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California Lawmakers Seek to Remove Religious Exemption for Vaccines

Sanofi Pasteur-cc
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Bill would require all children in school to be vaccinated

California lawmakers have passed a bill that would require all children attending daycare and schools to be vaccinated from certain illnesses. The bill passed by the state Assembly Thursday afternoon, which was already approved by the state Senate, eliminates a religious exemption that parents previously could claim.

Gov. Jerry Brown has not said if he would sign the bill. 

The bill, SB 277, comes in response to a recent outbreak of measles due to children coming into contact with other children whose parents didn’t have them vaccinated. Some parents have religious objections to vaccines, including objections to use of medicines originally created with cells from aborted human fetuses, while others are concerned about reports that vaccines can have deadly side-effects. 

The controversial legislation requires all children to be vaccinated in order to attend daycare or school. Though it eliminates the personal belief and religious exemptions to vaccination, it maintains a medical exemption.

If the governor signs the bill, California will become the 32nd state to ban the personal belief exemption, and the third state to ban the religious exemption.

An amended version of the bill would allow parents who do not vaccinate their children to participate in a multiple-family private home school, or home-school their kids using a public school independent study program.

The California Catholic Conference has not taken a position on SB 277. On its website, the conference noted that a number of questions have been posed by Catholic parents with regard to the rights of parents and the morality of certain vaccines.

"The Catholic Church has made it very clear that we must all be free to follow our conscience and that parents are primarily responsible for their children," said the conference’s statement. "At the same time, the Catholic Church teaches that we live in community with each other and must balance our rights with the legitimate responsibility to promote the common good."

It also said that the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith looked at the morality of using vaccines derived using “descendant” cells of aborted fetuses. “There is a grave responsibility to use alternative vaccines and to make a conscientious objection with regard to those which have moral problems," the congregation wrote. “As regards the vaccines without an alternative, the need to contest so that others may be prepared must be reaffirmed, as should be the lawfulness of using the former in their own children but also, and perhaps more specifically, for the health conditions of the population as a whole—especially for pregnant women."

The website of the National Catholic Bioethics Center (NCBC) answers a variety of questions on the morality and ethics of vaccines.