Catholic Schools and Non-Immunizing Families


#1

Hi All! I have recently received a letter from our parish’s school, where our ds attends Kindergarten, and our dd is supposed to attend Pre-K in the Fall - stating that our Diocese is implementing a new policy. The letter is from the school principal and it states,

“The Diocese has notified us, that all students attending school must be immunized unless a written note from your doctor indicating medical reasons for not immunizing your child exists. Being that we are a Catholic school, you are not allowed to claim a religious exemption. This is in accordance with Diocesan Policy #5150.” The letter goes on to give a name and address for submitting a “written, brief statement of objection”, and then staying she wanted us to “be aware that we will be abiding by the State requirements and Bishop’s Diocesan Policy regarding immunizations.”

Any thoughts on WHY they would go against State Law with a policy such as this? What kind of liability do they think they might have here? I just don’t get this at all! Illinois law allows for religious and medical exemption - and does not require membership in a church specifically against medical treatment, etc. It is my understanding that the Supreme Court has also made a statement on the broad coverage that “religious exemption” holds in terms of immunization. We are satisfied with the research we have done and the decision we have made to allow God’s design of our bodies remain as is.

The wording of this particular letter seems to say that because We are Catholic, I cannot claim religious exemption from immunization at a Catholic school. Why? As far as I know, the Church does not stand for or against immunization. What if I were not Catholic - could I then claim the religious exemption? Also as far as I know, private schools are not exempt from State law - and this letter calls on State Law requirements!

Our decision is based on our research about immunizations, with prayerfully and carefully discussed and weighed information. This was before we had ever heard about aborted fetus tissue being used in creating vaccines. (However - the Church has made a statement that parents may still decide for or against immunization, and if they decide for immunization - they are not cooperating with evil and acting immorally by accepting vaccinations made from aborted fetal tissue.) So how can we not claim exemption here - as part of our religious beliefs - when the Church has no teaching about this issue?

I just don’t get it! This is causing me much anxiety! I am not a homeschooler, nor do I want to be. And we do not want our children in the public school system.

Thanks for letting me vent - AND for sharing your thoughts and opinions. We are preparing our “brief written statement” of objection - but I want to write it as inteliigently as possible, and I plan to include reference information. If you have any thoughts of potential reasons why the diocese would make such a policy - I would appreciate your sharing, so I can prepare our objection accordingly.

Juli


#2

I would contact Children of God for Life
cogforlife.org

The deal with these kind of exemptions.
Jennifer


#3

[quote=StampinJuli]Hi All! I have recently received a letter from our parish’s school, where our ds attends Kindergarten, and our dd is supposed to attend Pre-K in the Fall - stating that our Diocese is implementing a new policy. The letter is from the school principal and it states,

“The Diocese has notified us, that all students attending school must be immunized unless a written note from your doctor indicating medical reasons for not immunizing your child exists. Being that we are a Catholic school, you are not allowed to claim a religious exemption. This is in accordance with Diocesan Policy #5150.” The letter goes on to give a name and address for submitting a “written, brief statement of objection”, and then staying she wanted us to “be aware that we will be abiding by the State requirements and Bishop’s Diocesan Policy regarding immunizations.”

Any thoughts on WHY they would go against State Law with a policy such as this? What kind of liability do they think they might have here? I just don’t get this at all! Illinois law allows for religious and medical exemption - and does not require membership in a church specifically against medical treatment, etc. It is my understanding that the Supreme Court has also made a statement on the broad coverage that “religious exemption” holds in terms of immunization. We are satisfied with the research we have done and the decision we have made to allow God’s design of our bodies remain as is.

The wording of this particular letter seems to say that because We are Catholic, I cannot claim religious exemption from immunization at a Catholic school. Why? As far as I know, the Church does not stand for or against immunization. What if I were not Catholic - could I then claim the religious exemption? Also as far as I know, private schools are not exempt from State law - and this letter calls on State Law requirements!

Our decision is based on our research about immunizations, with prayerfully and carefully discussed and weighed information. This was before we had ever heard about aborted fetus tissue being used in creating vaccines. (However - the Church has made a statement that parents may still decide for or against immunization, and if they decide for immunization - they are not cooperating with evil and acting immorally by accepting vaccinations made from aborted fetal tissue.) So how can we not claim exemption here - as part of our religious beliefs - when the Church has no teaching about this issue?

I just don’t get it! This is causing me much anxiety! I am not a homeschooler, nor do I want to be. And we do not want our children in the public school system.

Thanks for letting me vent - AND for sharing your thoughts and opinions. We are preparing our “brief written statement” of objection - but I want to write it as inteliigently as possible, and I plan to include reference information. If you have any thoughts of potential reasons why the diocese would make such a policy - I would appreciate your sharing, so I can prepare our objection accordingly.

