State Immunization Cases

StatePartiesYearJurisdictionIssueHoldingMain Arguments 
ArizonaArlene L on behalf of her children (P), v. DCS (D)2014Court of Appeals of Arizona, Division 1Whether DCS can update children's vaccines over parental religious objection There was a compelling state interest sufficient to override the mother's objections and granted DCS authority to vaccinate her childrenThere is an exception for matters of “great public importance” typically applies when the matter “will have broad public impact beyond resolution of the specific case.”
ArizonaDiana H. (P),
S. Rubin, et al"
2007Court of Appeals of Arizona, Division 2Whether Department of Economic Security has authority to consent to immunizations for dependent nine-month-old child, over mother's objections, on the ground that they were medically necessary and in child's best interest.Department failed to articulate a compelling interest in immunizing dependent child sufficient to override mother's objection to procedure.Parents have right to religious upbringing of their children but those rights are not absolute because state also has interest in health and welfare of the child. If the state interest is great enough, e.g. the child's welfare is seriously jeopardized- the state may act and invade the rights of the family
Arkansas"Ulyess Wright et al., (P)
DeWitt School Dist. No. 1 of Arkansas County, Ark., (D)"
1965Supreme Court of ArkansasWhether school district can enforce regulation requiring students to be vaccinated against smallpox by parents whose religious beliefs contravened the requirement.State health regulation which required all students to be vaccinated against smallpox as prerequisite to attending school was a reasonable regulation and did not violate constitutional right to free exercise of religion.And neither rights of religion nor rights of parenthood are beyond limitation. Acting to guard the general interest in youth's well being, the state as parens patriae may restrict the parent's control by requiring school attendance, regulating or prohibiting the child's labor, and in many other ways. Its authority is not nullified merely because the parent grounds his claim to control the child's course of conduct on religion or conscience. Thus, he cannot claim freedom from compulsory vaccination for the child more than for himself on religious grounds. The right to practice religion freely does not include liberty to expose the community or the child to communicable disease or the latter to ill health or death.’
MaineN/a2005Supreme Judicial Court of MaineWhether DHHS can approve child for vaccination against mother's wishes, when the mother put child in circumstances of jeopardyThe lower court's decision to place child in Dept's custody and order to Dept to have child undergo full medical evaluation and to approve vaccinations for child deemed appropriate by pediatrician, against mother's wishes, was not appealable.Such an order gives the Department “full custody of the child subject to the terms of the order and other applicable law. and to make arrangements for the child to have a full medical evaluation, including an evaluation of his hearing and hernia, and approve such vaccinations as are deemed essential by the pediatrician. Applicable law provides that the custodian of a child has, among other rights, the right to make medical decisions—including vaccination decisions—concerning that child.
Massachusetts"Beulah G. Dalli et al. (P)
Board of Education et al. (D)"
1971Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusettswhether state can limit religious exemptions to those of a "recognized" religionA statute exempting from vaccination requirements those objectors who subscribed to the ‘tenets and practice of a recognized church or religious denomination’ was violative of First and Fourteenth Amendments of the United States Constitution and of state constitutional provisions in extending preferred treatment to adherents and members of recognized church or religious denominations while denying exemption to others objecting to vaccination on religious grounds. 1) limitation of religious exemptions to certain denominations is a violation of the 14th amendment 2) religious exemptions allowed if not a case of emergency/outbreak
MassachusettsSarah Prince (P) v. Massachusetts (D)
1944Supreme Court of the United StatesWhether child labor laws infringed upon practice of religion for Jehovah's Witnesses who distribute religious literature on the streetsState can limit the conduct of children (publicly proclaiming religion on the street) beyond the scope of authority over adultsParents may be free to become martyrs themselves. But it does not follow they are free, in identical circumstances, to make martyrs of their children before they have reached the age of full and legal discretion when they can make that choice for themselves. Thus, he cannot claim freedom from compulsory vaccination for the child more than for himself on religious grounds. The right to practice religion freely does not include liberty to expose the community or the child to communicable disease or the latter to ill health or death.
