senate Bill S2338

Provides protections to parents who decline to have their children immunized on the basis of religious beliefs

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Sponsor

Bill Status


  • Introduced
  • In Committee
  • On Floor Calendar
    • Passed Senate
    • Passed Assembly
  • Delivered to Governor
  • Signed/Vetoed by Governor
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actions

  • 18 / Feb / 2009
    • REFERRED TO HEALTH
  • 06 / Jan / 2010
    • REFERRED TO HEALTH

Summary

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Bill Details

See Assembly Version of this Bill:
A883
Versions:
S2338
Legislative Cycle:
2009-2010
Current Committee:
Senate Health
Law Section:
Public Health Law

Sponsor Memo

BILL NUMBER: S2338

TITLE OF BILL :

An act to amend the public health law, in relation to the religious
exemption from mandatory immunizations for students


PURPOSE :

This legislation is intended to protect parents from inappropriate and
intrusive inquiry into their religious beliefs by government
authorities.

SUMMARY OF PROVISIONS :

Section one of the bill makes clear that the legislative intent is not
to undermine the public health purpose of school immunization
legislation, but to protect people in the free exercise of their
religion from inappropriate and intrusive demands to explain or
justify their religious beliefs.

Section two amends subdivision 9 of section 2164 of the Public Health
Law applying to religious exemptions for minors, to exempt the child
from an immunization requirement where the parent files an affidavit
stating that the parent holds genuine and sincere religious beliefs
which are contrary to the practice, without being subject to further
inquiry. Section three makes the same change to subdivision 9 of
section 2165 of the Public Health Law applying to religious exemptions
for adult students.

JUSTIFICATION :

Protection of free exercise of religion demands wariness in granting
state entities the power to cast judgment upon a person's religious
beliefs. This bill precludes the interpretation of the current
language reading "genuine and sincere" as creating a test that a
religious exemption claimant must pass to the satisfaction of health
or school authorities. It makes the exemption dependent only on the
filing an affidavit stating that the requisite religious beliefs are
held.

The current common practice of government agencies scrutinizing and
judging a parent's religious beliefs is inappropriate in a democracy
that values the First Amendment. There could be concern that some
parents might falsely claim a religious exemption. But it is greatly
outweighed by the burden that the intrusive, prolonged inquiry imposes
on bona fide objectors forced to defend their religious beliefs.
Including that the request for exemption be notarized impresses upon
the public the seriousness of the sincerity requirement and will be a
sufficient deterrent to potential false objectors.

LEGISLATIVE HISTORY :

S.1563/A.3064 of 2007-08; S.4693/A.8383 of 2005-06.

FISCAL IMPLICATIONS :

Savings to school boards which will no longer be engaged in
substantive review of requests for religious exemptions.

EFFECTIVE DATE :
Immediately.
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