Tuesday, June 24th, 2014
A New York City policy allowing schools to prohibit unvaccinated kids from attending school when there are reported cases of vaccine-preventable diseases has been upheld by a federal judge, despite the claims by three families that the policy violates their constitutional right to make medical decisions based on religious beliefs. The New York Times reports:
Citing a 109-year-old Supreme Court ruling that gives states broad power in public health matters, Judge William F. Kuntz II of Federal District Court in Brooklyn ruled against three families who claimed that their right to free exercise of religion was violated when their children were kept from school, sometimes for a month at a time, because of the city’s immunization policies.
The Supreme Court, Judge Kuntz wrote in his ruling, has “strongly suggested that religious objectors are not constitutionally exempt from vaccinations.”
The lawyer for the plaintiffs, Patricia Finn, said she plans to appeal the decision, announced this month. On Thursday, Ms. Finn asked the district court to rehear the case.
Amid concerns by public health officials that some diseases are experiencing a resurgence in areas with low vaccination rates, the decision reinforces efforts by the city to balance a strict vaccine mandate with limited exemptions for objectors. Pockets of vaccination refusal persist in the city, despite high levels of vaccination overall.
State law requires children to receive vaccinations before attending school, unless a parent can show religious reservations or a doctor can attest that vaccines will harm the child. Under state law, parents claiming religious exemptions do not have to prove their faith opposes vaccines, but they must provide a written explanation of a “genuine and sincere” religious objection, which school officials can accept or reject.
Some states also let parents claim a philosophical exemption, though New York does not. Some parents refuse to have their children vaccinated because of a belief that vaccines can cause autism, though no link has ever been proved.
Two of the families in the lawsuit who had received religious exemptions challenged the city’s policy on barring their children, saying it amounted to a violation of their First Amendment right to religious freedom and their 14th Amendment right to equal protection under the law, among other claims. Their children had been kept from school when other students had chickenpox, their suit said.
The third plaintiff, Dina Check, sued on somewhat different grounds, saying that the city had improperly denied her 7-year-old daughter a religious exemption. She said the city rejected her religious exemption after it had denied her a medical exemption, sowing doubts among administrators about the authenticity of her religious opposition. But Ms. Check said the request for a medical exemption had been mistakenly submitted by a school nurse without her consent.
Image: School lockers, via Shutterstock
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constitutional law, court case, Education, federal court, New York City, religion, school policy, vaccinations, Vaccines | Categories:
Child Health, Education, Must Read, Safety
Wednesday, October 23rd, 2013
Baby Prince George, the son of Prince William and Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge–as well as the future king of England–was christened Wednesday in an unusually private ceremony at St. James’ Palace. In attendance were his great-grandparents, Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip, grandfather Prince Charles, uncle Prince Harry, and Catherine’s parents, Carole and Michael Middleton, plus her siblings, James and Pippa. More from CNN.com:
George was dressed in an elaborate lace and satin christening gown that’s a replica of one made in 1841 for the christening of Queen Victoria’s eldest daughter.
Being baptized into the church is more significant for George than for most people, since he is in line to become king, which would also make him the supreme governor of the Church of England.
The occasion was kept uncharacteristically small, in a shift away from the larger ceremonies that his father and grandfather enjoyed at Buckingham Palace….
The Archbishop of Canterbury, the Most Rev. Justin Welby, greeted the guests as they arrived at the chapel.
The royal baby, who was born in July, has seven godparents, among them Prince William’s cousin Zara Tindall, daughter of Princess Anne, and close friends of the couple.
They include Oliver Baker, who got to know William and Catherine at St. Andrew’s University, Emilia Jardine-Paterson, who went to school with Catherine, and William van Cutsem, a childhood friend of William.
The other godparents are Jamie Lowther-Pinkerton, a former private secretary to the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge and Prince Harry; Julia Samuel, who was a good friend of William’s mother, Diana, Princess of Wales; and Earl Grosvenor, son of the Duke of Westminster.
The replica christening gown was brought into use in 2008 to help preserve the 170-year-old original, used until then for every royal christening, including those of Prince William and his father, Charles.
The venue for the christening also has a special significance for Prince William. The body of his mother, Diana, rested in the Chapel Royal for five days before her funeral in 1997.
After the service, Prince Charles and Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall, held a private tea at Clarence House. The guests were served slices of christening cake, which is a tier taken from William and Catherine’s 2011 wedding cake.