Mississippi"Charles H. Brown et al. (P)
Joe A. Stone, Houston Municipal Separate School District, et al. (D)"
1979Supreme Court of MississippiWhether father can compel school district to admit child to school without completing immunization requirements (1) statute requiring immunization against certain diseases before school admission served overriding and compelling public interest; (2) to extent statute could conflict with religious beliefs of parent, interest of school children prevailed; (3) statute was reasonable and constitutional exercise of police power; and (4) provision of statute providing exception for immunization requirement based on religious beliefs was in violation of equal protection clause.If the religious exemption from immunization is to be granted only to members of certain recognized sects or denominations whose doctrines forbid it, and, as contended by appellants, to individuals whose private or personal religious beliefs will not allow them to permit immunization of their children, to this extent the highly desirable and paramount public purpose of the Act, that is, the protection of school children generally comprising the school community, is defeated.
NebraskaDouglas County, Nebraska, appellee; Josue Anaya and Mary Anaya, husband and wife, as parents of Rosa Ariel Anaya, a minor child, appellants."2005Supreme Court of NebraskaWhether state could compel mandatory newborn screening over parental wishesThe court affirmed the district court's ruling that the state had a compelling interest, applying rational basis review, in screening infants for metabolic disease which as not outweighed by parents' religious beliefs. The parents argued that the statute infringed upon their 1st and 14th amendment rights. The STate had an interest in the health and welfare of all children born in Nebraska and the purpose of the statute at issue was to protect the health and welfare of the children.
NebraskaJessica Maack et al., appellants; School District of Lincoln, in the County of Lancaster, in the State of Nebraska, also known as School District No. 1, Lancaster County, Nebraska, et al., appellees1992Supreme Court of NebraskaWhether school can exclude unimmunized children during a contagious disease outbreakAffirmed the board of education's decision to uphold the superintendent's exclusion of unimmunized students from school. During an outbreak of measles, unimmunized students were not permitted to attend classes. Under the rational basis test, the exclusion did not violate the unimmunized students' equal protection rights because the insufficiently immunized students who were allowed to attend had only a 15% infection rate.
New JerseyJune G. Valent, Appellant; Board of Review, Department of Labor and Hackettstwon Community Hospital, Respondents2014Superior Court of New Jersey, Appellate DivisionWhether hospital wrongfully terminated an employee for failing to get a flu vaccine on secular grounds when other individuals are given religious exemptions.Reversed judgment denying unemployment benefits to appellant because her secular decision to be exempt from the flu vaccine did not rise to the level of misconduct conceived under N.J.S.A. 43:21-5(b). Employer's flu vaccination policy violated claimaint's freedom of expression by permitting employees with religious exemptions to work without a vaccine and without a mask, but did not provide this option to employees abstaining from the flu vaccine for non-religious reasons. Appellant refused to be vaccinated for the flu, did not claim a religious exemption, wore a face mask, but had her employment terminated. Employees who had a religious exemption were permitted to work without a mask and without a vaccine.
New YorkJJames P.B. Lynch, Ann Lynch, as Guardian for Christie Lynch v. Clarkstown Central School District, et al1992Supreme Court, Rockland County, New YorkWhether school properly denied student admission because student was not immunized and presented a doctor's note stating that student's Rett's disease made immunization harmful.Held: (1) school district did not act in arbitrary or capricious manner in determining whether child suffering from Rett Syndrome was entitled to medical exemption from immunization requirement; (2) school district was not required to accept physician's note prohibiting immunization w/o investigation; (3) district's denial of medical exemption from immunization was rationally based (no medically recognized contraindication to immunizing Rett children)The hospital's doctor argued that exemption should be denied because child's disease was not related to meningitis and no causal relationship exists between meningitis and Rett Syndrome. The doctor also testified that child's autoimmune system is competent and that the benefits of immunization far outweigh the risks in a seizure-prone child. Petitioner's doctor testified that his opposition to vaccination was religious not medical.
