What new requirements may be imposed on families opposed to vaccination when children enter school or day care?
Parents who choose not to vaccinate the children for religious reasons often encounter resistance from schools and day care facilities. Now the State of Illinois has proposed new rules that would add obstacles for parents seeking to exercise their religious right to refuse vaccinations.
A "Certificate of Religious Exemption" Could Become Mandatory
The Illinois Department of Public Health has proposed that parents be required to obtain a “certificate of religious exemption” if they wish to avoid inoculations. The document would certify that a health care provider examined the child and reviewed with the parent all the benefits of getting vaccinated and the health risks to the both the student and community of refusing a vaccine for a communicable disease.
Parents would need to obtain the certificate for students when they enter kindergarten, sixth grade, and ninth grade, as well as when they are enrolling in a new school or child care program.
Parents Fear Overreach and Violation of Religious Liberties
Opponents of the proposed rules say that they violate families' religious freedom and go beyond what is permitted by state law. Critics also complain that, while the proposed rules require doctors to disclose the possible consequences of not being vaccinated, they do not require that doctors inform parents of the potential risks of vaccination.
The state law that authorizes the proposed rules does not require that a refusal of vaccination be based on the beliefs of an organized religion. At the same time, it says, “General philosophical or moral reluctance … does not provide a sufficient basis for an exception.”
Parents worry that this leaves school officials in a position to decide whether or not a religious objection is legitimate. They also complain that certificates would need to be submitted every time a child entered a new preschool or childcare program, whether public, private or parochial.
Rules Still Subject to Hearings
Further hearings will be held before the proposed rules become final. But the rules and the underlying statute show that parents who refuse vaccines for their families face resistance at every step. If you have experienced difficulties at a school, a day care facility, or elsewhere, an attorney experienced in vaccine law can help you assert and defend your legal rights.