Calling vaccine opposition a religious right is often wrong

MY OPINION: Lost in the Super Tuesday scrum was a ballot issue in which voters upheld a new Maine law that eliminates philosophical and religious exemptions to childhood vaccines. More than 70% voted to keep the law.

U.S. Centers for Disease Control photo

So, here’s the question:

Which religious group has objects to vaccines? Almost none.

The Dutch Reformed Church initially cautioned about adverse effects of vaccines. Some took that to mean vaccines interfere with humans’ relationship with God, making them feel less dependent.

Mary Baker Eddy, who founded Christian Scientists, said, “Rather than quarrel over vaccination, I recommend, if the law demand that an individual submit to this process, that he obey the law, and then appeal to the Gospel to save him from bad physical results.”

Jehovah’s Witnesses banned their members from receiving vaccinations in 1931 but reversed that 68 years ago.

A rabbi called vaccines a hoax, but did not forbid then. Some Catholics object to fetal cells being used to develop some vaccines, but there are alternatives.

But whether a true religious objection exists seems to be immaterial. Objectors simply need to say they have a religious objection, without belonging to or citing any religion at all.

These seem to be personal parental objections, not religious ones. Parents’ rights when it come to their children are mighty important, but calling these religious objections muddies the waters. Not every opinion we hold, however strongly, is religious. Dragging religion into the debate equates faith with something it is not.

As long as we treat objections to vaccines as religious, which they seldom are, we cheapen religion, the First Amendment that protects our rights to practice as we wish, and parental rights themselves.

— Joe Grimm

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