Image: Christening gown and cross, via Shutterstock
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Monday, June 3rd, 2013
Boy Scout units hosted by Southern Baptist churches may soon dwindle in number, in response to the Boy Scouts of America’s recent vote to allow openly gay boys to be Scouts. Baptist leaders say the move is counter to their religious beliefs, and they may leave the organization “en masse.” More from CNN’s Belief Blog:
Baptist churches sponsor nearly 4,000 Scout units representing more than 100,000 youths, according to the Boy Scouts of America.
That number could drop precipitously.
The Southern Baptist Convention, the country’s largest Protestant denomination, will soon urge its 45,000 congregations and 16 million members to cut ties with the Scouts, according to church leaders.
The denomination will vote on nonbinding but influential resolutions during a convention June 11-12 in Houston.
“There’s a 100% chance that there will be a resolution about disaffiliation at the convention,” said Richard Land, the longtime head of the Southern Baptists’ Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, “and a 100% chance that 99% of people will vote for it.”
“Southern Baptists are going to be leaving the Boy Scouts en masse,” Land continued.
Roger “Sing” Oldham, a spokesman for the Southern Baptist Convention, emphasized that local congregations make their own decision on the Scouts.
But he, too, said he expects Baptist delegates, which the church calls “messengers,” to voice their disagreement with the BSA’s decision to allow gay youths.
“With this policy change, the Boy Scouts’ values are contradictory to the basic values of our local churches,” Oldham said.
Image: Church, via Shutterstock
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Friday, May 24th, 2013
On the witness stand at the trial concerning whether yoga classes at the public schools in the Encinitas Union School District in Southern California are legal, Indiana University religious studies professor Candy Brown testified that the program is, essentially, religious in nature and therefore inappropriately defined as a purely physical education program. The San Diego Union-Tribune has more:
The district introduced yoga as a pilot program in 2011 and expanded it to all nine of its schools in January. Funding comes from the KP Jois Foundation, which champions a style of yoga called Ashtanga.
Yoga is part of the campuses’ physical-education offerings, and district officials said students are simply doing stretching exercises with no religious connections. Families uncomfortable with the exercises can have their students opt out.
Some parents said the district should not offer yoga at all because its religious roots can never be eliminated. Stephen and Jennifer Sedlock are suing the district in San Diego Superior Court; they’re being represented by attorney Dean Broyles, president of the Escondido-based National Center for Law & Policy.
Brown, a professor at Indiana University, began her second day on the witness stand Tuesday morning by recalling the origins of Ashtanga yoga and how they have been modified in Encinitas schools. Quoting from the KP Jois Foundation’s literature and referring to her own research, Brown said the very act of performing yoga moves can be considered religious.
“The purpose of Ashtanga yoga is to become one with Brahma,” she said, referring to a Hindu deity.
Brown also said there is no distinction between the physical and spiritual aspects of yoga. Children in the district’s program do not chant or use terms associated with Hinduism, but Brown said that does not make the yoga secular.
“Jois is very, very clear that the practice may appear physical, but that is very, very wrong,” she said. “It produces spiritual transformation.”
Citing written statements from teachers in the district, Brown said there is evidence that some children have chanted while performing poses. Judge John Meyer suggested that those students may have learned the chants outside of school, but Brown said it still demonstrates that they have an understanding of yoga’s spiritual ties.
Image: Girl doing yoga, via Shutterstock
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Wednesday, April 24th, 2013
A Pennsylvania couple who believes in the power of prayer to heal all illnesses–and refuses all forms of modern medical treatment–may be facing charges after their 8-month-old son died last week. In 2009, Herbert and Catherine Schaible’s 2-year-old son died, an incident that resulted in the couple being sentenced to 10 years probation. More from NBC News:
Authorities have yet to file criminal charges in the death of the child last week, after he suffered with diarrhea and breathing problems for days. But charges could be filed once authorities pinpoint how the boy died. An official cause of death is pending an autopsy, according to police.
The child was taken to a funeral home by an as yet unknown individual and the undertaker alerted police, Russell said.
In 2010, a jury convicted the Schaibles, who have seven other children, of involuntary manslaughter and child endangerment in Kent’s death from pneumonia. The Schaibles were sentenced to probation over prison time.
As part of their sentence, the Schaibles were required to arrange medical examinations for each of their children, to immediately consult with a doctor when a child became sick and to follow the doctor’s treatment recommendations.
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