There is no constitutional exemption, based on free exercise of religion, to laws mandating vaccines for school-age children, an Eastern District judge has held.
Judge William Kuntz II ruled that precedents in both the U.S. Supreme Court, in Jacobson v. Commonwealth of Mass., 197 U.S. 11 (1905), and in the Eastern District, in Caviezel v. Great Neck Public Schools, 739 F. Supp. 2d 273 (EDNY, 2010), required him to reject challenges to compulsory inoculation on religious freedom grounds.
“Although plaintiffs opine that Jacobson is bad law and ask this court to overturn the Supreme Court decision, ‘this the court cannot do,’” Kuntz wrote, quoting Caviezel.
In Caviezel, a case Kuntz said was nearly identical to the one before him, Judge Arthur Spatt wrote that “the free exercise clause of the First Amendment does not provide a right for religious objectors to be exempt from New York’s compulsory inoculation law.”
Kuntz also rejected plaintiffs’ claims that New York City’s mandatory vaccination law for children violates the Due Process and Equal Protection clauses of the Constitution.
Kuntz make his ruling in Phillips v. City of New York, 12-cv-98. Earlier, two similar cases had been consolidated before him, Mendoza-Vaca v. City of New York, 12-cv-237, and Check v. New York City Department of Education, 13-cv-791.
The exemption based on religious grounds was granted to each of the three families that sued, although it was revoked for plaintiff Dina Check’s child. The Phillips and Mendoza-Vaca families said they continued their suits because their children have not been allowed to attend school whenever there is the presence of a “vaccine preventable” illness among other children.
The plaintiffs’ lawyer, Patricia Finn of Piermont, has filed a notice to appeal Kuntz’s ruling.