Banning Philosophical Exemptions to Vaccination While Keeping Religious Ones Makes No Sense

Jun 3, 2015

by Jerry Coyne

Forty-eight states in America have laws allowing children who attend public school to do so without being vaccinated—if they have religious reasons. In 19 of those states, you can also avoid vaccination if your exemption is based on philosophical reasons.

Every other kid, save those with medical exemptions—compromised immune systems and the like—must be vaccinated, and for good reason. We know what happens when vaccinations aren’t required, and we’re starting to see the expected epidemics.

West Virginia and Mississippi are the only two states that don’t allow either philosophical or religious exemptions from vaccination. California is poised to join them, as its state Senate just approved a no-exemption billby a wide margin (medical exemptions will still be allowed).

Vermont has just joined the Rationality Crowd, but they didn’t go whole hog, reports Michael Specter in a New Yorker piece, “Vermont says No to the anti-vaccine movement,” The state eliminated philosophical exemptions for vaccinations but also recently mandated labeling for GMO foods, those derived from genetically modified organisms:

Just a year after Vermont became the first state to require labels for products made with genetically modified organisms, Governor Peter Shumlin on Thursday signed an equally controversial but very different kind of legislation: the state has now become the first to remove philosophical exemptions from its vaccination law.

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20 comments on “Banning Philosophical Exemptions to Vaccination While Keeping Religious Ones Makes No Sense

  • 1
    chrisstopher says:

    The priveleging of religion can be dangerous. Here in the case of vaccine exemptions we see the speical consideration given, were none is warranted or justified on any reasonable grounds. If you’re a parent, fine protect your child, but do it , by getting them vaccinated. It won’t just protect your kids against disease, but others as well who for legimate medical reasons may not be able to get vacinnated. I think alot of the oppostion is due to ingorance, lack of basic science knowledge, and the Ayn Randian disease that seem to affect alot of people in this country, the ‘I am a rugged indivual ,and big gubermint can’t tell me what to do’.

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  • They seem to need to take more drastic action in Pakistan!
    Polio in Pakistan: Drop of 70% recorded this year

    Polio cases in Pakistan have dropped by 70% this year as troops make territorial advances in the north against militants opposed to vaccination programmes, government officials have told the BBC.

    They say that so far in 2015 there have been about 25 cases.

    In October officials said that Pakistan had its highest number of cases for 15 years, mostly due to militant attacks.

    At that time they said there were more than 200 cases across the country.

    The number in October exceeded the 199 cases in 2001 but was short of the 558 cases in 1999

    Most polio infections are in the north-western tribal region where militants have targeted health teams.

    They accuse doctors of being spies and say the vaccinations are part of a Western plot to sterilise Muslims.

    Prime ministerial polio adviser Ayesha Raza said on Wednesday that while it had taken time to eradicate militancy in North Waziristan, the rewards from doing so were “already visible in the polio programme”.

    Our correspondent says that a major chunk of the North Waziristan population who lived under a militant-imposed vaccination ban for several years have now been vaccinated several times over along with their children.

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  • This whole business of religious freedom is yet another example of how twisted and deceptive these Republicans are.

    Why should religious people have any more rights or privileges than any one else? Why should a religious caterer be able to say: I am not catering your gay wedding? And why should a person be permitted to cherry-pick what prescription medication (which may cover birth-control) is covered by the insurance he or she is providing? You either provide insurance or you don’t. We have to stop thinking that people of faith are somehow deserving of respect because it’s their faith.

    Should a business owner who happens to be a Marxist, a feminist, and an atheist be able to say: “I am not going to cater your wedding: you are a Christian, and I don’t support bourgeois marriage or christianity. That would go against my principles”? Should a school allow a student to kill another student or teacher? Look at this:

    Leviticus 20:13 clearly states “If a man also lie with mankind, as he lieth with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination: they shall surely be put to death; their blood shall be upon them.”

    Religious people do not deserve anything more than anyone else. They shouldn’t have more freedom than a non-religious (sober) person. They believe in a supernatural being. They believe that myths are real!! Haw haw. They believe, they believe — and they get hurt feelings too, a lot of hurt feelings. I would advocate persecution at this point (in the form of ridicule and persistent criticism). Enough is enough! I agree with Richard Dawkins that ridicule in this context is not ethically wrong. On the contrary…

    There is no mention of God, or the so-called Bible, or Jesus, or religion anywhere in the constitution! Fuck the Republicans and the free-market social Darwinists.

    Alan, a wavelength is not a color. Is there color without an eye to behold it? Yes or no.

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  • What is a religious reason?

