The First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution ensures religious freedom; we Americans hold the First Amendment dearly, because without freedom of religion, then where are we as a country? Many of our ancestors and founding fathers came to America to escape the religious persecution they faced back in their homelands. However, in New Jersey, that freedom is in danger due to the proposal of a new bill.
On December 12th, New Jersey elected to advance a vote on mandatory vaccinations and religious exemptions. This new mandatory vaccine law would prohibit people from foregoing vaccinations for religious reasons. If the bill passes, it will mean that children who are not vaccinated would either need to succumb to government pressure to vaccinate their children or be forced to leave public schools. This proposal has caused much debate in communities; some parents elect to choose certain vaccinations, or withhold vaccinations until a child is older. However, if the proposed bill passes, parents will no longer have the choice of shots or whether or not to deny vaccinations.
I have talked to many people who believe that this law is a great idea to protect children from illness, however, I don’t think people understand how much this bill would actually violate our rights. Preventing parents from following their religious beliefs disregards Article I of the New Jersey Constitution, as well as the United States Constitution. The argument that I am making has nothing to do with whether or not you are an anti- or pro- vaccination, this is a topic about religious freedom. If we don’t do something now to stop government intrusion into our lives, then slowly, more of our rights could be taken away from us.
As it is not the government’s place to regulate the way we live our lives, why must they regulate whether or not we decide to inject vaccinations into our body? In New York, religious exemptions have already been banned. A New York Amish man, Jonas Stoltzfus, has filed a lawsuit against New York City because it is a violation of his religious beliefs. Jonas explains “to rely on a man-made solution would be an act of disbelief in the power of our God to heal and protect us.” This is just one of the many real cases where vaccines have violated the religious rights of some people.
Since the beginning of our nation, soldiers have fought and died for the inalienable rights we have today, namely, the freedom to follow the religion of our choice. What would our founding fathers and all those who died protecting our freedom think if we gave our rights up now? Everything we have done to protect those rights would be in vain. Although this is just one bill, it has the potential to snowball into something much larger and scarier than we can imagine.
*Update: after this story was written, the New Jersey Senate temporarily suspended the vote on the bill, S2173/A3818, amidst protest and outcry from citizens. However, this small victory is not the end of the fight, as the state has plans to reschedule the vote for sometime in January.