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Anti-vax exodus

As New York ends its religious exemption for vaccines, some parents turn to homeschooling

Anti-vax exodus

Signs advertising free measles vaccines at Rockland County Health Department, in Pomona, N.Y (Seth Wenig/AP)

A New York moment: 

I wrote back in April about the measles outbreak in New York, and I’m still getting long emails from readers about that piece. People feel more passionately about vaccines than about most other issues I’ve written about! The drama here in New York continues to unfold. 

In the wake of the measles outbreak, and the refusal of a small segment of parents here (about 4 percent) to vaccinate, the New York Legislature this summer removed the religious exemption for vaccine requirements. No religious groups publicly opposed this move while the Legislature was debating it, although now the evangelical lobbying arm in Albany, New Yorkers for Constitutional Freedoms, is calling the exemption’s removal a “government overreach.” Federal and state courts have repeatedly upheld the elimination of religious exemptions for vaccines on public health grounds. 

Now there is only a medical exemption for vaccines, and state lawmakers tightened up the requirements for that exemption so it can’t be easily abused. Even without the Legislature’s action, summer camps (a staple for New York children) had banned unvaccinated children from attending.  

The school year has just started here and some New York parents have decided to homeschool their children rather than give them the required vaccines for school. The Wall Street Journal talked to several such parents who feel persecuted by the state requirements. But interestingly, the piece contains nary a mention of a specific religious reason for parents not vaccinating. There are the reasons I heard from our readers in emails—the perceived danger of vaccines—but not an outright religious reason. 

In my measles reporting, I did find parents with religious reasons for avoiding vaccines. Those reasons mainly had to do with the perception that certain vaccines were morally complicit with research on aborted fetuses—or for more New Age reasons, like that a child should not be injected with foreign substances. But it appears to me that many parents here were using the religious exemption even though they had nonreligious reasons for avoiding vaccination. 

Worth your time:  

A French judge has affirmed the right of a rooster to continue crowing. The case drew national attention because the rooster became “a symbol of rural values—eternal values in France—that ... are under threat.”

The court awarded the sued rooster 1,000 euros in damages. 

This week I learned: 

New York, in its voting campaign to create more statues of women around the city, has declined to fund the highest vote getter—Catholic nun Frances Cabrini, an early patron of immigrants. Cabrini built orphanages, schools, and hospitals across the United States.

Library of Congress

Frances Cabrini (Library of Congress)

Instead, the city committee decided to fund a statue of a transgender activist, among six others that include singer Billie Holiday and a lighthouse keeper. But there’s room for more: Only five of the 150 statues in the city pay tribute to women.

A court case you might not know about: 

New York institutions are facing a wave of lawsuits now because of a new state law that gives a one-year look-back window allowing civil lawsuits over sexual abuse claims, regardless of state statutes of limitations. Catholic leadership in New York supported this new law after language was altered to allow suits against public institutions as well. 

Under the old state law, abuse victims had to file civil suits by their 23rd birthday. The new law extends that statute of limitations permanently to age 55, and victims can file criminal suits up to age 28. 

Culture I am consuming: 

When You Reach Me, a children’s novel by Rebecca Stead, which is set on the Upper West Side in Manhattan and centers on one of my favorite childhood books, A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle. It’s a lovely story that makes you see the disturbed homeless person on the corner differently—exactly in the way that only fiction can. 

Email me with tips, story ideas, and feedback at


  • Cyborg3's picture
    Posted: Fri, 09/13/2019 10:31 am

    I am not an anti-vax Christian but I do think there is a religious basis for opposing it if you believe strongly it is unhealthy for you.  Our bodies are the temple of God and we are made in His image! 

    The refusal to honor a nun (though I am not a works righteousness advocate) over a transgender person really shows we live in Sodom and Gomorrah! We should expect God’s judgment on our country. It is time to get on our knees, confess our sins, turn from our wicked ways and pray for revival! Without revival we are doomed. Pray! 

    Today, we see an increased attack by Satan where “Christian” leaders are falling away and Christians are losing their saltiness. Satan wants us to forget we are on the winning side and cause us to grow discouraged. Rather than falling back, let us rise in faith and take the battle to him. If we all focus on a few things that are of the will of God, faithfully following through, then we can expect victory. Carpe Diem!