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Court Finds Parochial School Must Follow NYS Vaccination Law Regarding Religious Exemption

Cite as 726 N.Y.S.2d 685 (A.D. 2 Dept 2001)

284.A.D.2d 357

Derrick L. Bowden et
Al., Respondents
Appellants, et al., Defendants

Supreme Court, Appellate Division

Second Department

June 11, 2001

Child brought action for breach of contract against grammar school for refusing to recognize child’s claim of religious exemption to state immunization requirement and prohibiting him from attending classes. The Supreme Court, Westchester County, Cowhey, J. entered a preliminary injunction against school and denied school’s cross-motion to dismiss. School appealed. The Supreme Court Appellate Division held that: (1) religious exemption was applicable to private and parochial schools: (2) child could assert a cause of action to enforce right to religious exemption from immunization and(3) likelihood of success on merits and possible irreparable injury to First Amendment rights entitled child to preliminary injunction.


1. Schools 158 (1)

The religious exemption set forth in statute governing immunizations for schoolchildren is applicable to a private or parochial school. McKinney’s Public Health Law 2164, subd. 9

2. Schools 158 (1)

Children and their parents may assert a cause of action to enforce their right to a religious exemption under the statute requiring immunizations for schoolchildren. McKinney’s Public Health Law

3. Civil Rights 268, 450

Likelihood of success on merits and possible irreparable injury entitled child to preliminary injunction against private school that refused to recognize child’s religious exemption to state requirement that child be immunized to attend classes; school applied incorrect standard in determining propriety of religious exemption. Public school would in all likelihood have granted exemption and child’s loss of First Amendment freedoms may have constituted irreparable injury. U.S.C.A. Const. Amend. 1: McKinney’s Public Health Law

§ 2164, subd. 9

Google search on Bowden v Iona Grammar School

Letter From Rome in Defense of Parental Rights on Vaccines


April 26, 2005 

To Whom It May Concern:

It has just come to my attention that a child has been expelled from a Catholic educational institution for reasons of non-conformity to a diocesan policy of denying State-allowed religious exemptions. The vaccines in question are propagated on aborted fetal cell lines. This is a violation of the Catholic Church’s centuries-old teaching on the supremacy of the Moral Conscience and the right of parents to preside over the total wellbeing of their children.

I can attest personally that this issue is presently under consideration by various offices of the Vatican concerned with the doctrinal and moral aspects of this complex issue. Pending a final judgment on this issue the parental right of conscience is to be considered the binding authority in this matter and the child should not be penalized for non-conformity to a policy which is not defined as Church doctrine or practice.

As Executive Director of Human Life International’s office in Rome, I have been a strong advocate of parental rights in these cases, and I have personally attended meetings of the Pontifical Academy for Life in Rome which has considered this issue carefully for the past several years. Due to recent changes in the Vatican hierarchy we remain hopeful that a definitive decision on the issue of vaccines will be given this year. In the meantime I attach for your consideration some quotes from official Church documents which clearly spell out the supremacy of the parental right of conscience in this matter.


Mons. Ignacio Barreiro
Executive Director

Code of Canon Law
Christ's faithful are to strive to secure that in the civil society the laws which regulate the formation of the young, also provide a religious and moral education in the schools that is in accord with the conscience of the parents. (c. 799)

Parents have the most grave obligation and the primary right to do all in their power to ensure their children's physical, social, cultural, moral and religious upbringing. (c.1136)

Pope John Paul II, Familiaris Consortio, n. 40 
“The parents have been appointed by God Himself as the first and principal educators of their children...their right is completely inalienable"

The Catechism of the Catholic Church, on Parental Duty and Moral Conscience
The fecundity of conjugal love cannot be reduced solely to the procreation of children, but must extend to their moral education and their spiritual formation. "The role of parents in education is of such importance that it is almost impossible to provide an adequate substitute." The right and the duty of parents to educate their children are primordial and inalienable. (CCC 2221)

Man has the right to act in conscience and in freedom so as personally to make moral decisions. He must not be forced to act contrary to his conscience. Nor must he be prevented from acting according to his conscience, especially in religious matters. (CCC 1782)

00165 ROMA - Piazzale Gregorio VII, 22 - Tel. 0639.378985 - Fax 0639.386169

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Note: The letter above was published online at http://www.cogforlife.org. The Children of God for Life site uses frames, sometimes making finding specific pages problematic. If this link: http://www.cogforlife.org/barreiro.htm doesn't open the appropriate page, search the site for Letter From Rome in Defense of Parental Rights on Vaccines.



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