From: Kevin Barry
Subject: Follow up call re: maintaining the current religious exemption in NJ
To: Senate President Steve Sweeney, aide, aide, aide
CC: Ann Rosen
Dear Senator Sweeney,
__________ - we would like to start by thanking you for taking the time to speak with us ... to consider some other perspectives around public health and religious freedom. We appreciate your time and active participation in the conversation. (Note: Senator Sweeney was not on this call. He was cc’d on the follow up. KB)
As we mentioned in our meeting, we have seen Senator Sweeney lend support to the disability community (and other marginalized groups) in the past, and we are grateful for his efforts. We are hoping we can count on him again to preserve religious freedom for the minority of New Jersey families who claim religious exemptions. All it would require is the prudence to preserve the Constitutional freedoms afforded by current laws, which have worked well for this state for over 50 years. The current religious exemption law should remain unchanged.
We would like to reassert that this is not a position hostile to the vaccine program itself. While concerns about vaccine safety and efficacy are legitimate, and most certainly warrant further investigation, proposed bills like S2173/A3818 infringe on religious freedom, parental rights and bodily sovereignty. These are things that cannot be traded away over hyperbolic outbreak fears like the current measles hysteria. Religious freedom is a fundamental American value, not a “loophole,” as it has sometimes been referred to by the media in recent weeks.
Here are some helpful points for Senator Sweeney to consider:
1) Vaccination rates in NJ schools are upwards of 95%. Only 2% of New Jersey residents use a religious exemption. (1) Current laws already have measures in place to remove unvaccinated children from schools in the event of an outbreak. Furthermore, many of the 54 vaccines on the CDC-recommended childhood schedule are not for infectious diseases and play zero role in preventing any kind of an outbreak. The current religious exemption law works well and should remain unchanged.
2) The American Medical Association’s own code of ethics allows for physicians to claim religious and philosophical exemptions to vaccinations. Citizens of New Jersey are only asking to maintain religious exemption, less than what the AMA offers to its own members. (2)
3) The idea of vaccine-induced herd immunity is a theory. It has always been a theoretical application that relied on vaccine conferring lifelong immunity, which vaccines have never been able to accomplish. (3) This flawed science is regularly used to bully hesitant parents into vaccinating their children for the sake of others, but it potentially puts children on both sides at risk - on one side exposing children to the vaccine injuries they hope to avoid, and creating a false sense of security on the other.
4) Measles does NOT pose a serious threat to public health in the US. Measles is not deadly in the United States. The last child to die from measles in the US was in 2003. (4) Healthy people do not die of measles, nor do they suffer serious side effects - quite the opposite. For the vast majority of people, exposure to wild measles is associated with reduced likelihoods of various cancers, heart diseases and autoimmune issues. (5) And immuno-compromised populations are vulnerable to ALL infectious diseases, and are vulnerable to recently vaccinated populations who may be shedding live virus. The current media driven measles hysteria is not a valid reason to take away religious freedom, the first freedom reserved to American citizens in the Bill of Rights.
5) #METOO and "My Body, My Choice" are not pick and choose movements. You either believe in listening to women, and respecting their choices about what goes into their bodies and those of their children, or you don't.
6) We cannot settle on "science" that has left 54% of our children with at least one chronic illness, has resulted in 1 out of 34 children in NJ being diagnosed with autism, and lets pediatric cancer rates continue to rise. (6) The current paradigm is not working for our children and, even in the most highly vaccinated communities, is not preventing outbreaks. The role which vaccination may or may not play in causing these increases in chronic illnesses is unknown at this time.
7) State vaccine mandates violate international human rights and bioethics standards. Article 3 of the Universal Declaration on Bioethics and Human Rights states that the interests of the individual take priority over the interests of society or science. Article 6 of the same Declaration clearly states that informed consent is the standard, and that consent may be withdrawn at any time for any reason without disadvantage or prejudice, such as being denied access to public schools. (7)
8) Vaccines as a product are classified as “unavoidably unsafe.” This is the reason vaccines have federal liability protection. (8) States should not restrict existing exemptions to a product which is unavoidably unsafe. It is bad public policy, and such a policy would violate international bioethics and human rights standards.
