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Religious Freedom Under Attack by Church Leaders

Protect-Religious-Freedom-SignvFB-403-403By Cathy Jameson

Thanks to Patrick Flynn for the title for this piece.  Some of our readers may have heard about Patrick before.  Polly Tommey caught up with him while the Vaxxed bus was in north Florida last month. 

Fast forward to 3:42:00 to hear Patrick’s story.  (If that link does not work, try to view the video here – fast forward to 3:42:00.

Ever since the Bishop in Patrick Flynn’s diocese declared that vaccines were mandatory in order to attend diocesan schools, Flynn’s been fighting to get his youngest back into school.  Never having a problem submitting an exemption for any of his children before, he was not willing to kowtow to the Bishop’s demands.  I’d been following the Flynn’s story because several of my own family members in the same diocese found themselves in the same position.  As luck, or the Holy Spirit, would have it, I ran into Patrick Flynn while I was in Florida two weekends ago. 

Only in Jacksonville for a short stay, I leaned over to my mother-in-law while we were at Mass and asked her, “Where do the Flynns go to church?”  She smiled and said, “Here.”  I whispered back, “Well, if you see him, point Patrick out to me.”  We didn’t see him in the church that morning, but as I crossed the street to the parking lot after Mass, there he was.  I asked if we could share his story here, and he said yes.


Cathy:  We learn so much from other parents here, so thank you for taking time to share your story.  Give us a little bit of a history as to what lead up to the filing of the lawsuit.

Patrick:  My wife and I had a son in Kindergarten in a Catholic School in Jacksonville, FL.  In 2013 and 2014 respectively, two of our other children graduated from the Eighth Grade of this same school.  We were also very active members of this Parish and 100% faithful to the Magisterium.

For each year of our children’s enrollment in the past, the school accepted the State of Florida Department of Health form DH-681 whereas we have claimed our religious exemption from the vaccination policy in compliance with Florida law (all Florida public and private schools are bound to comply with the religious exemption).  None of my four youngest children are vaccinated by choice supported and based upon my faith.

Cathy:  Then things changed.  Things happened abruptly, too, if I remember correctly.  Principals were telling families that their children were not going to be invited back for the upcoming school year.  I remember telling family to switch schools!  But it wasn’t the principal who made the announcement; it was the Bishop. 

Patrick:  Following the announcement that beginning with academic year 2015-16, the Diocese of St. Augustine would no longer honor the law, and will now reject Florida’s Department of Health Form DH-681, I personally and verbally appealed to the Pastor of my church and the Principal of its school to please reconsider.

Cathy:  I was crushed upon hearing that the principals’ hands were tied.  Scores of families were not being heard, including extended family members of mine.   I knew someone would have to do something drastic about the Bishop’s decision.  That someone turned out to be you!

Patrick:  The men of the Church have made this disastrous and unfortunate decision based upon the declarations of the National Catholic Bioethics Center (lay people with no ecclesiastical authority) namely that a): Catholics need not worry about the presence of aborted fetal material in some of the required vaccines; b): Since the Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC) does not describe vaccinations as intrinsically evil, no Catholic may refuse to vaccinate on the basis of religious belief and; c): The “group conscience” of the parishes and Diocese trumps the individual consciences of Catholic parents concerning the health, well-being and nurturing of their children (in direct conflict with the CCC and sovereignty of conscience).

Cathy:  Our readers are familiar with the ethical problems associated with vaccine ingredients, including the use of aborted fetal cell lines.  One would think that that ingredient alone could allow a faithful Catholic to opt out of vaccine mandates, but I was shocked that families were still be told that they had to adhere to the vaccine schedule to send their child to the Catholic schools.  Could you go to your priest for help? 

Patrick:  The Pastor of our parish agreed with our decision but felt he could not do anything about it because the edict is coming straight from the Bishops.

Cathy:  I’m so sorry.  What happened next? 

Patrick:  I then had my attorney issue two letters (one in October, another in December) on my behalf to Diocesan leadership requesting response. No response was issued to either formal letter.  I wrote two appeals (one in October, another in January) to the Bishop of the Diocese.  Responses from Estevez’ office were just form letter reiterations of the new policy.  I attempted to schedule a personal appointment with the Bishop. The appointment was first scheduled then abruptly cancelled by the bishop’s staff.

Cathy:  How unfortunate.  It sounds like you needed to make some big decisions.  Is this when the lawsuit was filed? 

