain how or when vaccines cause injury. There is no way of knowing in advance who might suffer harm from these products. Because of this incomplete knowledge, individuals have a right to choose whether or not they consent vaccination, a right they have with any other medical procedure. It is not possible to make a vaccine that is completely risk free nor is it possible to make vaccines that are 100% effective in preventing infectious diseases. In light of these realities, we respectfully submit that mandating medical procedures without allowing for a philosophical or religious exemption is draconian public policy.
Entire letter & signers here: