Bill S2338-2009

Provides protections to parents who decline to have their children immunized on the basis of religious beliefs

Provides protections to parents who decline to have their children immunized on the basis of religious beliefs; allows a parent to submit an affidavit stating that the parent, parents or guardian hold genuine and sincere religious beliefs.

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  • Jan 6, 2010: REFERRED TO HEALTH
  • Feb 18, 2009: REFERRED TO HEALTH

Memo

 BILL NUMBER:  S2338

TITLE OF BILL :

An act to amend the public health law, in relation to the religious exemption from mandatory immunizations for students

PURPOSE :

This legislation is intended to protect parents from inappropriate and intrusive inquiry into their religious beliefs by government authorities.

SUMMARY OF PROVISIONS :

Section one of the bill makes clear that the legislative intent is not to undermine the public health purpose of school immunization legislation, but to protect people in the free exercise of their religion from inappropriate and intrusive demands to explain or justify their religious beliefs.

Section two amends subdivision 9 of section 2164 of the Public Health Law applying to religious exemptions for minors, to exempt the child from an immunization requirement where the parent files an affidavit stating that the parent holds genuine and sincere religious beliefs which are contrary to the practice, without being subject to further inquiry. Section three makes the same change to subdivision 9 of section 2165 of the Public Health Law applying to religious exemptions for adult students.

JUSTIFICATION :

Protection of free exercise of religion demands wariness in granting state entities the power to cast judgment upon a person's religious beliefs. This bill precludes the interpretation of the current language reading "genuine and sincere" as creating a test that a religious exemption claimant must pass to the satisfaction of health or school authorities. It makes the exemption dependent only on the filing an affidavit stating that the requisite religious beliefs are held.

The current common practice of government agencies scrutinizing and judging a parent's religious beliefs is inappropriate in a democracy that values the First Amendment. There could be concern that some parents might falsely claim a religious exemption. But it is greatly outweighed by the burden that the intrusive, prolonged inquiry imposes on bona fide objectors forced to defend their religious beliefs. Including that the request for exemption be notarized impresses upon the public the seriousness of the sincerity requirement and will be a sufficient deterrent to potential false objectors.

LEGISLATIVE HISTORY :

S.1563/A.3064 of 2007-08; S.4693/A.8383 of 2005-06.

FISCAL IMPLICATIONS :

Savings to school boards which will no longer be engaged in substantive review of requests for religious exemptions.

EFFECTIVE DATE : Immediately.

Text

STATE OF NEW YORK ________________________________________________________________________ 2338 2009-2010 Regular Sessions IN SENATE February 18, 2009 ___________
Introduced by Sen. PADAVAN -- read twice and ordered printed, and when printed to be committed to the Committee on Health AN ACT to amend the public health law, in relation to the religious exemption from mandatory immunizations for students THE PEOPLE OF THE STATE OF NEW YORK, REPRESENTED IN SENATE AND ASSEM- BLY, DO ENACT AS FOLLOWS: Section 1. This legislation is not intended to detract from the public health purpose of school immunization legislation. The law has long recognized the right of parents to decline to have their children immun- ized on the basis of religious beliefs. This legislation is intended to protect parents from inappropriate and intrusive inquiry into their beliefs by government authorities. S 2. Subdivision 9 of section 2164 of the public health law, as sepa- rately amended by chapters 405 and 538 of the laws of 1989, is amended to read as follows: 9. This section shall not apply to [children] A CHILD whose parent, parents, or guardian [hold] HOLDS genuine and sincere religious beliefs which are contrary to the practices herein required, and no certificate shall be required as a prerequisite to [such children] THE CHILD being admitted or received into school or attending school WHERE THE PARENT, PARENTS OR GUARDIAN SUBMITS AN AFFIDAVIT STATING THAT THE PARENT, PARENTS OR GUARDIAN HOLDS SUCH GENUINE AND SINCERE RELIGIOUS BELIEFS. THE PARENT, PARENTS OR GUARDIAN SHALL NOT BE REQUIRED TO SPECIFY OR ELABORATE ON THE NATURE, GENUINENESS OR SINCERITY OF THE RELIGIOUS BELIEF OR BE SUBJECT TO ANY FURTHER INQUIRY. S 3. Subdivision 9 of section 2165 of the public health law, as added by chapter 405 of the laws of 1989, is amended to read as follows: 9. This section shall not apply to a person who holds genuine and sincere religious beliefs which are contrary to the practices herein required, and no certificate shall be required as a prerequisite to such person being admitted or received into or attending an institution WHERE
THE PERSON SUBMITS AN AFFIDAVIT STATING THAT THE PERSON HOLDS SUCH GENU- INE AND SINCERE RELIGIOUS BELIEFS. THE PERSON SHALL NOT BE REQUIRED TO SPECIFY OR ELABORATE ON THE NATURE, GENUINENESS OR SINCERITY OF THE RELIGIOUS BELIEF OR BE SUBJECT TO ANY FURTHER INQUIRY. S 4. This act shall take effect immediately.

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