Friday, March 19, 2021

New York's Repeal Of Religious Exemption From Vaccination Requirement Is Upheld

In F.F. v. State of New York, (App. Div., March 18, 2021), a New York state appellate court rejected parents' constitutional challenges to New York's repeal of the religious exemption from mandatory vaccination for school children. The court upheld the repeal, finding that it was a neutral law of general applicability prompted by the measles outbreak, even though the repeal eliminated a religious exemption. The court said in part:

[W]e do not find that the timing of the repeal reveals political or ideological motivation; rather, the record reflects that the repeal simply worked its way through the basic legislative process and was motivated by a prescient public health concern....

[W]e reject plaintiffs' claims that, based upon statements by some of the legislators, the repeal was motivated by religious animus. Significantly, the 11 statements alleged to suggest religious hostility were attributed to only five of the over 200 legislators in office at any given time.... More importantly, many of the statements do not demonstrate religious animus, as plaintiffs suggest, but instead display a concern that there were individuals who abused the religious exemption to evade the vaccination requirement based upon non-religious beliefs.... The repeal relieves public school officials from the challenge of distinguishing sincere expressions of religious beliefs from those that may be fabricated.