Patrick:  Yes.  I filed a lawsuit against Bishop Felipe Estevez, the Bishop of the Diocese of St. Augustine (Case # 15-3923).  I am not looking to get rich off the Diocese. The purpose of the lawsuit is to compel the Bishop to reverse his new policy as it is destructive, immoral and illegal.  I am also seeking reimbursement of my legal fees ($40,000.00 to date).  Following resolution, it is my will and desire to mend the relationships with the men of the Church, continue our lives as active Parishioners with my son receiving a Catholic education in our school.

Cathy:  No child’s education should be withheld like your child’s has.  He’s lost two full years of Catholic school already.  What’s happened during that time with the case?

Patrick:  We had requested a hearing before Judge Cole to seek immediate injunction pending outcome to prevent my son from losing his place in the First Grade for the 2015-2016 school year.  The hearing was set combined with a motion to dismiss filed by the bishop.  Judge Cole ruled against us and against Florida Law by grossly misapplying the First Amendment religious protections.

My legal team, agreeing that the judge’s ruling dismissing the case was in error, strongly suggested we appeal.  I decided to appeal but with new representation.  In the hearing, my original attorneys failed to object when Judge Cole inappropriately scrutinized my private religious beliefs.  I fired the original attorneys and hired new legal counsel for the appeal process.  One of my new attorneys is Alan Phillips, a vaccine rights legal expert.

Cathy:  Ah, Alan Phillips!  Good for you for finding him.  He’s one of the good guys. 

Patrick:  We are appealing our case.  All written briefs, answers and responses have been submitted. The 1st District Court of Appeals heard our oral arguments on October 21, 2016. The Court changed the venue from Tallahassee to Gainesville for the benefit of the University of Florida law students. There were 200 of them in attendance with standing room only in the courtroom.  Video of the hearing is available on the court’s website

Cathy:  So, now you wait for the ruling.  Tell us what people can do to help. 

Patrick:  As of May 12, 2017, we are still awaiting the ruling of the three judges of the Appellate Court.

Cathy:  I pray that it is in your favor. 

Patrick:  Thank you so much for helping me to get this word out.  Even people who vaccinate are shocked to hear of this unethical, constitutional overreach and then shocked further that it is being launched against Christian families by the leaders of the Catholic Church.  The right of Catholic Schools to accept whomever they want to enroll is not absolute.  They cannot lawfully discriminate against members of the five protected classes (Race, Color, Religion, National Origin, Age).  I am dismayed and frankly shocked that with all the issues our culture is currently facing concerning faith and morals, that the bishops would expend their time and resources to force this overreach, the expulsion of unvaccinated children from their schools and denying them a Christian education.  I am appealing for ongoing assistance with legal costs.  I have borrowed most of the funds to date to pay for legal fees.  I have launched a GoFundMe account.

Cathy:  Thank you so much for sharing your story with us.  Let us know if there are any developments.  We can share the information here and also on our Facebook page. 


If after you read the story you feel called to do something to help, we invite you to share the link so that others can be aware of what’s happening in Florida’s diocese.  We also invite you to consider contributing to a fund that Patrick’s set up.  As you can imagine, this endeavor hasn’t just taken time to fight but has also cost quite a bit, too.  One more thing you can do is pray.  Pray that justice prevails.   It’s been a Goliath-like fight for Patrick Flynn and his family.  Let’s give him, as well as other Florida families who’ve been affected, our support.  

Cathy Jameson is a Contributing Editor for Age of Autism. 


Patrick provided further explanation for some of the topics and issues surrounding the case. 


Under the new policy of the Diocese, only pre-K through 8 students will be denied their right to exemption.  No such policy exists for the school’s faculty, staff, visitors, clergy, Religious Education students or volunteers.  This is selective discrimination and in rejecting our rights to exemption based upon our personal religious practices, this discrimination is against a protected class under the Federal Civil Rights Act in its amended form.

The exemption being claimed as stated in Form DH-681 states that “immunizations are in conflict with my religious tenets or practices.” No further qualification or explanation concerning my (my own, personal) religious tenets or practices is required, nor is any entity entitled to further explanation.

The Diocese’ assertion that Catholic Teaching does not state that vaccinations are intrinsically evil as the basis for their published position is irrelevant to the law and my rights under the law. In fact it really backfires on them and their position considering compulsory vaccination (their new policy) likewise is mentioned nowhere in the Church’s teachings, doctrine or Catechism. Therefore, as a Catholic, I am not bound to comply.

Contrary to popular belief, Catholic schools in Florida are indeed recipients of both State and Federal funds and therefore have accepted to comply with state education regulations.

