The Power of One Voice

Henning Jacobson Stood For Health Freedom

It’s easy to feel discouraged when defending health freedom. It’s easy to think your voice falls on deaf ears. But you’re about to read about what one man did one-hundred-sixteen years ago to defend his Constitutional rights, because it’s relevant to you today. Henning Jacobson is proof that one voice matters. Jacobson’s fight for his own bodily sovereignty reverberated across a century. When he stood for himself, he stood for every American who came after him, including you and me today.

Everyone is talking about the Supreme Court case, Jacobson v Massachusetts because they are looking for an anchor.[i] The U.S. hasn’t seen a public health emergency of this scale in a century. The shock of lockdowns, the uncertainty of information, and the massive reach of government into our lives is unprecedented. When law and order run rampant “beyond all question,” courts keep the scales of justice balanced. Courts don’t make the law, they review it. They use our Constitution and cases that came before (a.k.a. precedent). Jacobson is the most directly on point case we have in the context of covid. It is a rare vaccine case heard by the U.S. Supreme Court, and the only one about a state mandate.

Many assert Jacobson stands for the ability of government to force people to be vaccinated. It does not. The facts are misunderstood, and the meaning of the case for us today is not clear. It happened over 100 years ago and the world was quite different.

A History Lesson

Jacobson was decided in 1905. Infectious disease was the leading cause of premature death. Some Supreme Court justices were Civil War veterans, while Jim Crow laws abounded. Germ theory was gaining a foothold.[ii] Women didn’t have the right to vote. Babies were delivered by midwives. Allopathic doctors fought to out-market homeopaths and midwives. The Homeopathic Medical College of Philadelphia (now Hahnemann Hospital) made news when allopathic students refused to march with homeopathic colleagues in the annual “medical parade.”[iii] There was no oversight for scientists trying to create vaccines for cholera, plague, typhoid and rabies.

In 1905, the federal government had very little to do with public health other than protecting ports of entry from incoming disease. That changed in 1902. The Biologics Control Act (known as the “Virus-Toxin Law”) was passed in response to deaths in children and adults across the country from administration of tainted vaccines and anti-toxins, many times due to local mandates. [iv]

Who Was Henning Jacobson, and What Happened in his Case?

The story goes: Jacobson, a father of a small boy, refused vaccination during a smallpox epidemic. He was thrown in jail and lost in the Supreme Court. Since he lost, he was vaccinated…right?

No. If that were the whole story, we’d all be doomed. But it is not.

Jacobson lost his case, but he was not forcibly vaccinated. Jacobson was arrested for noncompliance with Massachusetts law, not for refusal to vaccinate. This was a criminal case. He declined to follow a law dictating a choice between a vaccine and a $5 fine (about $150 today). When he lost his case at the highest court in the land, he was ordered to pay the $5 fine.

Jacobson, and his son, suffered vaccine injury. Jacobson was a pastor and well respected in his community. He had no history of civil disobedience. When government came by to inoculate in prior years, in prior outbreaks, he complied.

Like many who rely on informed consent today, Jacobson chose vaccination when he was asked by his government.

His parents had done the same in Sweden when he was a boy. Jacobson had a reaction when he was inoculated with smallpox at the age of six, and subsequently his son had a serious reaction in the U.S. After experiencing a bad reaction himself, and supporting his son through a reaction as well, he refused.

Jacobson’s defense evidence was not allowed. Henning Jacobson attempted to present the trial court with testimony that he had a reaction, his son had a reaction, and others he knew did as well. The court would not hear it. He was also denied the ability to show evidence with expert testimony that vaccines were unsafe. The Court took judicial notice that vaccines were both safe and effective, despite the fact that just three years prior the first law was passed to regulate vaccines in response to many reports of injuries and deaths. Jacobson was also denied the ability to give jury instructions.

Two Justices dissented but penned no dissent. History can only speculate on their refusal to join.