9) Not only would restricting or removing of the existing religious freedom right via A3818 violate the spirit of the First Amendment to the US Constitution, it would also violate the spirit of the NJ State Constitution. The preamble to the NJ Constitution reads: “We, the people of the State of New Jersey, grateful to Almighty God for the civil and religious liberty which He hath so long permitted us to enjoy, and looking to Him for a blessing upon our endeavors to secure and transmit the same unimpaired to succeeding generations, do ordain and establish this Constitution.” Article 3 of the NJ Constitution begins: “No person shall be deprived of the inestimable privilege of worshipping Almighty God in a manner agreeable to the dictates of his own conscience …” (9)
10) A3818 would also discriminate against children with disabilities. The bill contains no exceptions for allowing children with disabilities, who currently attend school with religious exemptions, to access education to which they are entitled and no due process procedures by which to challenge exclusion, in violation of federal and state law. Altering the current religious exemption law would create legal challenges in every school district in NJ. (10)
11) With each passing day, more Religious leaders are understanding that states are intruding on critically important First Amendment religious freedoms. In April 2019, the Russian Orthodox Church announced a policy against state-imposed compulsory vaccination. (11) In May 2019, a group of Evangelical Churches in New York announced their opposition to the removal of religious exemptions to vaccination. (12) Many Rabbis have alternative views to vaccination according to Jewish law. (13)
We can do better than any form of A3818, or any restriction of the current religious exemption law which the Senate might propose. With Senator Sweeney's help, we can work towards protecting public health while also protecting our state and federal Constitutional rights. It is possible, but it will require holding out for better legislation than the currently proposed bills. The current law works well for New Jersey and should remain unchanged.
We would like to offer our assistance if your office would like additional information. Please feel free to use us a resource. We have done our homework and have much of the research at our disposal. We welcome the opportunity to meet with you in person in the future and hope to keep an open dialogue about this issue.
In the meantime, thank you for all of your work on New Jersey’s future.
Kevin Barry, Esq. NJ
Ann Rosen, L.Ac., M.S.T.O.M., NJ
1. 95% vaccine uptake rate in NJ/2% religious exemptions
2. American Medical Association Code of Ethics, Section 8.7 (2019)
3. Herd Immunity and Compulsory Childhood Vaccination: Does the Theory Justify the Law?, Oregon Law Review : Vol. 93, No. 1 (2014)
4. Just How Deadly is Measles? By Dr. Bob Sears (updated 2019)
5. Febrile infectious Childhood Diseases in the History of Cancer Patients and matched Controls, Albonic, H., et al, Medical Hypotheses 51:315, (1998).
6. 54% chronic of children have chronic disease/pediatric cancer rates are up
7. Universal Declaration on Bioethics and Human Rights, adopted unanimously by 193 countries, including the United States (2005). http://portal.unesco.org/en/ev.php-URL_ID=31058&URL_DO=DO_TOPIC&URL_SECTION=201.html
8. Affirming vaccines are “unavoidably unsafe” BRUESEWITZ V. WYETH LLC, US Supreme Court (2011)
9. NEW JERSEY STATE CONSTITUTION (updated 1947)
10. Impact of potential changes to Religious Exemption laws on Special Needs Students, PDF attached (2019)
11. Russian Orthodox Church Officially Opposes Compulsory Vaccinations of Children (April 24, 2019)
12. Letter from NY Evangelicals Church leaders opposing the removal of the religious exemption, PDF attached (2019)
13. VACCINES AND JEWISH LAW: An Alternate View, (2019). http://www.firstfreedoms.org/vaccines-and-jewish-law-an-alternate-view.html