ALBANY, N.Y. — A civil rights lawyer representing parents opposed to vaccines for their children said he will appeal a judge’s decision upholding a New York state law that ended religious exemptions from vaccinations required to attend schools and day care programs.
The state Legislature repealed the religious exemption in June amid the nation’s worst measles outbreak in decades. Families who previously held religious exemptions sued, arguing the repeal action was unconstitutional because it violated rights of religious expression.
State Supreme Court Judge Denise Hartman denied an injunction against the law a week ago, citing extensive legal precedent supporting compulsory vaccination laws. She quoted a 1944 U.S. Supreme Court ruling saying “The right to practice religion does not include liberty to expose the community or the child to communicable disease or the latter to ill health or death.”
“We will seek a hearing as promptly as possible” in the mid-level Appellate Division of state Supreme Court, attorney Michael Sussman said via email Monday.
Hartman said hundreds of affidavits from parents established the “potential for irreparable harm” their families will suffer if the requested injunction was denied, forcing them to home-school, move to another state or violate their religious beliefs by having their children vaccinated. But she said allowing the religious exemption to stand would also cause harm by increasing the risk of disease for those who are unvaccinated for medical reasons or because they are too young.