On Thursday, December 12, the Senate Health Committee will be meeting to vote on S2173, a bill that would restrict or remove religious exemptions to mandatory vaccinations, thus prohibiting 35,500 children from attending New Jersey schools. 

But let’s stop pretending this is about the 2.6% of NJ families who are using religious exemptions. It isn’t.  It is a legal precedent for removing inherent freedoms and inalienable rights that can easily sneak through unnoticed if no one else is paying attention. S2173 is the Trojan horse that will take down a pillar of our Constitution.  The right to exercise religious freedom would be the first domino to fall, and other bills, including one to mandate the HPV/Gardasil vaccine without parental consent, are lined up right behind it. 

S2173/A3818 is being incorrectly promoted as legislation that is necessary to protect the most vulnerable segment of the population by creating “herd immunity” for some infectious diseases.  For many reasons, this premise is fallacious, and the proposed solution ineffective and short-sighted. While proponents claim it will address a perceived health crisis, such a crisis doesn’t actually exist. And yet, the proposed bill seeks the permanent removal of a religious exemption that upholds one of the foundational principles of our democracy. Sponsors of S2173 and A3818 have yet to explain why they would force families to forego deeply held religious beliefs and have their children receive all 69+ vaccine doses in the CDC-recommended childhood schedule in order to receive a public education, particularly when some of these vaccines do nothing to protect public spaces, and some live-virus vaccines may even contaminate them.

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There have been 19 cases of measles this year in New Jersey, all resolving uneventfully.  Current laws already have stringent provisions to remove children with religious exemptions from schools in the event of an outbreak, despite the lack of evidence that unvaccinated children are responsible for any outbreaks.  Quite the contrary; as is often the case, “patient zero” in the Lakewood outbreak was vaccinated.  Mumps and pertussis outbreaks regularly occur within highly vaccinated communities.

Vaccine-induced herd immunity has yet to, and cannot, be achieved. The frequent occurrence of both primary and secondary vaccine failure (some people never develop antibodies and vaccine-induced immunity wanes over time), attests to this fact. Furthermore, vaccine risk is very real and more common than many would like to acknowledge.  

An honest reevaluation of this situation would reveal that S2173 is a veiled attempt to address not public health, but "vaccine hesitancy," as many legislators continue to claim that the religious exemption is being “abused” and used as a loophole for conscientious and philosophical objections.  However, rather than examining and addressing the legitimate concerns of NJ parents, this legislation would circumvent this to the extreme by removing the inalienable Constitutional rights that stand between American citizens and tyranny. 

The religious beliefs of New Jersey families are not mere “obstacles” that stand in the way of full compliance to medical mandates.  While we may be able to present the scriptural passages that explain why we won’t inject our children with vaccines made with aborted human fetal cells and animal parts, we don’t owe the government this explanation. That’s not how America works.

There is no public health crisis in New Jersey to warrant such extreme legislation. But New Jersey does have real problems. It is time to put S2173 to rest so legislators can return to addressing our more pressing issues.