Judge Backs Parents on Immunizations
August 21, 2001
CASPER, Wyo. (AP) - A federal judge has approved an agreement
barring the state from holding hearings to determine whether
parents who object to immunizations for their children have
sincere religious convictions about the issue.
U.S. District Judge William Downes approved the settlement
Aug. 8 between the Wyoming Department of Health and several
Wyoming officials had made hepatitis B vaccination shots
mandatory for entry into the public school system. But some
parents refused, saying they objected on religious grounds, and
argued that administrative hearings held to determine their
sincerity about the issue violated their constitutional right to
freedom of religion.
The Wyoming Supreme Court ruled in favor of the parents in
March, saying such hearings are illegal.
Debbie Cooper, who has three young children, said Tuesday
that she was pleased that the issue had also been approved by
the federal judge.
"I think most parents kind of have an instinct for what
is best for their children," she said.
Steven H. Aden, a lawyer for the Rutherford Institute, a
Washington, D.C., civil rights organization which aided the
parents, said the hearings probably marked the first time in
American history in which a state required residents to prove
their "religious sincerity."
"We thought that had gone the way of the
Inquisition," he said. The state Health Department had made
the vaccinations mandatory, contending it had a duty to protect
children from disease and that too many non-immunized children
would endanger other children.
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