Fahlman 1

Claire Fahlman

Professors David Battisti and Stevan Harrell

HONORS 222 B

June 5, 2017

God and Medicine: The Religious Exemption to Vaccination in the U.S.

Vaccines are not a particularly pleasant medical intervention for many, as they commonly

include painful injections and lasting sore arms. Experts extol the benefits of vaccinations as

being worth the pain, however, and many industrialized nations routinely require immunization

of children before they reach school age. Vaccinations contain weakened or inactivated versions

of viruses or bacteria, non-infectious in their changed state. Although these altered infections

may cause slight symptoms, they will generally not provoke the full-blown disease, and will

instead trigger an immune response.1 T-lymphocytes are a type of defensive blood cell tasked

with picking up and remembering the markers of diseases the immune system has defeated,

allowing it to recognize them upon further exposure.2 Once exposed to a non-active version of an

infection through a vaccine, the T-lymphocytes are then able to pick up markers of the infection

and, when exposed to it in its active form, they recognize it as harmful to the body and prompt

the immune system to mount a response.3 This medical advance has protected generations of

humans against diseases that not too long ago would likely have killed them. At this point in the

history of the United States, most children are vaccinated against many serious infectious

diseases that previously ravaged the population. A study by the Center for Disease Control

(CDC) concluded that in American children of between nineteen and thirty-five months, 91.5%

1 "Understanding How Vaccines Work." Center for Disease Control. CDC, Feb. 2013. Web. 25 May
2017.
2 IBID.
3 IBID.
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have received the MMR vaccine, immunizing children against Measles, Mumps, and Rubella.4

91% of the same children had been vaccinated against the chickenpox, and the rate of

immunization against polio was as high as 93.3%.5

Although most children are now vaccinated, controversy around immunization lingers.

Much of the modern controversy surrounding vaccines stems from a 1998 study by Andrew

Wakefield (as well as 12 coauthors), correlating childhood MMR vaccinations to autism.6

Though his study had an incredibly small sample size (n=12), and many of the conclusions

drawn by the study were conjectural, it received great media attention and rapidly spread the idea

that the MMR vaccine causes autism.7 Shortly after publication, the findings of the study were

refuted, drawing attention to the fact that the connection between autism and the MMR

vaccination may be merely related to the timing of immunization.8 Autism generally becomes

apparent around the stage of early childhood in which the MMR vaccine is administered, casting

any link between the two into serious doubt.9 Although 10 of the 12 original coauthors of the

Wakefield study have admitted that there is no solid connection, and the magazine the study was

originally published in retracted it fully in 2010, the damage had already been done.10 Movies

such as VAXXED, featuring Wakefield himself, continue to spread anti-vaccination propaganda,

and many celebrities such as Jenny Mccarthy and Kirstie Alley publically refute vaccine science,

contributing to public confusion and controversy on the topic. Outbreaks of diseases easily

4 "Immunization." Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Centers for Disease Control and
Prevention, 17 Mar. 2017. Web. 25 May 2017.
5 IBID.
6 Rao, T. S. Sathyanarayana, and Chittaranjan Andrade. "The MMR Vaccine and Autism: Sensation,
Refutation, Retraction, and Fraud." Indian Journal of Psychiatry. Medknow Publications, 2011. Web. 25
May 2017.
7 IBID.
8 IBID.
9 IBID.
10 IBID.
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curable by vaccines continue in the United States, largely due to the low rate of immunization

expressed in American children when compared to other developed nations. In the United States,

91 percent of toddlers have received the MMR vaccine, while Germany and Finland had

achieved 97 percent MMR vaccine coverage.11 Parents may choose not to vaccinate their

children in many states for religious, philosophical or medical reasons, although most states only

allow for medical or religious exceptions to immunization. Religious exceptions often give those

easily swayed by misinformation, rather than those swayed by genuine religious belief, the

opportunity to harm not only their children, but those of others in their communities as well. Due

to the traditional American emphasis on religious freedom, the controversy surrounding

vaccination has continued to pose a national health risk.