The Legacy of Jacobson is Unclear

In general courts will give “strict scrutiny” to government actions that curtail fundamental rights. Some say Jacobson temporarily lowers the threshold to questioning whether there is a “rational basis” for the government to limit rights. Some say Jacobsen isn’t good law because it was written before the Court adopted the Constitutional analysis we use today for fundamental rights.

One of the first covid cases to reach SCOTUS after lockdown cited Jacobsen. In South Bay United Pentecostal Church v Newsom, a challenge was brought to a CA public health order limiting church attendance while exempting commercial businesses. SCOTUS stopped California from closing churches, but allowed capacity limits. Chief Justice Roberts agreed with the outcome, but instead of simply examining the case as a Free Exercise case, he cited Jacobson, stating health and welfare decisions are to be left to “accountable officials of the States.”[v]

Since Roberts opened the door, there have been well over one hundred cases citing Jacobson in the last two years, many interpreting the Chief Justice’s words to mean greater deference to government actions in an emergency. However, Justice Gorsuch pointed out in a subsequent case that Roberts’ “willingness to defer to executive orders in the pandemic’s early stages” was “based on the newness of the emergency and how little was then known about the disease.”[ii] Pointing out the long shadow of the covid pandemic, he went on to say, “Jacobson hardly supports cutting the Constitution loose during a pandemic.” Fellow Justice Alito pointed out the absurdity of applying Jacobson  “It is a considerable stretch to read the decision as establishing the test to be applied when statewide measures of indefinite duration are challenged under the First Amendment or other provisions not at issue in that case.”[vi] He continued, “in any event, it is a mistake to take language in Jacobson as the last word on what the Constitution allows public officials to do during the COVID-19 pandemic.”[iv]

Secondary Consequences

The question before the court in Jacobson was whether it was constitutional for a state to mandate a vaccine and impose a secondary consequence for refusal. The Court held that it was, assuming there is a medical exemption.

Courts overall seem to be willing to uphold secondary, nonmedical consequences for refusal to vaccinate.  Consequences for refusing a vaccine mandate can be “severe,” to use language from the Department of Justice.  Indeed, a Texas case declared an employee would “simply need to work somewhere else,” if she refused an employer mandated vaccine.

The question is, how far can consequences go before there is no real choice anymore? The Jacobson Court did not comment on the reasonableness of the fine, and recently Justice Gorsuch opined the $5 fine was “relatively modest.” Since Jacobson provides no guidance on this, it could be anticipated if and when that question comes before the Court, that Court will have to turn to cases that look at whether a restriction on a fundamental right is an “undue burden.”

SCOTUS unilaterally determined Mr. Jacobson was “was himself in perfect health and a fit subject of vaccination” after he was refused the right to testify otherwise. That refusal was not found to be in error. The case simultaneously enshrined the necessity for a medical exemption (the court stated it would be “cruel and inhuman” to subject a person to vaccination contrary to the condition of health or body), and the difficulty in obtaining one.

Lessons from Jacobson

No matter how it is interpreted, Jacobsen can inform our health advocacy work. Jacobson tells us the work of the Health Freedom Advocate has the most leverage at the doorstep of our elected officials. The court stated, “it is for the legislature, and not for the courts, to determine in the first instance whether vaccination is or is not the best mode for the prevention of [disease] and the protection of the public health.”

The deference courts give to legislatures in matters of public health, and the acceptance of the medical belief that vaccines are safe and effective, is over a century old. Even in 1905, the court deferred to allopathic doctors asserting vaccines were safe and effective. “What everybody knows, the court must know.”  The Court assumed the legislature weighed the evidence for and against vaccinations.

The Jacobson court let us know the time to be involved in health rights advocacy is before a bad law is passed. Our voices will be the loudest and strongest when directed toward those who are directly accountable to us. Every single phone call and email and appearance at a hearing makes a difference. Educating legislators and public health officials makes a difference. We protect our civil rights in health care when we work with our elected officials to put in place good laws and kick bad bills to the curb before they get enacted.

