Tuesday, December 10, 2019

Court Dismisses Challenges To NY Repeal of Religious Exemption From Vaccination Requirement

In F.F. on behalf of her minor children v. State of New York, (Albany Cty NY Sup. Ct., Dec. 3, 2019), a New York state trial court upheld New York's repeal of the religious exemption to the state's compulsory vaccination requirement for school children.  The court rejected Free Exercise, Free Speech and Equal Protection challenges to the repeal.  The suit was brought by some 55 families of school children. In rejecting free exercise claims by plaintiffs, the parents of school children, the court rejected their argument that the object of the law was to target religion rather than protect public health.  The court went on to say in part:
[P]lainitffs most strenuous argument for applying strict scrutiny is that the repeal of the legislation was infected by statements made by individual legislators whose comments, they say, demonstrate unconstitutional hostility toward plaintiffs' sincerely held religious beliefs.  For this argument, Plaintiffs cite Masterpiece Cakeshop Ltd. v. Colorado Civil Rights Comm'n., (138 S Ct 1719 [2018]), where the Supreme Court relied on the comments of individual members of the Colorado Civil Rights Commission, which sanctioned a baker for his refusal to make a wedding cake for a same sex couple....
This Court declines to extend that part of the Supreme Court's analysis in Masterpiece Cakeshop, which probed the comments of individual members of a decision-making body to the collective decision-making of New York State's Legislature and Executive.... [I]n Masterpiece Cakeshop, the Court considered the remarks of a seven-member administrative body, not a state legislature.
The trial court had previously denied a preliminary injunction against the exemption repeal (see prior posting), and the state appellate court summarily affirmed that decision. Albany Times-Union reports on the trial court's latest decision.