Vermont gets vaccination bill half-right

The Vermont Senate has recently passed a bill taking away the ‘rights’ of parents to refuse certain vaccinations on philosophical grounds for their children before entering school:

The Vermont Senate on Friday passed and sent to the House a bill that would end the philosophical exemption from the requirement that parents get their children a series of vaccinations before they enter school.

But a religious exemption would remain in place, and senators and state Health Department officials agreed that there are no standards in Vermont law for what constitutes religious belief.

There are definite pros and cons to this bill. The overwhelming pro is that it sends the message that vaccinations are important to the health of children. This should help to counter some of the anti-vax rhetoric that still pervades much of the Western world as if none of us have ever heard of medicine or science. The biggest con, however, is that the actual implication of the bill is impotent. Vermont does not put itself in the place of determining what constitutes a legitimate religious belief, so anyone can simply lie on a form to exempt their child from good health.

And, of course, there is the issue of giving the religious special rights. This bill creates a divide which says that religious beliefs are more important than philosophical beliefs. It’s reminiscent of the hoops through which the military puts pacifists during a draft versus what they require of, say, the Amish. It’s not only morally and logically abhorrent, but I doubt it’s constitutional.

But there is an upside. Aside from the obvious health benefits, this could be a stepping stone to outlawing the religious from exempting their children, much like DADT acted as a stepping stone to what we have today. It’s probably wishful thinking, but it’s possible. Religious liberty is not unlimited, after all. (If you think it is, try sending your child to school completely nude on the basis that it is part of your religion.)

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