So when you get discouraged, when “what’s the point” whispers in your ear, remember Henning Jacobson. Remember the lesson he gave us in early advocacy. Remember the stand he took and the impact that made. One person alone can change the world, but together we are mighty.

You are not alone when you stand for health freedom. You are a part of a growing alliance of health and heart conscious Americans. Stand For Health Freedom is here to support you as you take steps in health sovereignty.

[i] Jacobson v. Massachusetts, 197 US 11 (1905)

[ii] Tomes, Nancy J. “American Attitudes Toward the Germ Theory of Disease: Phyllis Allen Richmond Revisited.” Journal of the History of Medicine. vol. 52, Jan. 1997, pgs 17-50.

[iii] https://journals.psu.edu/pmhb/article/download/43980/43701

[iv] https://www.historyofvaccines.org/content/antitoxin-contamination

[v] To be clear, Jacobson regarded states’ general police powers to make laws for health. The case should not apply in questions of federal mandates because the federal government does not have a generalized police power, only specific enumerated powers granted through the Constitution.

[vi] Roman Catholic Diocese of Brooklyn v Cuomo, 592 US ____(2020), Gorsuch, J., concurring.

[vii] Calvary Chapel Dayton Valley v. Sisolak, 591 US ____ (2020)

Next Steps

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Step 1

For a more recent update on how this case has affected Americans today, watch this interview with Leslie Manookian from Health Freedom Defense Fund.
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Step 2

Take action for health freedom today, tell your policy makers that COVID must be voluntary
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Step 3

If you like the work that SHF is doing, consider supporting us through a donation. Our work is fully funded through individual advocates like you.

Chrissy Scott

Executive Assistant and Social Media Manager

A labor and delivery nurse with a lifelong passion for maternal and fetal health, Chrissy Scott left her job of 19 years after learning the truth about the harms caused by the medical system. In 2009, she was mandated by her employer to receive the H1N1 vaccine during her first trimester of pregnancy with her second child. She was assured that the vaccine was “safe and effective” for pregnant women, but her son was born with a kidney defect that could have been fatal. She didn’t connect the dots to vaccine injury until several years later when the declining health of her oldest son drove her to seek answers outside of allopathic medicine.

This personal journey ignited in her a new passion for truth and transparency in health care. As SHF’s Executive Assistant, Chrissy facilitates communication and local advocacy initiatives alongside Leah Wilson for their home state of Indiana. She also manages and creates graphics for SHF’s social media accounts and the website’s swag shop.

Chrissy earned her nursing degree from Anderson University and served her entire career at her local hospital. While she’s no longer a floor nurse, her five very active boys frequently test her nursing skills! She homeschools her children and has been co-owner of a successful home décor sign business with her sister.

“Parents, being the experts on their own children, are best suited to make decisions for the well-being of their family. To do this properly, they must be given full and accurate information and be free from force or coercion.”

Ellen Chappelle

Writer/Editor

Ellen Chappelle serves as SHF’s resident wordsmith. A seasoned writer and editor, she’s enthusiastic about ensuring that our content is clear, concise, and inspiring.

Ellen is most energized by working on projects that transform lives. A truth seeker as well as a journalist, she’s disturbed by the lack of accuracy in today’s media and determined to help share fact rather than fiction. And having found greater healing with alternative approaches, she’s also passionate about preserving our freedom to make informed health choices.

Past projects include serving as regional editor of a dog magazine, color and trend specialist for a small cosmetics company, arts columnist, newspaper reporter, ghostwriter, and creator of website content for artists and small businesses.

With a degree in journalism and theatre, Ellen is also a performer. She enjoyed singing and dancing on a cruise ship and traveling with a national musical theatre tour, as well as recording industrial videos, television commercials, and radio voiceovers. She also creates handcrafted jewelry in wire, chain maille, and fused glass.