The foundation of religious freedom in the United States was laid with the migration of

religious outcasts to America. At the time of the colonization of North America by Europeans, it

was extremely dangerous to be a religious minority.12 Both Catholics and Protestants firmly held

to the idea that in any country, there should be only one religion.13 This gave rise to such famous

examples of religious persecution as the Spanish Inquisition and the oppression of Atheists and

Catholics by the Church of England, driving many religious minorities underground. The

colonization of America by religious communities was driven by such oppression, causing

puritans such as John Winthrop, who famously founded the Massachusetts Bay Colony as a “city

on a hill,” or place of refuge, to take shelter in the newly discovered Americas.14 This sentiment

was shared across the colonies that would eventually form the United States, such as in

11 "Health Care Use - Child Vaccination Rates." TheOECD. Organisation for Economic Co-operation
and Development, n.d. Web. 30 May 2017.
12 Foster, John, Matthew Taylor, David Boecklin, Mathias Tanner, and J. Luyken. "Religion and the
Founding of the American RepublicAmerica as a Religious Refuge: The Seventeenth Century, Part
1." America as a Religious Refuge. Library of Congress, 04 June 1998. Web. 25 May 2017.
13IBID.
14 IBID.
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Pennsylvania, founded by famed Quaker William Penn as a place of opportunity and tolerance.15

The religious freedom these migrants found in their immigration to America can be felt to this

day in the American social climate, both as a testament to the tolerance of the society and as a

detriment to the health of citizens.

The results of the fears of religious persecution of early American colonists can be seen

in the Constitution of the United States. In the First Amendment to the Constitution, which reads

“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free

exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people

peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances,” two

important rights are guaranteed to citizens.16 The Establishment Clause (“Congress shall make no

law respecting the establishment of a religion”) prevents the government from promoting or

establishing a national religion, directly averting the governmental persecution of religious

minorities routinely practiced by the European nations at the time of America’s founding.17

Directly following is the Free Exercise Clause (“…or prohibiting the free exercise thereof;”),

giving citizens the right to practice the religion of their choosing, or no religion at all, in direct

contradiction to the mandated religious practices of the European nations of the day.18 Although

these antiquated and much analyzed words may seem irrelevant to modern American society,

their impacts continue to be felt in many aspects of contemporary life, including the decision of

parents to vaccinate their children or not.

Religious freedom has been upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court in a myriad of instances,

including in relation to healthcare. In Engel v. Vitale (1962), the Court ruled that a prayer written

15 "William Penn and the Founding of Pennsylvania: A Documentary History." University of
Pennsylvania Press. N.p., n.d. Web. 25 May 2017.
16 "Your Right to Religious Freedom." American Civil Liberties Union. ACLU, n.d. Web. 25 May 2017.
17 IBID.
18 IBID.
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by government officials of the state of New York could not be mandated at the start of each

school day, as it violated the Establishment Clause.19 Clearly, the state of New York was violating

the rights guaranteed in the First Amendment by promoting religion, in this case Christianity.

Thirty-one years later, in 1993, the Supreme Court heard arguments in a much different case in

Church of the Lukumi Babalu Aye v. City of Hialeah. Here, laws banning animal sacrifice in four

different Florida cities were struck down, as they unfairly targeted the Santeria religion practiced

by many Caribbean immigrants in the area, violating the right guaranteed in the Free Exercise

Clause to practice religion freely.20 More recently, the connection between the freedom of

religion and healthcare decisions was addressed in Burwell v. Hobby Lobby Stores, Inc. (2014).