The exemption to compulsory vaccinations is not something citizens need to apply for in any form. The exemption is already written into the law. The issuance of Form DH-681 is merely a notice of claim to that exemption. It is unacceptable and by all accounts, illegal for any public or private school in Florida to refuse admission on the basis of immunization policy to any minor student whose parent or guardian lawfully claims this exemption.

Cathy Jameson is Contributing Editor to Age of Autism.




Religion has a vital place in society. To exert its positive influence, religious organizations and people need physical, social and legal space to practice their religion. All lawful voices should be heard in the public square. Neither religious nor secular voices should be silenced. Religion is not just private worship; it involves public expression on social and moral issues.

Annie Lou Weissberg

Two maternal deaths from flu vaccine:

If Mary had gotten a vaccine, Jesus might not have happened. Please think about that Bishop.

Caroline Canttakeitanymore

One last thought, let's get the nuns on our side. They would hear us and they would care and they would compassionately have intelligent discussions with us until they understand.

I have an aunt who is a nun and told her not to get any flu shots. She is going strong at age 87 despite 2 siblings having died of Alzheimers. Siblings who got all their shots.

Caroline Canttakeitanymore

Not to mention: On WHAT PLANET does the church have the resources to take on a parent who just wants to keep his child safe. This is insanity and there must be something going on with money.

Caroline Canttakeitanymore

The church needs to know about THIS:
Encouraging women to have flu shots during pregnancy can increase the rate of miscarriage. For a church who cares deeply for those not yet born, this ought to be enough to wake them up. As someone who lost my first pregnancy because I trusted that vaccines would keep her safe, and then had her second baby end up in the Newborn ICU minutes after his unneeded hep-B shot . . .I am a Catholic who thinks this Bishop needs to get educated. Now. I am furious that these very smart men are not bothering to read the research. And they can talk to Irish Catholic Robert F. Kennedy JR if they really want to understand this issue. I pray that they do.

Carolyne mcd

We all need to speak out to our priests, ministers, rabbis and tell our personal stories. NOW. If we can tell our bishops. Tell your stories now so they hear it first from us. Tell your fellow parishioners. Offer to give a talk or lead a discussion about the ethics of vaccines and the ingredients. Respectfully hear both sides . No one ever gets to hear our side . I find that people at my church are open but I don't do enough here. The Catholic Church can help us stop this. The right of conscience is a right that most protect. This bishop is way out of line. There is hope!

Sara P

As a Catholic, I feel very troubled by this development in Florida. It is a slap in the face to what our Church actually teaches about conscience.

Grace Green

Michael, it's not just Catholics and Jews. I've been to a charismatic Church of England where many of the congregation were medics of one sort or another, and they worshiped the NHS. I was considered beyond salvation because I ate wholemeal bread. At another house church the pastor said, "We should never have stopped burning witches" and then looked straight at me (this was for using herbal medicines). I'm afraid organized religion will always side with evil. I take that to be the story of the crucifiction (and I'm not singling out the Jews - they just happened to be Jesus' religion.) It happens in all religions that the corrupt leaders persecute any who hold to the truth.


Amazing that the world's greatest religions are being co-opted that to be accepted as a good practicing Catholic or Jew, you must believe in another religion called vaccinations. Whats next you have to believe in the religion called fluoridation?

Margaret J. Jaeger

First, a comment about a statement that is questionable....vaccines aren't shot into the bloodstream, they are in muscular shots but the damage may be making its way via elements seeping into the bloodstream.

Another speculation, there is something almighty Big behind this when they start pressuring churches to make everyone comply with mandatory vaccine. One of the hidden governments..? They can't be so stupid as to not note the statistics gathered by schools, of the huge and expanding number of children demanding special education. Those stats are reported from real schools and real states, year by year. However,,most of them are still operating about 4 years behind the current year...which makes a horrible reality for the current years. They certainly didn't ignore the ADD's crisisees when it many teachers demanding a huge number of kids be on Ritalin or other nerve squelching drugs, in the years following 1988. But since the name Autism was applied,,they've all had fantods from denials. Brain damage is brain damage and whoever is doing this Knows this is all brain damages from something common to children only. So the biggest question is ...who are They? And Why are they demanding the public submit their children to brain damage..? It may seem like Russian roulette but it's a surety that any child taking vaccines is going to be affected with some kind of brain or nerve system damage. A true count that includes all those children too damaged to attend any regular school is proof of the damage dirty vaccines cause. Another question, Why are 'They' doing this..? And...Why do they want to destroy the brains of every new generation since 1988? It has been reported that African American boys have the highest number of Autism,,which I haven't seen, but makes this so highly suspicious that I wonder why they're trying to destroy African Americans? Who are they.? What's making them do this..? And our own Congress Ignoring these facts? Whomis behind this and why? Keep,asking your Federal and state officials why, why and ..who...?


