YOUR RIGHTS TO AVOID IMMUNIZATIONS
By: James R. Filenbaum, Esq.
Excerpted from Innovation, Spring 2000 issue
great deal of concern regarding immunizations has recently been given
considerable media attention. While many people are now looking at
alternative information sources as to the choice of whether to have
their children immunized, their rights are often not clearly explained.
As an attorney who has represented many people who have secured
exemptions from immunizations, and has won the leading Federal Court
cases which have expanded peoples' rights to claim exemptions from
immunizations, I have become particularly familiar with this area of
Most States only allow an exemption from
immunizations for children attending school based upon religious
beliefs or by a licensed physician signing a certificate indicating
that the immunizations are contraindicated. Some States have taken a
more liberal approach in the enactment of statutes that allow for
children to be admitted into school attendance based upon the parents'
request for an exemption.
Securing the medical exemption is extremely difficult since only those
criteria approved by the American Medical Association and American
Academy of Pediatrics as contraindication for each immunization are
considered valid by school districts or Health Departments. Therefore,
requests for exemptions for medical reasons are extremely limited.
Valid claims for exemption from immunizations based upon religious
beliefs now encompass PERSONAL religious beliefs. This is a much
broader base than was possible before we won several landmark cases. A
great number of people fail to utilize this right to a religious
exemption because they view religion in traditional terms and do not
feel the exemption can apply to them because they are not members of a
specific church, such as the Christian Scientists.
Religion goes far beyond simple membership in a church,
attendance of services, adherence to prescribed dogma, or participation
in various rituals. While an exact definition of what would constitute
a "religious belief" varies depending upon what purpose is being
applied to the use of the word "religion in", pursuing a claim
for a religious exemption from immunizations the standard which must be
considered is that which is established by the United States Supreme
Court. Therefore, in adherence to the First Amendment of the United
States Constitution guarantee of freedom of religion, the test in
determining whether a belief constitutes a "religious belief"
sufficient to qualify for the religious exemption from immunizations,
is whether the adherents' beliefs and faiths occupy a place in their lives parallel to
that filled by the orthodox belief in God held by others; or any other
"sincere religious beliefs which are based upon a power or being, or
upon a faith to which all else is subordinate or upon which all else is
ultimately dependent." U.S. Vs. Seeger, 380 U.S. 163 (1965), Sherr and Levy vs. Northport East-Northport Union Free School
district, 672 F.Supp. 81, (E.D.N.Y. 1987)
The right to claim exemption from immunization based on religious
beliefs is available to all persons who hold religious beliefs against
immunization regardless of what any state statute may say regarding the
necessity for membership in any particular religious group or church.
The first amendment to the U.S. Constitution prohibits states from
discriminating between people based on their religious beliefs. If there is any state law that allows for exemption based on
religious beliefs, it is available to all those people who hold
religious beliefs against immunization even if their beliefs are
personal and unique to them alone.
Copyright © James
R. Filenbaum, Attorney at Law all rights reserved.
Two Executive Boulevard, Suite 201, Suffern, NY 10901