Here, it was ruled that the Religious Freedom Restoration Act of 1993 (RFRA hereafter) applies

to corporations.21 The RFRA states that a religiously neutral law may hinder a religion just as

much as a law obstructing it explicitly, and demands that religious freedom be protected.22 In

this case, Hobby Lobby, a corporation run by a religiously conservative family, argued that the

Affordable Care Act (ACA hereafter) violated both their rights under the First Amendment and

the RFRA by mandating that they offer free access to birth control to employees.23 The Supreme

Court ruled in favor of Hobby Lobby, applying the religious rights guaranteed under the RFRA

to corporations and deeming that section of the ACA unconstitutional.24 While not explicitly

connected to the ability of parents to choose not to vaccinate their children, these three cases,

19 "Religious Liberty: Landmark Supreme Cases." Bill of Rights Institute. N.p., n.d. Web. 30 May 2017.
20 IBID.
21 "Burwell v. Hobby Lobby Stores." Oyez, https://www.oyez.org/cases/2013/13-354. Accessed 30 May.
2017.
22 Bomboy, Scott. "National Constitution Center." Constitution Daily. National Constitution Center, 30
June 2014. Web. 25 May 2017.
23 IBID.
24 Bomboy, Scott. "National Constitution Center." Constitution Daily. National Constitution Center, 30
June 2014. Web. 25 May 2017.
Fahlman 6

particularly the most recent, show the depth and strength of religious freedom in the United

States.

Although some religions are hesitant to use western medicine, preferring to heal by

prayer instead, they are few and far between, and generally do not have an explicit doctrine

against immunization. Only two churches have concrete religious issues with vaccination. The

first, The Church of Christ, Scientist, believes that disease is curable through prayer and thus do

not generally take any medicine at all, even vaccinations in some cases.25 By preventing disease

via immunization, some Christian Scientists see themselves as interfering with God’s will.26 The

other church against vaccination is the Dutch Reformed Church. This small faction of

conservative Christians believe that vaccination should be avoided as it makes the patient less

dependent on God and interferes with divine providence.27 It is important to note that some

members of the Dutch Reformed Church view vaccines as an example of God’s work, and that

not all Christian Scientists refuse to vaccinate their children by any means. For both groups,

however, health decisions and religion are intertwined. Vaccines, if mandated, would cause them

to violate their religious principles. It is on this very valid premise that the religious exception to

vaccination is founded. The right to uphold one’s religious values when making healthcare

decisions is guaranteed by the First Amendment, presumably just as the Founding Fathers

intended.

As a consequence of their resistance to vaccination, however, religious groups opposed to

vaccination experience outbreaks of disease easily curably by vaccination. In the late spring and

early summer of 2005, an outbreak of the measles occurred in a small, religious community in

25 "Immunizations and Religion." Health and Wellness. Vanderbilt University, 27 Aug. 2017. Web. 05
June 2017.
26IBID.
27"IBID.
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Indiana. 28 Within this community, those affected had expressed religious opposition to

vaccination.29 Although the dangers of measles and the importance of immunization were

explained to the group, very few affected families changed their minds about the safety and

essentiality of vaccination.30 In 2011, the United States experienced a massive outbreak of the

measles virus.31 In Texas, the infection was confined to a religious community that had refused

vaccination.32 Of the national outbreak as a whole, 82% of those infected were not vaccinated,

most for religious or philosophical reasons.33 Although experiencing measles is terrible for an

individual, the disease is extremely easy to transmit, meaning that for every person who chooses

not to be vaccinated and becomes infected, many more members of the community are at risk.

Thus, choosing not to vaccinate for religious reasons imperils not just an individual but the entire

community to which they belong.

Although some choose not to vaccinate out of genuine religious belief, the religious

exception to vaccination is not used exclusively by true believers. Indeed, many parents in states

that do not allow vaccination exceptions on philosophical grounds are using the religious

exception to avoid immunizing their children before schooling begins. As one mother from

Boston interviewed for an article in the Washington Post put it, she “doesn’t practice any

particular faith, but she had no problem signing a letter declaring that because of her deeply held

religious beliefs, her four-year-old son should be exempt from the vaccinations required to enter

28Saint-Victor, Diane S., and Saad B. Omar. "Home - PMC - NCBI." National Center for Biotechnology
Information. U.S. National Library of Medicine, 5 Aug. 2013. Web. 05 June 2017.
29 IBID.
30 IBID.
31 "Measles — United States, January 1–August 24, 2013." Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 13 Sept. 2013. Web. 30 May 2017.
32 IBID.
33 IBID.
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preschool.”34 In this case, the mother blamed vaccines given to her son earlier as the reason he

developed autism, seemingly parroting the findings of the disproven Wakefield study.35 Although

this is just one instance of a fraudulent use of the religious exception to vaccination, its use is

increasing across the nation. From 2003 to 2007, the rate of kindergarteners who had received

religious exceptions increased sharply, even tripling in some states.36 This means that more and

more kindergarteners are coming to school without the required immunizations, putting not only

themselves but their entire schools at risk. The religious exemption to vaccination in this way is

allowing parents with ill-founded, secular objections to hide behind the mask of American

religious liberty.

