Elected Officials Abolish Religious Exemption from Immunization
by Scott Woodruff • June 27, 2019
The party currently in power in Maine has flexed its muscle and reversed a long-honored policy of allowing parents with religious and philosophical objections to be exempted from having their children immunized. The law enacted through L.D. 798 does not go into effect until September 1, 2021, however, so the people of Maine have sufficient lead time to organize, take action, and elect lawmakers who value individual rights and repeal this improvident law.
There are many schools of thought on immunizations. HSLDA has no unique knowledge on the topic. But we know that when the rights of parents are undermined, the collateral damage falls on the children. Therefore we will continue to oppose efforts to downgrade parental rights and encourage others to join with us.
Here are some points worth noting.
- The new law does not abolish the medical exemption from immunization.
- Section 3 of the bill allows a student with an IEP to continue to attend school under a religious or philosophical exemption that was in force as of September 1, 2021, under certain circumstances (but students with 504 plans are not treated differently than others).
- A municipality, school board or private school may adopt requirements that are more stringent (this feature is in the current law, as well).
- Immunization requirements also apply to most college students, and the religious-philosophical exemption for that group will also end on September 1, 2021.
- The only children the new (or old) law requires to be immunized are those who are “entering school.” A student operating under Maine’s home instruction statute is not a child “entering school,” so it is very unlikely the requirement would apply. However, a child homeschooling via a private school the Department of Education recognizes as an alternative to attending public school would likely be subject to the law, including the requirement that the private school superintendent exclude an unimmunized child. A private school superintendent would be well advised to seek individualized legal advice.
- HSLDA cannot rule out the possibility that other unfavorable legal-related consequences might follow under certain circumstances from not immunizing a child.
- If history is any guide, this bill will stir up much confusion among medical, education, and child welfare officials. Parents are well advised to be prepared to explain the new legal situation accurately to prevent misunderstandings.
Many courageous lawmakers stood up to stop this wild stampede against freedom. But I will single one out for special thanks, Heidi Sampson from Alfred, who has faithfully served her district (District 21) since 2016. She is in the fight for the long run.
HSLDA and Homeschoolers of Maine are united in opposing this new law.