Act Now to Protect Religious Exemptions in New Jersey

Our Stand: At-A-Glance

  • Senate Bills S902 and S903, sponsored by current Senate President Sweeney (District 3) and Senator Loretta Weinberg (District 37) respectively, seek to remove the religious exemption to vaccination for all New Jersey students from daycare/pre-k through higher education.
  • Assembly Bill A969 (formerly A3818) has also been introduced with the intention to remove the religious exemption. Bill A969 is sponsored by Assemblyman Conaway (District 7), Assemblywoman Jasey (District 27), and is co-sponsored by Assemblywoman Tucker (District 28) and Assemblyman Zwicker (District 16).
  • Senator Weinberg, who is nearing retirement after 30 years as a lawmaker, is making it her mission to collect the 21 votes needed to pass this bill during the upcoming lame-duck session. The lame-duck session is the period of time after election day until the new legislative session begins on January 11th, 2022. This time is notorious for legislators pushing controversial bills they wouldn’t have otherwise wanted to bring attention to before election day.
  • A969/S902/S903 removes the religious exemption completely for all religious students. The state of New Jersey will no longer acknowledge the rights and legitimacy of citizens to decline an invasive and serious medical intervention for deeply held, First-Amendment-affirmed religious beliefs.
  • The enactment of this bill into law would effectively remove thousands of New Jersey students from school and prevent them from attaining an education in the state of New Jersey. New Jersey schools would no longer honor a religious exemption and non-compliant religious children would not be allowed to attend. This would be true regardless of the fact that New Jersey residents pay the highest property taxes in the nation, the lion’s share of which goes towards paying for those public schools.
  • A969/S902/S903 is unprecedented and removes the religious exemption to adult mandates for students in higher education. Non-compliant higher education students would not be able to enroll in any of NJ’s 30 public institutions of higher education. These institutions currently enroll 81% of all NJ’s higher ed students. Removal of the religious exemption to adult mandates for higher education in NJ will further deepen the financial burden on religious families. If this bill were to pass, NJ would be the first state to open the door wide in enforcing an adult population to be vaccinated without accommodation for religious objections in higher education. This will have immense consequences in our state.
  • A969/S902/S903 interferes with the doctor-patient relationship, leaving two possibilities for medical exemption per ACIP guidelines:  anaphylaxis or encephalopathy. The bill also specifies that medical exemptions might be made available for siblings of vaccine-injured (or deceased) children who have been compensated by the Vaccine Injury Compensation Program. The latter would essentially require the sacrifice of one child to prove family susceptibilities simply to obtain a medical exemption for the family on a vaccine-by-vaccine basis.
  • A969/S902 authorizes third-party entities (i.e., health care insurers, agencies, organizations and other entities) to access a medical provider’s documentation of their patient. Such documentation may be used against the medical provider in any punitive manner. This open access to exemption documentation could enable witch-hunting of medical providers who are submitting medical exemptions for patients. In the state of California, there is currently a similar system whereby any medical provider who submits five or more medical exemptions is flagged and may face disciplinary action.
  • Sound public health policies are based in public education and trust, not coercion and fear. Forcing religious families to vaccinate against their beliefs or risk losing their right to education will breed more mistrust and resistance in government entities. 
  • Religious principles, customs, and behaviors have always been based in ideas about health, safety, cleanliness, and bodily integrity. Many vaccines contain porcine and bovine gelatin. The following childhood vaccines produced on human cell lines (WI-38 and MRC-5) originated from terminated pregnancies: MMR, Varivax, Pentacel, Havrix, Vaqta, Twinrix, and ProQuad. Should individuals find these substances repugnant for religious reasons, they would be compelled to inject them into their children’s bodies or lose their right to an education under this new law.
  • New Jersey currently has effective provisions in place for disease control. Statute § 26:1A-9.1 states 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 use it (only 2.4% of students in New Jersey).
  • 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 individuals taking responsibility for their own health outcomes.
  • If S903/S902/A969 were to pass, the entire current vaccine schedule (69+ doses of 16 vaccines) — and any future vaccines the State chooses to mandate (such as the COVID-19, HPV, and flu shots) — could be mandatory for virtually all children. In effect, the State will be practicing and enforcing one-size-fits-all medicine for all NJ students.
  • We must send a strong message to our elected officials that, as their constituents, we do not support the removal of the religious rights of NJ residents.
  • Vaccines do not come without risk for some individuals. Where there is risk, we must maintain choice.
  • We believe the health of each individual is a unique circumstance and, as such, our elected officials must respect our freedom to be healthy according to our own bio-individuality. 
  • We believe public health is – and can only be – the product of the personal health of every single man, woman and child in the community. When our elected officials respect the health of each of us, individually, they will be cultivating the health of all of us, as a community.

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