Written by Don Byrd
A high school senior in Kentucky has filed a lawsuit after being barred from school and extracurricular activities during a chicken pox outbreak because he has not been vaccinated. Jerome Kunkel claims his decision not to be vaccinated is required by his religious beliefs, and thus the health department’s action violates his First Amendment rights; and that his due process rights were violated because no state of emergency was declared justifying such an extreme step. But government officials describe their policy as a “direct response to a public health threat and… an appropriate and necessary response to prevent further spread of this infectious illness.”
The Cincinnati Enquirer has more:
The suit claims an official with the Health Department expressed religious animus toward the Kunkel family.
The official wrote to the family by email, according to the suit, that the Health Department’s primary concern was preventing the spread of illness to the public.
“Without definitive evidence of immunity, a person could be a source of potential exposure, even if they are currently healthy. It’s impossible to know how anyone will react to chickenpox, therefore we must act with an abundance of caution,” the official wrote, according to the suit.
In 2015, the 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals upheld a school’s vaccination policy against a religious liberty challenge. The Baptist Joint Committee’s Holly Hollman also wrote a column that year on the religious liberty controversy surrounding vaccination during a measles outbreak, emphasizing that “religious liberty — even as protected by RFRA’s high standard — does not require granting religious exemptions to immunization laws or similar interests that are required for public health and safety.”