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Federal Court Restores Religious Exemption to Vaccination in Mississippi

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A federal court has ruled that the First Amendment demands that the state of Mississippi permit a religious exemption to vaccination for school children by July 15, 2023. Judge Halil S. Ozerden’s order bars state health officials and anyone acting under their direction from enforcing Mississippi Code § 41-23-37, compulsory school vaccination law, unless an opt out provision for religious exemption is provided.1

Mississippi allows medical exemptions to mandatory vaccination laws which require that all children receive vaccinations for diphtheria, tetanus, and pertussis (DPT), measles, mumps and rubella (MMR), polio, hepatitis, and chicken pox in order to attend public or private school. The six plaintiffs in this case argued that by offering a secular exemption to mandatory vaccination laws, school officials demonstrated that exceptions to the law could be made but they simply chose to exclude children whose reason for not vaccinating were religious in violation of the U.S. Constitution.2

The court’s monumental decision allows parents with sincerely held religious beliefs to follow their conscience and religious beliefs while still providing their children with a school education. Many of these parents were forced to home school their children or their families had to move out of state so that the children could attend school. One of the plaintiffs in this case is a pastor who was forced to exclude his own daughter from a private Christian school he runs due to her vaccination status.

The law firm Siri & Gilmsted, LLP represented the plaintiffs and funding for the litigation was provided by Informed Consent Action Network (ICAN).3 Attorneys for the plaintiffs said,

Plaintiffs are incredibly heartened that a federal court agreed that the State cannot afford a secular exemption without affording a religious exemption and that doing so violated the First Amendment.4

Mississippi’s previous religion exemption was overturned in 1979 on the premise that vaccinated children had a constitutional right to not associate with the unvaccinated.5 Mississippi state spokesperson, Liz Sharlot, has not said whether the state officials will appeal the ruling.6

After the court’s decision, only five states are left without a religious exemption to mandatory vaccination, California, Connecticut, Maine, New York and West Virginia.7 8


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Click here to view References:

1 Press release. Federal Court Restores Religious Exemption To State Vaccine Mandate For Attending School In Mississippi. Siri & Glimstad Apr. 17, 2023.
2 Associated Press. Judge: Mississippi Must Give Religious Exemption on Vaccines. U.S. News & World Report. Apr. 18, 2023.
3 Press release. Federal Court Restores Religious Exemption To State Vaccine Mandate For Attending School In Mississippi. Siri & Glimstad Apr. 17, 2023.
4 Ibid.
5 Associated Press. Judge: Mississippi Must Give Religious Exemption on Vaccines. U.S. News & World Report. Apr. 18, 2023.
6 Ibid.
7 Sanstrum A. Amid measles outbreak, New York closes religious exemption for vaccinations – but most states retain it. Pew Research Center. June 28, 2019.
8 National Vaccine Information Center. State Vaccination Exemptions. June 2019.

6 Responses

  1. I wonder if there are any active lawsuits in NY for this, and what the chances are that our reignite exemption will be restored

  2. Yeah, but . . .

    Is there a PERSONAL RELIGIOUS EXEMPTION or do they have to PROVE they are AFFILIATED with a CHURCH who distinctly aligns themselves with no forced vaccinations?

    It’s not all it pretends to be.
    Ask NVIC.

    FREEDOM OF VACCINATION CHOICE, NO . . . MATTER . . . WHAT!

  3. If a FEDERAL court ruled that the first amendment demands a religious exemption for MISSISSIPPI school children, why does this not apply to ALL states? Lawyers in the 5 states without religious exemptions, PLEASE rise up and demand that this ruling be applied everywhere! I live in California and have 6 children. My first 2 were vaccine-injured and do not have most of their shots. My 4 youngest are unvaccinated. Two years ago I was forced to pull them out of public school and homeschool them, and while I love giving them customized, curated instruction at the pace they need, I am an older mom, and it is taking a toll on my health. My children would love to attend a Christian school, and I would love to send them to one, but because the government removed the religious exemption, I cannot…

  4. ‘the vaccinated children have a construction right not to associate with unvaccinated children ‘ ?? what a stupid reason!!! if there vaccine won’t protect them then why would the other children ‘s vaccine protect them???
    why should we sacrifice everyone to protect no one?!?
    Also the requirements are more strict then CDC recommended. CDC recommended the booster between 4 and 6 years.
    Missippi requirements are between 4 years and kindergarten. Their is no significant data showing that their is a benefit from getting the booster before 6 years.
    Also their is no benefit from catch-up vaccine dose.

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