Albany, NY—Attorneys Sussman and Kennedy filed a lawsuit today in New York State (NYS) Supreme Court challenging the constitutionality of the NYS legislature’s June 13, 2019 repeal of the religious exemption to vaccination, Public Health Law Section 2164(9). The plaintiffs, 55 NYS families who held lawful religious exemptions, request that the court enjoin the enactment of the repeal temporarily, preliminarily and permanently.
The plaintiffs are of diverse religious faiths, including Christianity, Judaism, and Islam. As a result of the repeal, these families can no longer educate their children in any schools or camps in New York without violating their religious faith. The parents who bring the suit seek to represent thousands of other families likewise affected by the repeal.
The complaint argues that the repeal violates both state and federal law. And, the repealof this longstanding religious right, without a single public hearing, unreasonably interferes with religious freedom. “To deprive families of the rights to freedom of religious expression, parental rights, and the right to either a public or private education, the state must demonstrate a “compelling state interest” that the state has failed to prove here,” said Sussman. Furthermore, the state must act with neutrality towards all religious faiths and may not display impermissible animosity or hostility to religion. Yet, in this case, many NYS legislators showed great animosity to those with religious exemptions, calling the nature of the exemption “utter garbage,” “a myth and fabrication,” “a loophole,” and many other slurs.
While irreparably harming plaintiffs and similar families, the state has failed to prove even a rational basis to mandate all the vaccines on the NYS schedule to those who hold genuine, sincere religious beliefs against them.
Kennedy, Chief Legal Counsel for Children’s Health Defense, stated, “Religious rights are fundamental. It is unconstitutional for the state to deprive people of such important rights when religious animus has played a key role. To enact such harsh legislation without any legislative fact-finding, and with the legislators’ open display of prejudice towards religious beliefs different than their own, is simply un-American; it is essential that we fight this.”