Connecticut Ends Religious Vaccine Exemptions for Students

April 29, 2021 Updated: April 29, 2021

Connecticut Gov. Ned Lamont signed into law on Wednesday a bill that ends religious exemptions from mandatory school vaccinations in the state. Medical exemptions from immunizations remain in effect.

“Serious illnesses that have been well-controlled for many decades, such as measles, tuberculosis, and whooping cough … have reemerged,” Lamont said in a statement.

“The number of children in our state who have not received routine vaccinations has been steadily increasing, which has been mirrored by significant growth in preventable diseases across the nation,” he continued.

Parents may still choose not to vaccinate their children on medical grounds, but the “bill best ensures that other children and their families will not be exposed to these deadly diseases for hours each day in our schools,” Lamont said.

The measure applies to public and private schools, higher education institutions, and children in daycare settings.

The bill was voted in the majority Democrat Connecticut Senate on Tuesday and passed 22 to 14, Hartford Courant reported. All Republican Senators voted against it, while all but two Democrats voted for it. The new legislation will take effect at the beginning of the 2022 school year.

Earlier in April, the bill to eliminate the religious exemption from mandatory immunization was approved by the Connecticut House of Representatives, The CT Mirror reported.

Connecticut Senate minority leader Kevin Kelly (R) was quoted as saying, “We believe in individuals. We believe that families, mothers and fathers, know how to take care of their children. The majority Democrats believe that government knows best,” CT Senate Republicans wrote on Twitter on April 28.

Connecticut Senate President Pro Tempore Martin Looney (D) said that the number of religious exemptions was growing, adding that there was a large number of children whose immune systems are weak and can only be safe in school if their classmates are immunized, the CT Mirror reported.

Looney reportedly said that children are not the property of parents and possess “independent rights apart of those of their parents.”

The bill makes Connecticut the sixth state to ban vaccination exemptions on religious grounds, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. Other states that do not allow religious exemptions from mandatory vaccinations are California, Maine, Mississippi, New York, and West Virginia.

Family Institute of Connecticut said on Twitter that parents pledged to file a lawsuit over the newly enacted bill.

Thousands of protestors against the new measures gathered peacefully outside of the State Capital during the debate in the Senate on Tuesday, Fox61 reported.

Robert F. Kennedy Jr., founder, chairman of the board, and chief legal counsel for Children’s Health Defense, spoke at the rally and urged senators to vote no on the bill.

The Connecticut Department of Public Health reported the results of a survey that found the total vaccination rate of students entering school in the 2019-2020 school year was close to 98 percent. Sen. Mary Daugherty Abrams (D), a co-chair of the Public Health Committee, said that despite the fact that the overall vaccination rate was high most exemptions occur in a few schools, Hartford Courant reported.

Children Health Defense said in a statement that the measure was put in place to prevent any potential outbreak of a disease but no outbreak has occurred in Connecticut since the religious exemption law was enacted in 1959.

“This is a dangerous trend of erosion of our liberties and First Amendment rights,” the Children Health Defense statement reads.