New YorkDerrick L. Bowden v. Iona Grammar School2001Supreme Court, Appellate Division, Second Department, New YorkWhether grammar school could refuse to recognize child-student's claim of religious exemption to state immunization requirements and prohibit child-student from attending classes. Held: (1) religious exemption was applicable to private and parochial schools; (2) child could assert COA to enforce right to religious exemption from immunization; (3) child entitled to preliminary injunction on first amendment groundsPlaintiff, a member of the Temple of the Healing Spirit, a religion which is opposed to immunizations, refused to be vaccinated and presented a letter from his pastor. The school denied plaintiff's request because they claimed plaintiffs were not members of a "bona fide recognized religious organization."
New YorkWilliam Maier v. Paul Besser, Fabius-Pompey Central School District1972Supreme Court, Onondaga County, New YorkWhether child of Christian Scientist Way receive a statuory exemption from immunization requirements from schoolHeld: child can qualify for statutory exemption from immunization requirements if the parent has genuine and sincere religous belief which he actively practices and follows and whic is in reality substantially similar to the Christian Scientist faith. Father argued that his three children were not immunized because of their religoius beliefs, similar to Christian Scientists' beliefs. The Father admits they were not "members" of the Christian Scientist Church. He argues that it is an unconstitutional infringement upon his rights to force them to join an organized religious body in order to practice their religious beliefs without governmental interference.
New YorkIn the Matter of Isaac J; Administration for Children's Service; Joyce J. 2010Supreme Court, Appellate Division, Second Department, New Yorkwhether a parent is entitled to the religious exemption from the Public Health Law's child immunization requirementsHeld: Mother was not entitled to the religious exemption from the Public Health Law's child immunization requirementsAdministration for Children's Services argued that mother had neglected child and child should be immunized. They argued the mother failed to provide the child with adequate medical care. Mother could not prove that her opposition to immunization "stems from genuinely-held religous beliefs."
New YorkErving R. Brown, Parent of Ysreen Brown v. City School District of the City of Corning1980Supreme Court, Steuben County, New YorkWhether school district properly denied student from attending classes at public school because her parents claimed a religious exemption from immunization mandates.Held: (1) the parent's reliigous beliefs were genuine and sincere; (2) no clear and present danger of communicable disease; (3) parent was entitled to exemption contained in Public Health Law relieving him of obligation to obtain immunizations for his daughter.Plaintiff testified that he had never received immunization himself and that his parents and grandparents had not received immunization for religious reasons. He believes that receiving manmade chemicals by inoculation or immunization will prevent him from attaining the hereafter, and he cites the Bible as support for his belief.
New YorkIn re Elwell1967New York Family CourtWhether the state has the authority to compel polio vaccine in order to attend school and exclude unimmunized childrenobjection was not because of religion but because of "personal opinions, fears unsupported by any competent medical proof, and a purported exercise of their own consciences which would not interefer with their free exercise of the tenets of the Methodist Church.Father claimed religious objection to vaccines and in particular polio vaccine. State statute made vaccines mandatory for school.
New YorkMcCartney v. Austin1968New York Appellate DivisionWhether statute compelling immunization for school was limitation on exercise of religion and/or discriminated against father's religionheld: (1) plaintiff's beliefs were actually based on a "personal moral code or philosophy not based on or by reason of religious training, belief or conviction"; (2) denied exemption to Roman Catholic parents because the religion did not oppose immunizationFather claimed religious objection to vaccines (polio) and that his kids should get an exemption to attend scho
North CarolinaState v. William H. Miday1965Supreme Court of North CarolinaWhether father was justified by teachings of his religious organization in refusing to permit vaccination and immunization of his child Conviction for failure to send child to school was reversed. New trial granted. Father was within his rights according to religious teachings and his own convictions to deny children vaccinations.
OklahomaDonald Dewayne Moore v. Warr Acres Nursing Center, LLC.2016Supreme Court of OklahomaWhether nursing home-defendant improperly terminated employee-nurse's employment because employee-nurse contracted influenza.Held: (1) public policy exception to at-will employment existed to prohibit employee from being fired from nursing home solely for not working while infected with influenza virus; (2) summary judgment not appropriateThe District argued that participation in interscholastic sports is only a privilege and is not a constitutionally protected interest.
