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Austin Cline

New Mexico: Vaccination Waivers for Religious Beliefs Only

By September 7, 2012

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In New Mexico, parents can get waivers from the requirements to get their children vaccinated -- but only if their reasons are medical or religious, not philosophical. Previously the form parents had to fill out was ambiguous and allowed for parents to offer secular reasons, but not anymore.

Photo: Brand X/Getty

Some parents in New Mexico who object to vaccinations and immunizations have religious reasons so they aren't worried, but quite a few have secular reasons for their objections. Both the secular and religious reasons are ridiculous, so why privilege religious reasons over secular reasons?

I think it's simply an example of the popular prejudice that religious reasons for something must be automatically respected. We see double standards like this all over in society and I have yet to see one example of it that's truly justified or reasonable.

"We believe people were using the philosophical objections when filling out the form," department spokesman Kenny Vigil wrote in a response to a reporter's inquiries Tuesday. "We became concerned that vaccine-preventable diseases are on the rise because of that. The new form specifically requires you to state your religious belief." ...

It appears some of the confusion over the issue may come from the language of the statute itself. The statute lists two ways for parents to receive nonmedical exemptions for their children.

One way is for parents to produce proof that they "belong to a recognized religious denomination whose religious teaching requires reliance upon prayer or spiritual means alone for healing." That avenue requires a note from "an officer of the denomination."

The other way is for a parent "whose religious beliefs, held either individually or jointly with others," do not permit vaccination to submit "a certificate of conscientious objection to immunization." ...

"As of this school year, all religious-based exemption requests are approved," said a statement issued by the department. "Exemption requests based on reasons other than religious belief are not approved as it is not allowed for under NM statute."

Source: Santa Fe New Mexican

There was a time that a person could only be a conscientious objector to the draft for religious reasons -- secular and philosophical reasons weren't permitted. That double standard was struck down by courts which ruled that a non-religious people and atheists should have the same access to such exemptions as religious pacifists.

I don't think that this New Mexico policy can survive court challenge, assuming that any of the parents being affected want to challenge it. The question is, though, do any of them believe in what they are doing strongly enough to actually launch a long court battle?

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