Though the founding fathers may not have envisioned it, the American value of religious

freedom is being used to ignore science. At this point in the essay, it is a convenient juncture to

review the trajectory of American religious liberty as it relates to vaccinations and the religious

exception. In the beginning, religious liberty meant that the Pilgrims and other religious migrants

would be able to practice whatever faith they desired in peace, with no fear of persecution on

behalf of the government. Religious liberty grew to incorporate the idea of freedom from

religion, especially religion mandated by the government. This has meant many things over the

years, including no mandatory prayer may be allowed in public schools, and, more importantly

in this case, that the government cannot require a religious for profit corporation such as Hobby

Lobby to provide access to free birth control for employees. In most states, religious liberty also

means that parents with religious convictions against vaccination can avoid immunizing their

children, although it puts others at risk. More than that, because true religious conviction is so

34 LeBlanc, Steve. "Parents Use Religion to Avoid Vaccines." The Associated Press 18 Oct. 2007: n.
pag. The Washington Post. WP Company. Web. 30 May 2017.
35 IBID.
36 IBID.
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hard to prove or disprove, American religious liberty allows misinformed parents, perhaps those

with fears of autism, to claim religion as a way to avoid protecting their children, as well as the

entirety of their community, against disease.

One effect of lower levels of vaccination is a lack of herd immunity. Herd immunity, or

the threshold of immunity that must be reached in order to protect the larger community from

infection, is generally dependent upon immunization.37 Meaning, the risk of infection is reduced

by higher rates of community immunization, or increased by lower rates of community

immunization. In order to prevent infection, most members of a given community must be

immune, or if it is assumed that they do not possess natural immunity, must have been

vaccinated. Without a critical mass of community members receiving vaccination, disease is

easily spread. This may happen for a variety of reasons. Perhaps a vaccine has been recently

developed and many members of a community have not had a chance to receive it. Perhaps a

particular family is allergic to an ingredient in a vaccine and are thus unable to have it

administered, decreasing the herd immunity of their communities. Perhaps, as is the case in some

conservative, religious communities, individuals have a valid religious reason not to be

vaccinated. Perhaps. There is also the chance that a parent, confounded by a since-disproven and

retracted study, decides not to vaccinate their children, and spreads misinformation to other

parents, leading them to do the same and decrease the herd immunity of their communities. For a

group to have what is considered herd immunity against the measles, a highly contagious

disease, 95% of the population must be vaccinated.38 In Washington State, among children 19 to

35 months, only 59% had received the recommended MMR vaccine to protect against the

37 Fine, Paul, Ken Eames, and David L. Heymann. ""Herd Immunity": A Rough Guide." Department of
Infectious Disease Epidemiology, London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, n.d. Web. 30 May
2017.
38 Willingham, Emily, and Laura Helft. "What Is Herd Immunity?" PBS. Public Broadcasting Service, 05
Sept. 2014. Web. 30 May 2017.
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measles within the recommended timeframe.39 This means that one infection of one child at a

day care facility could prove disastrous, due to an impressive (and terrifying) lack of herd

immunity among young children in Washington State. Most likely, not all of these toddlers have

parents with strong religious convictions against vaccines or have a medical diagnosis preventing

them from receiving the vaccine. Instead, fears about autism stemming from a disproved study

have put the entire community in danger.