OregonIn the Matter of M.M v. Department of Human Services 2013Court of Appeals of OregonWhether department of human services could order immunization of eight children despite parent's religious objections.Held: (1) statutory provisions allowing immunization exemptions for school did not grant parents a right to exempt their children from immunizations if the Department had acquired custody/guardianship over the children; (2) Custodian/guardian of children, here the Department, has the broad authority to make health-care decisions for children; (3) order to allow immunization did not violate parents' rights to direct upbringing of childrenThe legal custodian of a ward is responsible for the physical custody of the war and must provide the ward with necessaries, care, education and discipline. The legal custodian has the authority to approve "ordinary medical, dental, psychiatric, psychological, hygienic or other remedial care and treatment for the ward, and, in an emergency where the ward's safety appears urgently to require it, to authorize surgery or other extraordinary care."
PennsylvaniaZachary Calandra v. State College Area School District and State College Area School Board1986Commonwealth Court of PennsylvaniaWhether student's religious beliefs were violated because school required tetanus immunization as a condition for participation in interscholastic baseballHeld: school board's requirement that any student who wishes to participate in interscholastic sports receive tetanus immunization did not place impermissible burden on student whose religious beliefs opposed immunization; participation in interscholastic sports did not rise to level of important government benefit. Student argued that the requirement for tetanus vaccine before participation in school sports violated his freedom of religion and expression.
South CarolinaTracy Lynn McCall, James Timothy McCall v. DHEC (Department of Health and Environmental Control)1993Court of Appeals of South CarolinaWhether Department had duty to give child certain vaccines or grant exemptions from immunization requirements.Held: Department had no duty to administer vaccines or to grant exemption.The Department is required to supervise the immunization program, not administer vaccines. The Department is also required to promulgate regulations re the immunization program.
TexasLeo Itz v. Vernon E. Penick, President of Fredericksburg Independent School District1973Supreme Court of TexasWhether requiring school district to enforce compulsory immunization statute was unconstittuional. Held: statute requires immunization of all persons as a prequisite to admission is constitutional. It permits exemptions and does not interefer with parental rights, equal protection, deny due process, invidiously discriminate, etc. The District argues that the statute requiring enforcement of immunization mandates mirrors a state statute. Plaintiffs argue that Benjamin Franklin opposed compulsory innoculations, mandatory vaccinations were an assault on the body/cruel and unusual punishment and interferes with parental control and decisions relating to the halth of the children.
WyomingSusan LePage, Parent of Lisa LePage v. State of Wyoming, Department of Health2001Supreme Court of WyomingWhether the language of the state statute mandates the issuance of an exemption from immunization for schoolchildren upon a written religious objection or whether it permits an inquiry by the Department of Health into the sincerity of the religious beliefs of an applicantHeld: (1) Department of Health exceeded its statutory authority by inquiring into sincerity of mother's religious beliefs and (2) religious waiver was not required in order to exempt child from particular vaccination at issue.The Department of Health argued that state law only permits a religous exemption, therefore the Department must review the asserted objection and determine whether it is based on sincerely held religious beliefs. The Department did not present any evidence that the number of religoius exemption waiver requests are excessive or insincere.
WyomingE. Keith Jones (minor), Craig Jones and Jacque Jones v. State of Wyoming Department of Health2001Supreme Court of WyomingWhether the Department of Health exceeded its authority by denying a student a request for a medical exemption from required immunizations. Held: (1) Department had no authority to require student to receive Hep B immunization in order to attend school; (2) student was entitled to waiver from Department requirements that he receive a Hep B vacination in order to attend school; (3) Department exceeded its statutory authority by promulgating rule requiring student applying for a waiver from state immunization requirements to provide a reason for a medical contraindication to immunizations.The Jones argue tha the statute requires only that a writing be produced which indicates that immunization is medically contraindicated. The Department of Health argues that the statute requires more than a simple statement that immunization is medically contraindicated. The Department argues that the statute requires the party requesting a waiver to present a specific, medically accepted contraindication to each specific vaccine before a waiver can be granted.

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