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School District Refuses Parent’s Religious Exemption From Vaccinations After Son Used Sugar Toppings On His Ice Cream

December 5, 2001

Rochester, New York - Today in federal court JoAnn Curtis, on behalf of her daughter Bryanna Curtis, filed suit against the Hilton Central School District and the New York State Department of Health claiming the District and the Department of Health violated state and federal law by refusing to grant religious exemptions to forced inoculations. The School District will not allow Bryanna to attend class, nor go onto any school property at any time a school-related event is taking place, until her parents violate their religious beliefs and have Bryanna vaccinated. For example, if her brother is involved in a school play in the evening, Bryanna would not be able to attend. The parents and students are represented by Attorneys Mathew D. Staver, President and General Counsel, of Liberty Counsel and Joel Oster, Litigation Counsel for Liberty Counsel.

New York state law requires school-aged children to be subjected to a laundry list of various vaccinations, including vaccinations that are solely derived from aborted fetal cell lines. State law provides exemptions to the vaccinations for medical reasons and to those who object based on religious grounds. Bryanna Curtis wants to attend kindergarten at Quest Elementary School. Bryanna’s parents are opposed to immunizations for religious reasons. They believe that their body is the temple of God and that they should not defile their body with immunizations. In addition, several immunizations are derived from aborted fetal cell-lines, and they believe that injecting their bodies with such immunizations promotes abortion and violates the Sixth Commandment of "Thou Shall Not Kill." Bryanna’s mother filed a request with the School District to be exempted from immunizations for religious reasons. The Department of Health regulations state that a school district can require "supporting documentation" of a religious belief to determine whether an individual is entitled to an exemption from vaccinations. Relying on this regulation, the School District required Mrs. Curtis to attend an "inquisition," where the School District’s attorney was present, to respond to questions concerning her religious beliefs. During the "inquisition," she had to respond to questions about her devotional life, her theology, the groceries she buys, her medical history, and even the type of toppings that she puts on her ice cream. The School District then denied her religious exemption and Bryanna was not allowed to attend class. In the letter denying her the religious exemption, the School District stated, [JoAnn’s] statement on August 15 that her children know how to eat because they put fruit on ice cream as opposed to other sugar toppings, [is] contrary to actions recalled by staff members of her oldest son using sugar toppings on ice cream as opposed to fruit, at his birthday party at school.

The lawsuit claims that the School District is violating state law which requires the School to grant exemptions based upon religious objections to inoculations. The lawsuit also claims that the Department of Health regulations are unconstitutional because they allow school districts to subject parents to inquisitions regarding their religious beliefs and give the school district the opportunity to determine whether an individual’s religious belief are orthodox or are entitled to protection.

Staver said, "The Hilton Central School District is requiring Mrs. Curtis to violate her religious beliefs in exchange for receiving a public education. This the Board cannot do." Staver also stated, "Subjecting parents to detailed and intrusive investigations, such as what Mrs. Curtis encountered, not only violates the United States Constitution’s guarantee of religious freedom, but also hearkens back to the Inquisition." Staver concluded, "The School District and the State Department of Health are obligated by the Constitution to protect and defend the religious beliefs of parents. By denying them a religious exemption because another one of their sons used sugar toppings on his ice cream, Defendants case mocked those constitutional rights."

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As they say, "Truth is stranger than fiction."

Mathew D. Staver, Esq. 
Liberty Counsel http://www.lc.org

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