As some of you are commenting about the connection of the Catholic diocese to Pharma, it should and needs to be stated that convincing leaders of religious groups that vaccines are not against their religious beliefs and doctrines is mentioned quite clearly in the National Adult Immunization Plan dating back to its 2/5/2015 draft. This goal is very clearly stated therein. Pharma and friends want to close all the loopholes people can use to refuse vaccination, as do all of their stakeholders, and sadly, so do those who control our nation's public health agenda including the dictates of the Affordable Care Act. In fact, even prior to this, pharma and friends were actively, yet behind-the-scenes, working to close all the possible medical exemption loopholes, working with different medical associations to get rid of vaccine exemptions previously granted for severe allergy to eggs for the influenza vaccine, and Multiple Sclerosis for the influenza vaccine as the annual vaccine artifically stimulates the immune system, and was thought to create a potential for an MS relapse or a worsening of MS. It is truly sickening and intolerable what they were doing behind-closed-doors to remove all exemptions to vaccination, and continue to do to this day. All we can do is expose the dishonesty and corruption of captured medical associations, and of certain religious leaders, and bring shame to those who would sell our very bodies for some good ole' $$$. I wonder if the Catholic diocese in Florida and elsewhere received more than 30 pieces of silver for the bodies of each of their congregants, adjusted for inflation, of course, from pharma?

Kathryn B

As the number of people who go to church declines, (Polls taken have a "halo" effect. Consistently shows 40%, but it isn't consistent with reality) the money in the offering plate also declines. I'm sure the diocese in Florida is getting some support from pHARMa, and likely in other states too. I'm sure Catholics aren't the only ones to benefit from these donations. Other orthodox religions likely do too.

Rose Mary

Bad enough that mercury, formaldehyde ..aluminum ..and other toxic adjuvants are in vaccines, but aborted baby cells should be the "line in the sand".. If anyone is in need of an organ transplant, they have to list their closest relatives willing to donate or go on a list for a "match" donor. The reason is that the body will REJECT foreign DNA.. thus requiring massive amounts of immune suppressant drugs before a transplant can be tried.. Soooooo... why does the Catholic Bio-ethics Committee think it is OKAY to take aborted baby cells and inject them into other children, and NOT expect to have an IMMUNE REACTION. As for the other adjuvants...if they were ingested or breathed in...they could be detoxed through the body's own system...but to INJECT them directly into the blood system, which is closed and has no where to go but the to be beyond belief... research.... and defend your rights and the rights of your innocent children and PRAY that sanity returns to our Country and our Church Leaders.


@ Jeff

Never in the field of human conflict was so much owed by so many to so few--Winston Churchill

Hopefully someday you and your daughter will wear the medals of valor for courageously distinguishing themselves in the face of incredible odds, you stood your ground, never cowered;never retreated.

Thank you Jeff!


I was shocked to learn that the Archdioceses of Atlanta, where I live, does not accept religious exemptions for vaccinations. This issue does not affect me personally because my children do not attend Catholic schools, but the fact that this is occurring is horrifying to me. I recently wrote to Archbishop Wilton Gregory and received a bureaucratic response from the Diane Starkovich, Superintendant of Schools. Her reply sited a cursory study provided by the Pontifical Academy for Life which contained a lot of misinformation about infections and shows a lack of understanding of how modern vaccines work. I replied to her email, but have not received a response.

I am sure someone is lobbying church officials and that this is a planned attack. Similar occurrences are happening with the Jewish and Mormon communities. There is absolutely no scientific justification for this abusive policy. Shame on the Catholic Church for their complicity in this matter. It's inane that members of the Catholic community should have to fight for religious freedom at Catholic schools. Thank you, Patrick Flynn for standing up and fighting this battle.

John Stone

Thanks Jeff - John S


You guys do great things. This will be my last comment, my last comment anywhere online. I would caution autism parents who find out the truth about how their child regressed in to autism to not let themselves become too sucked in to the online combat with vaccine advocates. It can consume you very quickly, especially when you have witnessed the injustice.

Activism is great but as my wife pointed out to me yesterday I can utilize that time to accomplish other things. I will not be typing "autism vaccines" in to my search bar anymore. I like to think that I have done my part after the thousands of comments I have posted everywhere online I could find to spread our story.

I will be focusing 100 percent of my energy on helping my daughter to become as high functioning as possible. At 11 years old she is finally almost completely potty trained. I look forward to the future. Wish us luck, hopefully my comments over the years have given parents a good laugh, we all need a good laugh sometimes. :)

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