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Anti-Vaccine Group Flips Out as NJ Lawmakers Tighten Religious Exemptions (WATCH)


An anti-vaccine group flipped out on New Jersey lawmakers who voted on a bill which would make it harder to use religion as an exemption for the otherwise mandatory vaccination requirement for school students.

A local radio station, New Jersey 101.5 (WKXW), captured the shouting match, which you can watch in the player above. The group told lawmakers they were “going to hell” and accused Democrats of destroying America, despite the vote not occurring strictly along party lines.

The legislators were discussing this bill, which basically adds procedural hurdles to the religious exemption for required vaccines. Under current New Jersey law, certain vaccines are mandatory as a public health matter. However, an exception applies:

[I]f the parent or guardian of the pupil objects [to the vaccine(s)] in a written statement signed by the parent or guardian upon the ground that the proposed immunization interferes with the free exercise of the pupil’s religious rights.

Under the proposed new law, the exception would only apply after the parent or the child does the following:

[Submitted] documentation … explaining how the administration of the vaccine conflicts with the bona fide religious tenets or practices of the student, or the parent or guardian, as appropriate; except that: a general philosophical or moral objection to the vaccination shall not be sufficient for an exemption on religious grounds; and an exemption on religious grounds may be suspended by the Commissioner of Health during the existence of an emergency as determined by the commissioner.

What would count as documentation under the proposed new law is rather complex. Documentation would have to:

  • Be notarized;
  • Lay out, to some degree of detail, which “religious tenet or practice that is implicated by the vaccination and how administration of the vaccine would violate, contradict, or otherwise be inconsistent with that tenet or practice;”
  • Contain a statement that the religious tenet “is consistently held by the person;”
  • Contain an affirmation that the “religious tenet or practice is not solely an expression of that person’s
    • (a) political, sociological, philosophical, or moral views; or
    • (b) concerns related to the safety or efficacy of the vaccination;” and
    • (c) an acknowledgement of “the risks and benefits of vaccination.”
  • Carry an acknowledgement that an unvaccinated individual might get kicked out of school if an outbreak occurs.

The bill passed the committee 7-3, despite approximately 60 people testifying against it. After voting was done, the eruption captured on the video above occurred.

Here’s the vote breakdown, by politician, party, and vote: Armato, John (D), Yes; Benson, Daniel R. (D), Not Voting; Conaway, Herb, Jr. (D), Yes; Eustace, Tim (D), No; Green, Jerry (D), Not Voting; Gusciora, Reed (D), Yes; Jimenez, Angelica M. (D), Yes; Munoz, Nancy F. (R), Yes; Peterson, Erik (R), No; Pinkin, Nancy J. (D), Yes; Rumpf, Brian E. (R), No; Schepisi, Holly T. (R), Not Voting; Speight, Shanique (D), Yes.

The Assembly bill now appears to be headed for the full assembly for a vote. A similar bill is up for debate in the state senate. The senate bill has been referred to committee, but it appears as of press time that no vote has occurred.

[Screengrab NJ 101.5]

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Aaron Keller holds a juris doctor degree from the University of New Hampshire School of Law and a broadcast journalism degree from Syracuse University. He is a former anchor and executive producer for the Law&Crime Network and is now deputy editor-in-chief for the Law&Crime website. DISCLAIMER:  This website is for general informational purposes only. You should not rely on it for legal advice. Reading this site or interacting with the author via this site does not create an attorney-client relationship. This website is not a substitute for the advice of an attorney. Speak to a competent lawyer in your jurisdiction for legal advice and representation relevant to your situation.