Today in “Religion vs. Medicine,” two parents from Queens are asking a judge to overturn a rule that allows public schools to send unvaccinated children home when there are illnesses going around.
While children are required to be vaccinated in order to attend public school, there is a legal exception to this rule if parents oppose vaccinations on religious grounds. However, city principals can still choose to send unvaccinated children home if there are other students at school with common communicable diseases such as measles and chicken pox. This is what happened to Fabian Mendoza-Vaca’s children at P.S. 107, and he’s suing in the Queens Supreme Court to make sure it doesn’t happen again.
“It is my opinion that resorting to vaccinations demonstrates a lack of faith in God, which would anger God and therefore be sacrilegious,” said Mendoza-Vaca.
He has joined forces with Nicole Phillips, whose children missed several weeks of school at P.S. 188 last year for the same reason:
“We don’t want anything being put into our bodies at all. We’d rather rely on our natural immune system and our faith in God. This is about my children’s rights.”
Neither Mendoza-Vaca nor Phillips have revealed their specific religious backgrounds. However, religions organizations getting into a fit about what the government says you can (or can’t) put in your body is nothing new. (On the national level, the Catholic Church is currently engaged in a battle with President Obama over birth control access.) Nor is resistance to vaccines themselves, which were once thought to be linked to autism, although those claims have been mostly refuted.
It’s hard to say what’s worse — that these kids might contract serious illnesses as a result of being sent to school unprotected, or that they miss valuable instruction time because of the law. Either way, the case could set an interesting New York precedent for issues of religious freedom in public schools.