    It is a superstition.
    there is no practical reason.
    there are a group of people who share a common superstition.
    The only difference between crank notions and notions of the mentally ill is they are more widely shared.

    Honouring a religious superstition is humouring the holder, not doing anything to protect them from harm or offer them a benefit.

    In the case of vaccines the benefit to the general community overrides the psychological distress of the religious or vaccine deniers.

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  • Absolutely, goddamned right. And just between you and me, Roedy, I am getting a little worried about a certain tendency I have noticed amongst some of my atheist friends and colleagues. They want to continue to “respect” people’s faith. You can see it on some of the other threads, and it’s on TV too. Why? Why respect it?
    Do we respect the ravings of a lunatic because they’re his thoughts? Moreover, the lunatic doesn’t have the power that the religious politicians, the lawmakers, have. Religion is a great scourge. I have really grown to detest and resent it. I wrote a good comment above, and just posted one on the Q of the week. I expressed my unmitigated contempt. Some of the other comments I’ve been reading are, shall I say, wishy washy, and boring.

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  • As an evangelical Christian, I believe that I should respect the right of others to disagree with me and that includes not asking for special favors because of my faith. Philosophical objections ought to be considered as valid as religious ones. However, I think it would make better sense in something so clear cut as vaccines to not permit either religious or philosophical objections on the part of parents to keep their kids from being vaccinated.

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  • 7
    Miserablegit says:

    Unless you allow no exemptions for vaccinations, then many parents would happily use the religious card to stop their child being vaccinated leaving them and any child they come into contact with at the mercy of whichever virus they have avoided vaccination for.

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  • Dan
    Jun 3, 2015 at 7:19 pm

    Alan, a wavelength is not a color. Is there color without an eye to behold it? Yes or no.

    This is off topic on this thread.
    Wavelengths of light ARE the spectrum of colour, (As projectors creating coloured images on white screens show), but the WORDS describing colour are LABELS on the selected wavelengths detected by the photoreceptors of human eyes. Without human eyes the WORDS would not exist.

    See this post and link for details.:-

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  • I’m with you brother. I’m always getting in trouble with my wife when I automatically say “Which God is that then?” when somebody says “God bless or whatever”…If a person get’s upset by anything said to them- they have only themselves to blame – if you don’t like what somebody says just ignore them – or counter them with a better argument! Why should we respect people who won’t eat a bacon sarnie or drink a nice pint of beer, just because they think that their made up friend doesn’t want them to!!! Fookin deluded toss-pots the lot of them!

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  • 12
    Charles says:

    I always thought they should figure out the percent of the population needed for herd immunity and factor in a margin for safety and make that a requirement for school. So if the percent is 90% for coverage, the school would enforce a 95% vaccination rate. If the rate at the school drops below 95%, students would be asked not to come to school starting with the ones doing it for non-medical reasons.

    This turns it to a public safety issue not political. Only adults at the table if it would go to court.

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  • It’d be great if we could get rid of the religious exemptions too, but in some states that’s going to be problematic and since the philosophical ones are the bigger problem I’d prefer to get rid of them first where complete elimination of exemptions may prove difficult. After all, very few religions prohibit vaccination and those that do, don’t have many members. By ignoring the religious exemption we avoid the religious freedom arguments and increase the chances of getting enough support to solve the bigger problem.

    Once that’s in place we can start working on whittling down the number of religious exemptions and prevent those with philosophical concerns abusing religious exemptions by requiring written approval from a formally ordained minister of an organization that has given the government a statement saying that they are against all vaccination.

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  • The are Christians are also demanding special exemptions to murder gays, to harass them, to refuse them service, to bully them, to beat them up. From the gay point of view, these exemptions are madness. They are based on a bronze age superstition that requires sacrificing gays to prevent earthquakes. From the gay point of view, putting up with this maltreatment is quite an imposition just to humour lunatics.

    People still think of religious objections as very high priority, when they are just the ravings of the deluded. We can permit them, but only when they don’t cause harm to others.

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  • Thanks, brother!

    I want to be free from knee jerk arrogance and self entitled righteousness because of fucking beliefs. People who want to exude importance and presume high moral ground preface their important statement with I’m a christian and I’m a person of faith.—But I say right away “excuse me, faith is willful ignorance of critical thinking. When someone tells me they have a personal god I ask them “do you have a cat?” and if they say yes I ask “does the cat have a name? The cat is expected to live 10 or 15 years tops; he has a name but everyone that has a personal god never bothers to name it. I find it hilarious that the cat gets a name and your personal god does not. I asked this girl “if it’s a personal god even though everyone has a personal god how do you tell it apart from other people’s personal god if it has the same name?” I said “what if your cat gets mixed up with all the other personal cats? Are you going to call out cat! cat! because it has no name? I told her “if your personal god has the same name as everyone else’s personal god then how the fuck is it personal?????”

