NYVIC (New Yorkers for Vaccination Information and Choice)




The Wexler Decision

Until 1987 New York's law requiring vaccination of school-aged children provided a religious exemption only to "bona fide members of a recognized religious organization," but in that year a United States district judge ruled that limiting the exemption in this manner was unconstitutional. 

The United States Constitution mandates that, if New York wishes to allow a religiously-based exclusion from its otherwise compulsory program of immunization of school children, it may not limit this exception from the program to members of specific religious groups, but must offer the exemption to all persons who sincerely hold religious beliefs that prohibit the inoculation of their children by the state.

Judge Leonard D. Wexler
United States District Court, Eastern District of New York
October 21, 1987

As a result of the decision New York amended its law to read:

This section shall not apply to children whose parent, parents, or guardian hold genuine and sincere religious beliefs which are contrary to the practices herein required, and no certificate shall be required as a prerequisite to such children being admitted or received into school or attending school. 

The combined cases that led to Judge Wexler's ruling were brought in two separate suits by parents against their local school board which was insisting on vaccination despite the parents' claims of religiously based exemption. A careful reading of the decision is encouraged to understand why one family won and the other lost in their efforts to receive the sought after religious exemption. The Wexler decision is presented here for your study in a number of forms. 

Web pages:

I.  Introduction
II.  Procedural Background of the Cases
III.  Abstention - defendants take the position that this Court should not attempt to adjudicate
IV.  Standing - the Court should dismiss plaintiffs' action for lack of standing
V.  Constitutionality
VI. "Religious Nature of Plaintiffs' Beliefs - whether grounds/opposition to the inoculation of their children are indeed "religious" in nature
VII. Sincerity of Plaintiffs' Beliefs
VIII. Scope of Injunctive Relief - must offer the exemption to all persons who sincerely hold religious beliefs that prohibit the inoculation of their children by the state
IX. Damages
X.  Summary

Entire document as Word File  wexler.doc
Entire document as Text File    wexler.txt 



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