“Despite what some would have us believe, the fact remains that this nation was founded on biblical principles by people who wanted freedom to worship God and live their lives without government involvement. It’s never been more critical to fight for those rights.”

LEAH WILSON

Executive Director and Co-founder

An attorney with a background in complex litigation and advocacy, Leah Wilson is passionate about children’s health and has researched and worked on child welfare issues for more than a decade.

The overmedication of children in foster care as a form of behavior management is what compelled Leah to become an advocate and foster parent. During her time as a court-appointed special advocate for abused and neglected children, Leah witnessed the rampant use of psychiatric drugs among foster kids. She also discovered that, in addition to many extensive requirements, the state had a policy that all foster children and foster families be fully vaccinated, without exception. Through her involvement in law, health and the foster care system, it became abundantly clear to Leah that the single most important issue affecting child welfare in the United States is the practice of one-size-fits-all medicine via medical mandates. This motivated Leah to expand her advocacy beyond foster care to all children nationwide and to start Stand for Health Freedom (SHF) in 2019.

A graduate of the Saint Louis University School of Law, Leah holds dual bachelor degrees in political science and Spanish from Indiana University. In addition to her advocacy work with SHF, Leah is the owner and former operations director of MaxLiving Indy, one of the largest natural health centers in the Midwest. She is also an educator on holistic health as well as a sought-after speaker on issues ranging from religious rights to greening your home.

“Parental rights and religious freedom are God-given natural rights that cannot arbitrarily be taken away by government authorities. Parents are the single most important factor in a child’s success; I stand in full support of this sacred relationship.”

Sayer JI

Director and Co-founder

Sayer Ji is a widely recognized researcher, author, lecturer, activist, and educator on natural health modalities. Among his many roles, he is an advisor to Stand for Health Freedom, a reviewer and editor of the International Journal of Human Nutrition and Functional Medicine, an advisory board member of the National Health Federation, a steering committee member of the Global GMO Free Coalition, and the co-founder and CEO of Systome Biomed Inc., a revolutionary scientific validation framework.

Most notably, Sayer is the founder of Greenmedinfo.com, the world’s most widely referenced, evidence-based natural health resource of its kind. He founded the platform in 2008 to provide an open access, evidence-based resource supporting natural and integrative modalities. Today, Greenmedinfo.com has more than a million visits per month, serving as a trusted resource on myriad health and wellness topics to physicians, healthcare practitioners, clinicians, researchers and consumers worldwide.

Sayer attended Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey, where he studied under the notable American philosopher Dr. Bruce W. Wilshire. He received a Bachelor of Arts in philosophy in 1995, with a focus on the philosophy of science. His new book, Regenerate: Unlocking Your Body’s Radical Resilience through the New Biology, was released in March 2020 and is an Amazon bestseller.

“I truly believe that education will be our greatest shield against accelerating the erosion of civil liberties, including the right to bodily sovereignty, as well as the greatest catalyst for positive change on this planet moving forward.”

Bailey Kuykendoll

Associate Director

Designer and visual marketer Bailey Kuykendoll began advocating for health and religious freedom and parental rights in 2014 after learning she was pregnant. A self-described skeptic, she’s not afraid to ask questions and do copious amounts of research to reach her own conclusions.

She’s also not afraid of hard work. As SHF’s Relationship Manager, Bailey truly keeps the organizational boat afloat. Working closely with health freedom advocates in each state, she ensures that SHF has campaigns for health-freedom-related bills and petitions on our website and across social media, spreading the word to encourage people to contact their legislators. She builds campaigns, graphics, website pages, and relationships.

Bailey earned a design degree from Harrington Institute of Design in 2008. She then served as a production assistant on several shows for HGTV, followed by working behind the scenes on the X Factor, small indie films, music videos, and documentaries. Bailey joined Health Freedom Florida after moving to the East Coast, becoming co-president of the grassroots organization in 2019. While at Health Freedom Florida, she successfully filed a state bill designed to stop discrimination based on your health status. She joined SHF in the fall of 2020.