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  • Dear moderators:

    Is there any possible way you can delete this comment above (that starts out “Thanks, brother”)? I said enough already, and feel like I am just fulminating and ridiculing, being mean. If you can’t it’s okay. No harm in asking though. This comment just doesn’t sit well with me. I would love it if it could be deleted and expunged.


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  • Meanwhile – back in the UK another charlatan exporting bleach quackery from the USA, has been exposed!
    ‘Miracle autism cure’ seller exposed by BBC investigation
    .A self-styled “reverend” who claims autism can be “purged” by swallowing bleach has been exposed by a BBC London undercover investigation.

    Leon Edwards sold sodium chlorite and hydrochloric acid to a reporter posing as the relation of an autistic child. Combined, the chemicals form bleach.

    The BBC has also learned the secret location of a conference to begin in Surrey on Friday to promote the ‘cure’.

    When confronted with the evidence, Mr Edwards made no comment.
    ‘Miracle solution’

    Mr Edwards has been linked to the Genesis II Church, an American organisation which describes itself as a “non-religious church of health and healing”.

    This is purportedly achieved through the used of so-called “Miracle Mineral Solution” (MMS), a bleach which is produced by mixing the two chemicals.

    Experts said it is untrue any such mixture could cure autism and warned its use could lead to serious harm or death.

    Some of the leading figures in the ‘church’ have travelled from the US to attend the conference, due to take place in a manor house in Farnham

    Emails obtained by the BBC show delegates have been told to meet at a certain location before being driven to the venue, where they will be instructed in preparing doses of MMS to be consumed orally and taken via enemas.

    Through his website, Mr Edwards, who says he is not attending the conference, sold the researcher the one bottle of liquid labelled as 22.4% sodium chlorite and a second labelled as 4% hydrochloric acid.

    When the BBC sent the chemicals to Kent Scientific Services, an independent laboratory, they were found to be 57% and 45% stronger than the advertised concentration respectively.

    Mr Edwards told him: “It’s helping people get well from all sorts of diseases – cancer, HIV, malaria. It’s cleaning the body out. And nearly all the illnesses are getting removed with this.

    “I’m not gonna say cure… because I can get in trouble. I’d say purge. It can purge autism. Alzheimer’s too.

    “170 children have had their diagnosis removed of autism in four years.”

    Mr Edwards advised 27 drops of MMS per day for a baby – administered with a baby’s bottle.

    *”They’re never gonna shut me down. All they can do is put me in a prison cell.”

    Last month a jury in the US state of Washington convicted Genesis II member Louis Daniel Smith for selling MMS as a “miracle cure”. He faces a maximum of 34 years in prison.

    Carol Povey, of the National Autistic Society, said: “No evidence of any kind exists to support the preposterous claims made for MMS as an intervention for autism.

    “It is shocking that dubious companies continue to promote potentially very harmful products like these.

    “Autism is a complex neurological condition, without a cure.”

    Dr Sarah Jarvis, a GP, said ingesting bleach could cause scarring to the oesophagus, damage to the stomach and even death.

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  • There also seem political “exemptions”!
    Pakistan has ordered the charity Save the Children to leave the country, with an official accusing the NGO of “anti-Pakistan” activities.

    Police have sealed off their offices in Islamabad and foreign staff given 15 days to leave the country.

    Save the Children said it “strongly objected” to the action.

    Pakistan has previously linked the charity to the fake vaccination programme used by the CIA to track down Osama Bin Laden.

    The charity has always denied being involved with the CIA or Pakistani doctor Shakil Afridi, who carried out the programme.

    The charity has had no foreign staff in the country for the past 18 months in response to the accusations.

    It now has 1,200 Pakistani staff working on projects in health, education and food, the charity said.

    Save the Children, which has operations all over the world, has worked in Pakistan for more than 30 years.

    The Pakistani government has not given a formal announcement explaining the decision.

    But one official told the AFP news agency: “Their activities were being monitored since a long time. They were doing something which was against Pakistan’s interest.”

    A police official said that the charity’s phone calls and offices had been placed under surveillance. Speaking to the Reuters news agency, he added that the charity’s activities were “very suspicious”.

    Condemning the move, Save the Children said it was “raising our serious concerns at the highest levels”, adding that its workers were all Pakistani nationals.

    A Save the Children official told Reuters that the Pakistan government had been stopping aid shipments entering the country, “blocking aid to millions of children and their families”.

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