The effects of a lack of vaccination on herd immunity have been seen in recent news

reports. In 2015, there was a massive outbreak of measles in Disneyland that spread a disease

once considered eradicated to seven states and two other countries.40 In the United States, one

hundred and forty-five people were infected, and about twelve tourists from Canada and Mexico

also suffered from the outbreak.41 The vaccination rate of those present at Disneyland during the

epidemic was estimated at somewhere between fifty percent at a low and eighty-six percent at a

high, both nowhere near the 95% immunization rate necessary to keep the measles infection at

bay via herd immunity.42 Even this year, in Minnesota, the nation’s largest Somali community

has been suffering from a measles outbreak.43 Few of the children in the community, only four

out of ten, had been vaccinated against measles, due to propaganda and misinformation spread

by anti-vaccine activists who saw the group as an easy target for conversion to their point of

view.44 So many in the community believed that vaccines caused autism that at a community

39 "Washington State Immunization Information System (IIS) as of December 31, 2016." (2016): n.
pag. Public Health. Washington State Department of Health. Web. 30 May 2017.
40 Kaplan, Karen. "Vaccine Refusal Helped Fuel Disneyland Measles Outbreak, Study Says." Los
Angeles Times. Los Angeles Times, n.d. Web. 30 May 2017.
41 IBID.
42IBID.
43 Zdechlik, Mark. "Unfounded Autism Fears Are Fueling Minnesota's Measles Outbreak." NPR. NPR,
03 May 2017. Web. 30 May 2017.
44 Zdechlik, Mark. "Unfounded Autism Fears Are Fueling Minnesota's Measles Outbreak." NPR. NPR,
03 May 2017. Web. 30 May 2017.
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meeting meant to disperse the pseudoscience behind the autism-MMR vaccine link, a doctor

speaking out in favor of vaccination was shouted down by the crowd present.45 Sadly, this

reluctance to immunize has led to thirty-four measles cases, with more likely to follow.46 Most of

the children in this case were not old enough to have to be exempt from vaccination in order to

attend school, and as Minnesota offers the choice of an “elective” or philosophical exemption to

vaccination, none would have had to state religion as the cause of their choice.47 However,

despite the facts of this case, it is just as clear that when not enough of a community is

immunized, disease spreads like wildfire, and everyone is at risk.

Some traditionally religious states operate on a vaccination exemption model that does

not allow for religious or philosophical exemptions, showing that vaccination and religion are

not mutually exclusive. For example, Mississippi is currently tied for number one in religiosity,

rivaled only by neighboring state Alabama.48 Overall, Mississippi is also not the easiest place to

be a child. It leads the nation in infant mortality rates and rates of low weight newborns, and is

currently ranked second for rate of children living in poverty.49 More generally, Mississippi ranks

as the nation’s least healthy state.50 However, one thing Mississippi does better than any other

state is immunize its young.51 Children in Mississippi have the highest rates of immunization,

with ninety-nine point seven percent of kindergarteners having received every required vaccine.52

45 IBID.
46 IBID.
47 "Immunization Laws." Minnesota Immunization Law Exemption. Minnesota Department of Health,
n.d. Web. 30 May 2017.
48 Lipka, Michael, and Benjamin Wormald. "How Religious Is Your State?" FactTank: News in the
Numbers. Pew Research Center, 29 Feb. 2016. Web. 30 May 2017.
49 Frankel, Todd C. "Mississippi – Yes, Mississippi – Has the Nation’s Best Child Vaccination Rate.
Here’s Why." The Washington Post. WP Company, 30 Jan. 2015. Web. 30 May 2017.
50 IBID.
51 Frankel, Todd C. "Mississippi – Yes, Mississippi – Has the Nation’s Best Child Vaccination Rate.
Here’s Why." The Washington Post. WP Company, 30 Jan. 2015. Web. 30 May 2017.
52 IBID.
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West Virginia, another state with a traditionally religious population with a shared lack of

religious exemptions to vaccination, follows Mississippi only slightly in childhood vaccination

rates, with only 0.2 percent of kindergarteners failing to be immunized before school age.53

These two states, with largely religious populations, show that religion and medical science are

not enemies, and that in reality they can coexist remarkably well when public health is

emphasized above religious liberty.

