Multiple times over the past 10+ years, the New Jersey legislature has faced significant pressure from special interests to eliminate the religious exemption to mandatory vaccination. Each time, these attempts were decisively stopped as huge numbers of voters rose up in opposition. Many hundreds of citizens repeatedly traveled to Trenton with just a couple days’ notice to testify at hearings that were so crowded that overflow rooms barely contained our numbers.
As concerned parents, professionals, and citizens organizing for political influence, we worked with both Democratic and Republican administrations, including Governors Corzine and Christie, and came to the understanding that it is possible to protect both the public health and our religious and parental rights.
As a result, the New Jersey health commissioner wrote a strongly worded statement affirming the people’s rights. Officials charged with implementing the mandatory vaccination statute were specifically instructed that they “should not question whether the parent’s professed religious statement or stated belief is reasonable, acceptable, sincere and bona fide in practice.” Further, “if the statement contains the word “religion” or “religious” or some reference thereto, then the statement should be accepted and the religious exemption of mandatory immunization(s) granted.”
The intent of this 2008 memo was repeated in 2017, that New Jerseyans have, and continue to possess, specific religious and parental rights that have been a part of the NJ state statute for decades and whose language is further upheld in Article 1 of the New Jersey State Constitution:
3. No person shall be deprived of the inestimable privilege of worshipping Almighty God in a manner agreeable to the dictates of his own conscience….
5. No person shall be denied the enjoyment of any civil or military right, nor be discriminated against in the exercise of any civil or military right, nor be segregated in the militia or in the public schools, because of religious principles, race, color, ancestry or national origin.
It is no accident that religious rights and the free exercise thereof is an Article 1 (and First Amendment) issue. Religious freedom is a foundational issue. The very origins of our country were forcefully secured and proudly celebrated in the fierce exultation of religious freedom. It is part of who we are and it is a non-partisan privilege. The linking of the political and religious right has been a strategic expedience seized upon by both parties to the severe detriment of the collective. There is no doubt that bad things have been done in the name of religion as they have been done in the name of many other things. There is also no doubt that the vast majority of Americans in both political parties hold religious beliefs and the freedom to hold these beliefs belongs to us all. Read more on religious freedom in America and share the information with your friends and religious leaders.
Once again, the New Jersey legislature is moving to remove religious freedom by taking away religious exemptions to vaccination. New Jersey’s current laws (N.J.A.C. 8:57-4.3 and N.J.A.C. 8:57-4.4) protect public health interests and religious freedom. Assemblyman Conaway (District 7) and Assemblywoman Jasey (District 27) introduced Bill A3818 which, as amended, would completely eliminate the religious exemption to vaccination.
The bill would coerce families with religious exemptions to vaccination into vaccinating by threatening to remove their child(ren) from school. This action would be devastating to thousands of New Jersey families that identify as a part of a school community and cannot afford to homeschool. New Jersey children would be denied an education, denied special services, barred from participating in extracurricular activities, summer camp, daycare, recreational sports and more. This bill institutes discrimination and isolation for New Jersey children, regardless of their health status, based on vaccine status.
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. The removal of religious exemptions affects all citizens rights to make decisions for ourselves and our families.
On November 5, 2019, the entire New Jersey General Assembly is up for election. It’s time to STAND and affirm that New Jersey residents will vote on November 5th for those assemblymen, and women, and candidates that also stand for the preservation of religious exemptions to vaccination.
Sign the petition today, regardless of your religious beliefs or your vaccination choices, to show your legislators that New Jersey men and women are committed to voting for legislators that uphold religious freedom. The petition will be delivered to each member of the general assembly and the candidates.