“God placed a calling on my heart back in 2008 to be a part of something bigger for Him. Twelve years later, the opportunity came knocking to help others lean into their natural-born rights and take a stand for themselves and their families. I knew this is where I was called to be, and I have never looked back.”

Valerie Borek

POLICY ANALYST

Valerie Borek is a passionate advocate for health rights and family privacy. A mother of two with degrees in law and biochemistry, she is perfectly positioned to lead SHF advocates through complex health-rights policy. Her work is guided by a love for American values, uncovering truth, and a passion for empowering others. Valerie has served as SHF’s policy analyst since 2021.

Valerie’s understanding of the value of freedom to make one’s own health care choices is not just academic. Health freedom has kept her boys alive and thriving. Her choice to have home births jump-started her advocacy for health privacy. Her eldest son survived a rare and deadly cancer because her family was able to navigate medical care while holding onto values that were sometimes at odds with recommendations.

Before joining SHF, Valerie specialized in health and parenting rights at her boutique law firm, especially surrounding birth and vaccine rights. She advocated for informed consent in health care and transparent food labeling in her state. She helped found the Birth Rights Bar Association and was honored to present their argument to the Delaware Supreme Court that midwifery is not the practice of medicine, in support of a trailblazing midwife.

“Health is the foundation of how we show up in this world to love, serve, and create. Americans are blessed to live in a country that gets stronger the more we protect fundamental rights, like informed consent and privacy, so individuals and families can thrive.”

Mary Katherine LaCroix

DIRECTOR OF DEVELOPMENT AND NONPROFIT ADMINISTRATION

Mary Katherine LaCroix became involved with SHF as a volunteer in 2019 when the religious exemption for childhood vaccines was at risk in her home state of New Jersey. She believes strongly that parents have the responsibility for their children’s health, education, and faith formation and that only they have the right to make medical decisions and manage their care.

She has worked in fundraising for more than 25 years at various educational, cultural, human services, and political organizations. A graduate of the University of Scranton, she holds a degree in History and English Literature.

Mary Katherine is thrilled to have this opportunity to work with and help grow SHF, believing that together we can achieve even greater impact in protecting our rights and caring for our loved ones. She enjoys spending time with her husband, two children and large extended family, as well as volunteering to support the special needs community.

“Parents are taught that they must trust the experts. That’s what we did, until we learned that the experts can be wrong and don’t always know what is best for your child. Parents should instead feel empowered by their natural, God-given ability to advocate and care for their children. SHF is here to give them the tools to do just that.”

Sheila Ealey

Political Analyst

Dr. Sheila Lewis Ealey is the founder and former director of the Creative Learning Center of Louisiana, a therapeutic day school for children who are on the autism spectrum or struggling with other nonverbal intellectual disabilities. The wife of a former U.S. Coast Guard Officer, she is also the mother of four children. Her son was diagnosed with severe autism spectrum disorder at 18 months. He is now a young man and considered moderate and emerging.

Sheila and her twins were featured in the documentary “Vaxxed.” She has traveled extensively, advocating for medical freedom. She continues to educate disenfranchised parents about their fundamental rights to religious and philosophical exemptions, their ability to live sustainably on a limited budget, and the importance of nutrition and biomedical interventions for optimum health with autism. She also writes individual homeschool curriculums for parents of children with autism or intellectual disorders. Sheila is a trustee for the Autism Trust, USA, and on the board of directors of Children’s Health Defense.

Over the past 20 years, she has educated herself to use natural healing modalities for the body and brain. Her formal education includes degrees in communication, special education curriculum, and a doctorate in Educational Leadership in Special Education. Sheila serves as an assistant content advisor and political analyst for SHF.

“It is not the Constitution’s job to protect our liberties, as it is not a philosophical document but a legal one. Its purpose is to limit the powers and authority of our federal government in hopes of preventing an intrusion upon our unalienable rights. We are obliged to maintain our government within its limits.”

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