Act Now to Protect Religious Exemptions in New Jersey

  • S2173, sponsored by Sen. Weinberg (D-37) and Sen. Vitale (D-19) and A3818, sponsored by Assembly members Conaway (D-7), Jasey (D-27) and Pinkin (D-18), seek to eliminate the religious exemption to vaccination for all New Jersey children in daycare and public and private schools (Pre-K through higher education).
  • On December 12, Senate President Stephen Sweeney (D-3), knowing that S2173 did not have enough votes to pass in the Senate Health Committee, removed three democratic senators from their position on the Health Committee and replaced them with Sen. Cryan (D-20), Sen. Smith (D-17) and himself. Each of them voted “yes” to this bill, which advances it to the full Senate.
  • S2173 will now be voted on in the full Senate this Monday, December 16. The bill is not currently scheduled for a vote in the full Assembly. However, that can change at any moment. If either of these bills pass both the full Senate and full Assembly, they would immediately be placed on Governor Murphy’s desk to be signed. There are indicators that the Governor would sign the bill into law.
  • Sound public health policies are based in public education and trust, not coercion and fear. Telling families with sincerely held religious beliefs that they must vaccinate or lose the right to education breeds mistrust and resistance. It also separates healthy children from their community relationships and support systems.
  • Religious principles, customs, and behaviors have always been based in beliefs about health, safety, cleanliness, and bodily integrity. Many vaccine ingredients are derived from pig and cow products, including amino acids, glycerol, detergents, gelatin, enzymes, and blood. Other childhood vaccines are produced on human cell lines (WI-38 and MRC-5) originated from terminated pregnancies. This includes MMR, Varivax, Pentacel, Havrix, Vaqta, Twinrix, and ProQuad. If individuals find these substances objectionable for religious reasons, they would be compelled to inject them into their children’s bodies or lose their right to an education. This is only one example of a personally held religious belief. Please note that the Constitution stipulates that it does not matter if your religious beliefs are part of an organized religion or endorsed by religious leaders. It is your right to worship, without scrutiny or interference, according to your sincerely held religious tenets.
  • New Jersey already has effective disease control provisions in place, Statute § 26:1A-9.1. The law already provides that students with a religious exemption may be kept out of school during an emergency as determined by the State Commissioner of Health. Currently, there is no compelling emergency to unconstitutionally eliminate the religious exemption, especially when so few students (2.6%) use it.
  • As Americans, we are entitled to observe our religious tenets and to worship and express devotion in the manner of our choosing — without government, industry, or medical interference or scrutiny. The removal of religious exemptions affects our right to make decisions for ourselves and our families. Instead, public health initiatives should focus on empowering individuals to take responsibility for themselves and their families.
  • If S2173 passes, the entire current vaccine schedule (69+ doses of 16 vaccines) — and any other vaccine the State of New Jersey chooses to mandate at a later time — will be mandatory for virtually all children. In effect, the state will be practicing and enforcing one-size-fits-all medicine.
  • We must send a strong message to our elected officials that, as their constituents, we will remain vigilant and intend to hold them accountable for representing us — not special interests of the pharmaceutical industry.

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Act Now to Protect Religious Exemptions in New Jersey

The New Jersey legislature is aggressively moving to pass a law that will remove your ability to obtain a vaccine exemption based on your religious beliefs. It is supposedly doing so in the name of public health. However, no-exceptions public health laws — which enforce liability-free and unavoidably unsafe pharmaceutical products in the name of the greater good — violate basic human rights to bodily sovereignty, informed consent, religious freedom, and conscientious decision-making. This bill favors pharmaceutical company profits over public health and will not improve health outcomes. 

We, the people of New Jersey, demand that our rights — including the right to make informed vaccine decisions and the right to make decisions for ourselves and our families — be safeguarded.  

A3818/S2173 does not only impact New Jersey citizens who worship in religious buildings and read books that say, “Thou shall not….” Religious rights, and the beliefs they protect, are much broader and more comprehensive. Religious beliefs address the cause, nature, and purpose of your existence. You are entitled to your religious tenets and to worship, observe, and express devotion in the manner of your choosing. There is no hierarchy of religions. All religions are equal. The first of all amendments to the US Constitution and the New Jersey Constitution could not be more clear in their intent and importance. They protect the legitimacy and integrity of all citizens to worship in a manner agreeable to the dictates of their own conscience, without interference or scrutiny. The removal of religious exemptions affects every citizen’s right to make decisions for themselves and their family. 

Even though the popular narrative is that vaccines are safe and effective, these are relative terms. There is no pharmaceutical product on the market that is safe and effective for everyone, and vaccines are no exception. In fact, there is agreement within the scientific community that vaccines can and do harm a small but significant minority of children and adults. Despite this, neither the federal government nor the predominant physician professional organizations have done anything to identify and protect those who are vulnerable. 

For too long, it has been too easy for them to avoid any responsibility to the victims — past, present, and future. The 1986 National Childhood Vaccine Injury Act removed all liability from vaccine manufacturers and established the National Vaccine Injury Compensation Program to adjudicate the overwhelming number of claims and cover the mounting costs of settlements with the families of those injured and killed. To date, more than $4.2 billion has been paid to claimants for vaccine injury and death, and each year the number of families compensated increases. This growth mirrors the ever-increasing number of vaccines being added to the immunization schedule along with the ever-increasing awareness among the public that vaccine injuries are not as rare as we have been led to believe. 

Compensation for a death ruled due to vaccine injury is capped at $250,000. Holly Stavola of New Jersey died from her second MMR vaccine at 5 years of age. The Stavola family received the highest level of compensation after a US Federal Claims Court ruled that Holly’s death was a result of the MMR vaccination that Holly received shortly after her 5th birthday; this vaccine is a standard entry requirement into kindergarten. Holly’s Law was then passed by the NJ legislature in 2004 acknowledging the risk associated with vaccination. This law stipulates that parents have the choice to opt out of the second dose of the MMR vaccine for their children with proof of titers testing. 

Vaccine injury is widely underreported. A US Department of Health and Human Services study completed by Harvard Medical School/Harvard Pilgrim Health found that “fewer than 1% of vaccine adverse events are reported.” These results were ignored by the CDC, despite the ostensible purpose of the study, which was to improve vaccine adverse event reporting. 

Facts such as these — and the knowledge that they have been downplayed, covered up, and in some cases altered — are the reason that public distrust in the vaccine program is mounting daily. Public Health authorities have been saying for years that the science is settled and that vaccines don’t cause autism. Despite these assurances, Julie Gerberding, former head of the CDC, has conceded that in susceptible children, the administration of vaccines can “trigger” a regression that results in “autism-like symptoms.” As citizens catch on, they shift their faith from medicine to God.

Every vaccine is a distinct medical intervention. Each has its own distinct potential risks and benefits, just as each illness has unique characteristics that differ from person to person. It is each of us as unique individuals whose collective wellbeing makes up public health. Public health and individual freedoms can be simultaneously achieved. One does not have to be compromised for the other to exist. For these reasons, a commitment by our state legislature to uphold vaccine choice and vaccine safety is not only consistent with the goal of public health, it is absolutely essential. 

New Jersey residents must implore our senators and assembly members to avoid committing the kind of error that will be remembered forever as a dark chapter in our history. Healthy families that are free to pursue health their own decisions make up a healthy society. Take action TODAY and tell your legislators to protect the ability of families to live in congruence with their deepest held beliefs without being ostracized or denied school entrance. 

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