New York's religious exemption vaccination law face challenges in court

The lawsuit, filed by fifty-five families, is attempting to seek class-action status, claiming the law is "unconstitutional and violates religious freedom."

By
July 15, 2019 14:13
1 minute read.
A sign warning people of measles in Williamsburg, April 11, 2019

A sign warning people of measles in the ultra-Orthodox Jewish community of Williamsburg, two days after New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio declared a public health emergency in parts of Brooklyn in response to a measles outbreak, is seen in New York, U.S., April 11, 2019. (photo credit: SHANNON STAPLETON / REUTERS)

The first of multiple foreseeable lawsuits attempting to reverse a recent bill passed throughout the state of New York that eliminates religious exemptions from school vaccination rules was filed in Albany, New York last Wednesday.

In April, the city declared a public health emergency over a measles outbreak, mandating people in four Williamsburg zip codes to vaccinate. The city also announced it would be closing schools in Williamsburg that allow unvaccinated students to attend. Nine of the 10 schools closed thus far are in Williamsburg. The 10th is in the borough of Queens.

“Religious rights are fundamental. It is unconstitutional for the state to deprive people of such important rights when religious animus has played a key role," said one of the lawyers representing the case, Robert F. Kennedy Jr., also chairman of the anti-vaccination nonprofit Children’s Health Defense group.

The lawsuit, filed by fifty-five families, is attempting to seek class-action status, claiming the law is "unconstitutional and violates religious freedom."

Lawyers include Michael Sussman, most notable for representing a group of parents who sued Rockland County for excluding their unvaccinated children from New York schools, and Kennedy, notably the chairman of an anti-vaccination group, as stated earlier.

Sussman and Kennedy are seeking a "temporary restraining order" against the recently passed bill - naming the state of New York, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo and New York Attorney General Letitia James as defendants.

Ben Sales contributed to this report.


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