In fact, those most likely not to immunize their children are those who would

traditionally benefit most from medical advances such as vaccinations. Surveys have shown that

parents who do not vaccinate their children out of choice are often white, English speaking

parents in dual parent households.54 They are often very highly educated, with both parents likely

to hold college degrees.55 With an annual income more than four times the national poverty rate

on average and high chances of having medical insurance, the most obvious question is why

these parents refuse to take advantage of a medical advance that has saved millions of people all

over the world from horrific and deadly infections, adding risk to not only themselves but others

around them as well.56 It could be that there is something to be said for the argument that the

more one knows, the more one thinks they know. Meaning, college educated people, while

highly educated, do not know everything about the world around them. Unless they received

their degrees in biology or chemistry, the details of vaccine science are likely above their heads.

However, these parents are educated enough to understand the basics of the science, and because

of this knowledge, are more susceptible to overconfidence and believing they understand the

science behind vaccines better than they do. Although this is conjecture, there is something to be

53IBID.
54 Levs, Josh. "The Unvaccinated, by the Numbers." CNN. Cable News Network, 04 Feb. 2015. Web. 30
May 2017.
55 IBID.
56 IBID.
Fahlman 13

said for the arrogance of these highly-educated parents and the destructive choice they make with

regards to the health of their children, as well as everyone around them.

The United States falls behind in vaccination rates when compared to other similar

nations. In America, there was a 91 percent overall vaccination rate for measles in 2014.57 This is

far below such European nations as Germany, Spain, Finland and Poland. These countries have

achieved MMR vaccine coverage of 97 percent, 96 percent, 97 percent and 98 percent,

respectively.58 The EU does not have a uniform vaccine policy, and between the four

aforementioned nations, there is a vast difference in how childhood vaccines are addressed. In

Poland, vaccines are mandatory for children, and exceptions are not usually allowed.59 In Spain,

Finland and Germany, however, vaccine policy is similar to and perhaps even more lax than in

the United States, where vaccines are highly recommended but exemptions are allowed.60 With

more lenient policies, why then are Finnish, German and Spanish immunization rates so much

higher? One difference between the United States and its European peers is the American

tradition of religious liberty, a right which has been applied by the Supreme Court to healthcare

decisions. In Finland, there are high rates of religious uniformity, with ninety-eight percent of the

nation identifying as members of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Finland, the national

Church aligned with the government.61 Spain is nationally Catholic, and although religious rights

are now granted, it has not always been this way. For a few hundred years, the Spanish

government and Catholic church aligned to conduct what has now come to be known as the

57 "Health Care Use - Child Vaccination Rates." TheOECD. Organisation for Economic Co-operation
and Development, n.d. Web. 30 May 2017.
58 IBID.
59 Zadig, Asset Team @. "ASSET Reports." Compulsory Vaccination and Rates of Coverage
Immunization in Europe. N.p., n.d. Web. 30 May 2017.
60 IBID.
61 "Cultures and Religions in Finland." Information About Finland. Infopannki.fi, n.d. Web. 30 May
2017.
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Spanish Inquisition, a systematic persecution of religious minorities living in Spain involving

much torture and oppression.62 In Poland, pogroms drove out members of the Jewish population,

and Germany’s legacy of religious oppression goes without saying. Although all these nations

have granted the right to religious liberty in their modern constitutions, they lack the same

American legacy of choice when it comes to religious liberty. This right, which has been applied

to healthcare, sets the United States aside, leaving the nation vulnerable to a lack of herd

immunity via the religious exception to vaccination.

Fear of infectious disease has lessened in the United States, and it is thus easier for

parents to see vaccines as more harmful than the diseases they prevent. As an example, the polio

vaccine was developed at the same time as a polio epidemic swept the nation.63 In 1952, nearly

fifty-two thousand people, mainly children, were infected with polio, and of that number twenty-

one thousand were left mildly to severely disabled while over three thousand died.64 President

