[Note: The following is the text of an email received today (Sunday, 7/9/17) from Vaccine Rights Attorney Alan Phillips, J.D.]
ALERT – Florida Court rules Catholic school can require vaccines as “religion” over parents’ state & fed rights! Please help us appeal this decision now!
Florida Appellate Court Confuses Medical Science & Religion
Lawsuit to Save Religious Exemption
Last week, Florida’s First District Court of Appeals ruled in favor of a Catholic bishop’s abrupt change of policy that now forbids religious exemptions in his diocese’s schools, despite parent’s state statutory and federal Constitutional right to exercise the exemption. The court erroneously framed the dispute as being a conflict between the parents’ and diocese’s religious beliefs. However, the court ignored two simple, critical legal points: 1) One does not have a Constitutionally protected religious belief simply by claiming so, the belief must be objectively “rooted in religion.” Vaccination, of course, is unquestionably rooted in science, and the law sees science and religion as mutually exclusive realms (what in the world was the court thinking?!); and 2) The court completely ignored the Catholic school’s participation in a state program in which participants agree, by state law, to follow all Florida laws. So, even if the bishop could refuse religious exemptions otherwise, he waived that right by his participation in that state program.
There were many other problems with the court’s opinion, including the court overstepping its authority by questioning the legislative findings about vaccines and infectious disease, a step prohibited by the U.S. Supreme Court’s landmark 1905 Jacobson v. Mass vaccine case that remains the foundation for vaccine policy to this day.
The FL appellate court’s decision has disturbing implications. If a church can unilaterally declare that vaccination is a “religious” belief without the court applying the legally required objective assessment, and thereby remove itself from state authority, what else can the church unilaterally deem “religious” to remove its actions from state scrutiny? Indeed, what could it *not* randomly deem to be a religious belief to escape state scrutiny? Can any religious school now require any medical treatment for its students in the name of religion? The FL appellate court has blatantly stepped outside of well-established law and created a very dangerous slippery slope. Whatever the reason–fear of infectious disease, fear of retaliation from the Catholic Church, or who knows what–this horrible decision *must* be challenged!
The immediate concern is religious schools in Florida; and secondarily, religious schools throughout the nation that will no doubt use this decision to justify mandating vaccines in violation of parents’ Constitutional rights. But the buck will not stop there. Like every other erosion of our rights, this is just one more step toward the eventual goal of removing all exemption rights for anyone, anywhere, at anytime. So, unless we stop this train now, it will continue to gain speed as it rolls further down the track.
The family is already $20K in the hole from the trial and first level of appeal, and they need about $15K – $20K within the next 3 weeks to retain counsel to ask the Florida State Supreme Court to review and reverse the court of appeals’ erroneous decision. Please donate, and please spread the word. If a few thousand people each donate just a few dollars, we’ll get there, but we won’t get there if you leave this to everyone else. Please help — donations in any amount are appreciated!
The Go Fund Me page is here:
Lawsuit to Save Religious Exemption
If sufficient funds are not raised or the FL State Supreme Court refuses to hear this case, all funds will go toward the family’s current legal debt.
Questions about the case: