NATIONAL NEWS

Judge: Mississippi must give religious exemption on vaccines

Apr 18, 2023, 12:52 PM

FILE - Parents with their children and medical professionals listen to testimony from proponents fo...

FILE - Parents with their children and medical professionals listen to testimony from proponents for allowing exemption from the vaccination requirement for school attendance based on religious beliefs during a meeting of House Judiciary B Committee, Jan. 24, 2018, at the Capitol in Jackson, Miss. A federal judge ruled Monday, April 17, 2023, that Mississippi must join most other states in allowing religious exemptions from vaccinations required before children can enroll in school. (AP Photo/Rogelio V. Solis, File)
Credit: ASSOCIATED PRESS

(AP Photo/Rogelio V. Solis, File)

JACKSON, Miss. (AP) — Mississippi must join most other states in allowing religious exemptions from vaccinations that children are required to receive so they can attend school, a federal judge has ruled.

U.S. District Judge Sul Ozerden handed down the decision Monday in a lawsuit filed last year by several parents who say their religious beliefs have led them to keep their children unvaccinated and out of Mississippi schools. According to the lawsuit, some of the plaintiffs are homeschooling their children, while others have family or work connections in Mississippi but live in other states that allow religious exemptions for childhood vaccinations.

Ozerden set a July 15 deadline for the Mississippi State Department of Health to allow religious exemptions. The state already allows people to apply for medical exemptions for a series of five vaccinations that are required for children to enroll in public or private school. The immunizations are against diphtheria, tetanus and pertussis; polio; hepatitis; measles, mumps and rubella; and chickenpox.

Mississippi does not require COVID-19 vaccinations.

The only states without religious or personal belief exemptions for school immunization requirements are California, Connecticut, Maine, Mississippi, New York and West Virginia, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.

In response to questions from The Associated Press on Tuesday, health department spokesperson Liz Sharlot declined to say whether the department will appeal the judge’s ruling. She did not say whether the department has an estimate of how many people might seek religious exemptions from vaccinations.

“The Mississippi State Department of Health continues to support strong immunization laws that protect our children,” Sharlot said. “Beyond that, it is our long-standing policy that the Agency does not comment on pending litigation.”

The lawsuit, funded by the Texas-based Informed Consent Action Network, argued that Mississippi’s lack of a religious exemption for childhood vaccinations violates the U.S. Constitution.

“The State of Mississippi affords a secular exemption to those with medical reasons that prohibit vaccination, reflecting that it can accommodate students that are unvaccinated,” the network said in a statement. “It has simply chosen to not accord an exemption when it is someone’s immortal soul that a parent believes would be at risk.”

One of the families who are plaintiffs in the lawsuit believe “God has created humans with functioning immune systems that were well designed to counteract threats,” the lawsuit said, adding that they only seek out medication “when an intervention is clearly necessary.”

Mississippi once had a religious exemption for childhood vaccinations, but it was overturned in 1979 by a state court judge who ruled that vaccinated children have a constitutional right to be free from associating with their unvaccinated peers, the lawsuit said.

Over the last several years, Mississippi legislators have rejected proposals to allow religious exemptions for childhood vaccinations. Health officials have argued that allowing more exemptions could lead to the spread of preventable diseases.

National News

Associated Press

Alabama universities shutter DEI offices, open new programs, to comply with new state law

MONTGOMERY, Ala. (AP) — The three University of Alabama System campuses on Tuesday shuttered diversity, equity and inclusion offices— and opened new offices — to comply with a new Republican-backed law attempting to ban the programs on public college campuses in the state. The University of Alabama in Tuscaloosa, along with the University of Alabama […]

23 minutes ago

FILE - The Federal Trade Commission building is seen, Jan. 28, 2015, in Washington. The Federal Tra...

Associated Press

FTC orders 8 companies to provide information on ‘surveillance pricing’ practices

NEW YORK (AP) — The Federal Trade Commission has ordered information from eight companies that the agency says offer products and services that use personal data to set prices based on a shopper’s individual characteristics. In a Tuesday announcement, the FTC said it was seeking to better understand the “opaque market” of “surveillance pricing” products […]

1 hour ago

Associated Press

Proposal to create a new political mapmaking system in Ohio qualifies for November ballot

COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — A proposal to change Ohio’s troubled political mapmaking system has qualified for November’s statewide ballot, the state’s elections chief announced Tuesday. Republican Secretary of State Frank LaRose said the bipartisan Citizens Not Politicians had submitted 535,005 valid signatures in 58 counties, well over the roughly 414,000 needed to appear on ballots […]

1 hour ago

Patrick Yoes, National President, Fraternal Order of Police, right, listens as Colonel Christopher ...

Associated Press

Officers left post to go look for Trump rally gunman before shooting, state police boss says

WASHINGTON (AP) — Two local law enforcement officers stationed in the complex of buildings where a gunman opened fire at former President Donald Trump left to go search for the man before the shooting, the head of Pennsylvania State Police said Tuesday, raising questions about whether a key post was left unattended as the shooter […]

2 hours ago

Associated Press

Police investigate death of Autumn Oxley, Virginia woman featured on ’16 and Pregnant’

Authorities in Virginia are investigating the death of Autumn Oxley, who appeared on the MTV reality show “16 and Pregnant” a decade ago and died over the weekend, police say. Police said they responded to a medical emergency shortly after 3:00 p.m. Saturday in Sandston, about 9 miles (14.5 kilometers) east of Richmond. Oxley, 27, […]

2 hours ago

A firefighter hoses down the garage of Noel Piri's home that was destroyed by the Hawarden Fire in ...

Associated Press

Earth’s temperature hit all-time record high on Sunday as warming planet marks keep falling

WASHINGTON (AP) — On Sunday, the Earth sizzled to the hottest day ever measured by humans, yet another heat record shattered in the past couple of years, according to the European climate service Copernicus Tuesday. Copernicus’ last year’s record obliterate the previous record of 16.8 degrees Celsius (62.24 degrees Fahrenheit), which itself was only a […]

2 hours ago

Judge: Mississippi must give religious exemption on vaccines