Originally Sent: 3/23/2015

From the HSLDA e-lert service…
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Calls needed to Preserve Religious Exemption for Vaccinations

Homeschooling in Rhode Island.

Help defend freedom in Rhode Island.



Staff Attorney Peter K. Kamakawiwoole, Jr. answers questions and assists members with legal issues in your state.

March 23, 2015

Dear HSLDA Members and Friends,

On Thursday, March 26, the Senate Health and Human Services Committee will consider Senate Bill 381. SB 381 would amend state law to eliminate the option for parents to exempt their school-aged students from immunizations that are contrary to their religious beliefs.

The amended law would require all students in public or private schools, including colleges and universities, to be immunized unless a licensed physician certified that the student cannot be immunized for medical reasons. Although the law itself does not affect students who are homeschooled, any homeschool graduates who choose to attend a college or university in Rhode Island would be affected.

While HSLDA takes no stance on the appropriateness of vaccinations, we do believe that lawmakers should take both parental rights and public health into account when crafting laws that deal with immunizations. SB 381 removes a long-standing option for parents when it comes to deciding whether their children should be vaccinated.

Action Requested:

The Senate Health and Human Services Committee will consider SB 381 on Thursday, March 26, 2015. The hearing will commence at the rise of the senate (approximately 4:30 p.m.), and will be held in the Senate Lounge at the State House. The agenda for the meeting is available here.

Parents who are interested in voicing their opposition to SB 381 should plan to attend the hearing, or to submit written testimony to the committee beforehand. You can use phrasing such as, “I support keeping Rhode Island’s current system of exemptions from mandatory vaccinations.” Since this bill applies to all students, you do not have to identify yourself as a homeschooler.

For more information about the committee hearing itself, contact the Committee Clerk, Robin Dionne, at 222-2381, or via e-mail at SLegislation@rilin.state.ri.us.

Background

State laws mandating vaccinations and immunizations are not new. Since the late 18th century, immunizations and inoculations have been used by state governments to control disease. Today, every state has mandatory immunization laws. Rhode Island is just one of many states where mandatory vaccination laws are tied to education laws.

Even though all 50 states have mandatory immunization laws, every state has also created certain exemptions for families. These exemptions usually fall into one of the following categories: medical exemption, religious exemption, or philosophical exemption.

  • Religious/Philosophical: Some parents have sincerely held religious or philosophical objections to immunizations. In states where such objections can exempt families from having to immunize their children, the process for claiming this exemption ranges from filling out a simple form to writing a letter.
  • Medical: Medical exemptions usually cover situations in which an individual risks an adverse reaction to a vaccine. States with medical exemptions often require that individuals obtain a letter from a doctor that states why an individual is unable to receive a vaccine or why a vaccine would be physically harmful.

Under current law, Rhode Island recognizes both the religious exemption and the medical exemption. SB 381 would change that to eliminate the religious exemption.

For more information on mandatory vaccination laws and exemptions, visit hslda.org.

Standing with you for Freedom,
Peter Kamakawiwoole
Peter K. Kamakawiwoole, Jr.
HSLDA Staff Attorney

P.S. We greatly value you and your support—it is a privilege to serve you! If you or someone you know is not a member of HSLDA, will you consider taking a moment today to join or recommend us? Your support enables us to defend individual families and protect homeschooling freedom for all. Join now >>

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