Franklin Delano Roosevelt himself had been disabled by polio, leaving him in a wheelchair.65 At

the time of the development of the polio vaccine, most families knew someone who had been

infected, if not personally then at least past president Roosevelt. Because of this fear, children

were rapidly vaccinated and by 1979, polio had been eliminated from the United States.66 At the

present day, because of the elimination of polio, few know of a person left disabled by the

infection. The same goes for the measles; there is little fear, as the horrors of the disease are not

remembered. With no recent memory of the disease, parents may construct the alleged dangers of

62 Ryan, Edward A. "Spanish Inquisition." Encyclopædia Britannica. Encyclopædia Britannica, Inc., 20
Apr. 2017. Web. 30 May 2017.
63 "Polio." (n.d.): n. pag. Diseases and the Vaccines That Prevent Them. Center for Disease Control and
Prevention, Feb. 2013. Web. 30 May 2017.
64 "History." Polio Today. Poliotoday.org, n.d. Web. 30 May 2017.
65 "Polio." (n.d.): n. pag. Diseases and the Vaccines That Prevent Them. Center for Disease Control and
Prevention, Feb. 2013. Web. 30 May 2017.
66 "Polio." (n.d.): n. pag. Diseases and the Vaccines That Prevent Them. Center for Disease Control and
Prevention, Feb. 2013. Web. 30 May 2017.
Fahlman 15

vaccines as more pressing to the health of their child than the destruction caused by the

infectious diseases they prevent, causing some to seek a religious exemption to immunization

before their child enters school.

Abuse of the religious exemption to vaccination is rampant, and does not hold true to the

religious value of caring for all members of a community, and thus should be eliminated. The use

of non-medical exemptions, religious exemptions included, is dangerous to community safety as

it disregards the need for herd immunity to protect those who are not able to be immunized

themselves. Moreover, abuse of the religious exemption is disrespectful to religion, as it both

makes religious groups seem anti-science and allows parents to falsely claim religion as the

reason they choose to endanger their child. Mississippi and West Virginia are excellent examples

of the fact that it is possible for religion and vaccine science to coexist. No major religions have

a conflict with vaccination. Members of The Church of Christ, Scientist are not expressly

forbidden from immunizing their children, and thus should not be exempt from the requirement,

and in all reality, there are likely very few members of the Dutch Reformed Church in the United

States. The only way to fully eliminate the outbreaks of measles and other preventable diseases is

to eliminate philosophical and religious exemptions. Once the option to opt out is removed,

community immunity will be improved, and perhaps once the benefits of vaccines are seen, the

hold of anti-vaccine pseudoscience will be eroded.

Works Cited

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June 2014. Web. 25 May 2017.
Fahlman 16

"Cultures and Religions in Finland." Information About Finland. Infopannki.fi, n.d. Web. 30 May

2017.

Fine, Paul, Ken Eames, and David L. Heymann. ""Herd Immunity": A Rough Guide." Department of

Infectious Disease Epidemiology, London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, n.d. Web.

30 May 2017.

Foster, John, Matthew Taylor, David Boecklin, Mathias Tanner, and J. Luyken. "Religion and the

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Part 1." America as a Religious Refuge. Library of Congress, 04 June 1998. Web. 25 May 2017.

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Here’s Why." The Washington Post. WP Company, 30 Jan. 2015. Web. 30 May 2017.

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Development, n.d. Web. 30 May 2017.

"History." Polio Today. Poliotoday.org, n.d. Web. 30 May 2017.

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"Immunization Laws." Minnesota Immunization Law Exemption. Minnesota Department of Health,

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pag. The Washington Post. WP Company. Web. 30 May 2017.
Fahlman 17

Levs, Josh. "The Unvaccinated, by the Numbers." CNN. Cable News Network, 04 Feb. 2015. Web. 30

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Lipka, Michael, and Benjamin Wormald. "How Religious Is Your State?" FactTank: News in the

Numbers. Pew Research Center, 29 Feb. 2016. Web. 30 May 2017.

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"Polio." (n.d.): n. pag. Diseases and the Vaccines That Prevent Them. Center for Disease Control and

Prevention, Feb. 2013. Web. 30 May 2017.

Rao, T. S. Sathyanarayana, and Chittaranjan Andrade. "The MMR Vaccine and Autism: Sensation,

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