Juli
[/quote]

this is a tough situation indeed, If you have your children immunized you are putting them in a possible serious medical situation esspecially that new Chik pox vaccine it kills more children than the actuall disease, if it was me i would not put my kids in jeopardy and remove them from this school and put them in public schools,these immunizations can be extremely dangerous to some individuals,

I will say the drug companys that make all these Vaccines are very very powerful drug lords, they get the Govt to make laws to force us to do and take drugs we know are bad for us, It dont stop with Vaccines, claim religious reasons change religions yourself anything to protect them babies, the diocease you are in obviously has no concerns at all about your children and are probably getting a kickback from the drug companys that make these nasty vaccines…or they wouldnt be so gun ho to jeapordize a childs life…

best wishes
         John

#4

Juli, I’ve been in a similar situation with my youngest child. It’s inexplicable that your diocese is not allowing Catholic school children an exemption from morally problematic vaccines. Do check into Children of God for LIfe link that another person posted in this thread. Debbie Vinnedge is the director, and she has been alot of help to me.

My daughter was attending a Baptist preschool here in Texas. Texas allows state exemptions for medical and religious reasons. I was in the process of seeking the exemption, but the director of the preschool told me she would not allow my daughter to attend without the vaccines. Never mind that public schools are required by law to accept children with either type of exemption. I contacted the state Department of Health and spoke to their legal counsel. He told me that in Texas, the law was worded ambiguously as to whether or not private schools were legally required to accept children with the exemption, so he advised me to contact my state representative and have him contact the state attorney general’s office to have them issue a legal opinion (this is the requirement in Texas). He did contact the AG’s office and said it usually takes about six months for them to issue a legal opinion. I’m still waiting.

I would recommend you contact your state health department’s legal counsel (or attorney general’s office) and find out if yoru diocese can legally require this.

Pray!


#5

Having seen 12 pupils in my Mennonite school in Uddel, Holland die, years ago when I was about 10, because none of us where immunised against brain-fever…seeing families go from 11 children down to 7 or 8 in the space of a few weeks, and attending a seemingly neverending line of funerals (adults died too)…I’m still grateful that my mom had me secretly (as it was against our religion to take preventative medication) immunised in Arnhem, a city 20 miles away.

There are two sides to this: yes, as a parent you have the right to refuse to immunise a child. But, the school also has the right to protect its other pupils. Due to a medical condition my husband was never able to get his immuminisations, and everytime something like measles, mumps or brain-fever went around, his mother used to be terrified he’d catch it. As the whole school was immunised, he never caught anything thankfully.

Personally, I have ‘seen too much’ NOT to immunise, but for those who take that personal decision: do try to see it from the schools’ point of view.

Anna x


#6

If you don’t want to immunize your kids, keep them home away from my kids.


#7

the school is complying with the law. the bishop is letting Catholics know that since the Catholic church is not against immunizations per se that Catholics cannot claim a religious exemption, because they cannot cite a Church policy. This is the same as conscientious exemption to the military draft. Since the Catholic Church does not condemn military service on religious grounds, an individual Catholic cannot claim an exemption on the grounds of his Church membership.


#8

[quote=avgguy] if it was me i would not put my kids in jeopardy and remove them from this school and put them in public schools . . . .
[/quote]

Seems to me that a public school could well place the child in far more jeopardy morally and spiritually.

Blessings,


#9

i’d heard of this happening before: not being able to claim religious exemptoin because the catholic church is not agains immunizations. that is why we chose delayed schedule vaxing in stead. if you’re dead set on not vaxing i’d homeschool


#10

Juli:

Thanks to original sin, our bodies are not perfect and since they are not what God designed originally (meaning sinless), we need to intervene to remain healthy. Would your children have dental work if they had a cavity? Or a shot to relieve the pain of the drilling? Would you allow treatment if your child had cancer? Would you have a broken bone set? Give a child with a high fever Tylenol? Put Orajel on the gums of a teething baby? Where do you draw the line? Exactly what level of medical care are you willing to provide for your children?

I have never understood what the anti-immunizations issue is all about. Why do people become militant when the data is undeniable, that is, immunizations prevent life-threatening or crippling illnesses. It is completely regrettable that some children are adversely affected by these vaccines, but it’s a trade-off, just like everything else. In fact, one of the only reasons that these anti-vaccine parents can do this is because the rest of us immunize our children thereby keeping the probability of acquiring the illness low. If everyone refused to vaccinate, we would have a terribly high rate of childhood mortality. These folks, while whining loudly about vaccinations, take for granted that the rest of us get our kids’ immunizations which further protects the health of their own children. It think it’s hypocritical and self-centered. They’ve somehow forgotten just how frightening these diseases really are. It seems to me that good Catholics have far more important social and moral issues at stake then debating the efficacy of routine vaccines in children.

Our Catholic schools are bound by these policies. The school has enough on it’s plate without having to worry about unvaccinated children. It is ridiculous that someone would take formal action against their Catholic elementary school on this issue. For heaven’s sake, if you don’t like it then find a small Christian school that will let you do what you want when it comes to your children’s health. If I were a parent at your Catholic school, I’d be glad to see your family transfer to another school anyway, since your children could spread diseases that might harm others.


#11

[quote=spacecadet]i’d heard of this happening before: not being able to claim religious exemptoin because the catholic church is not agains immunizations. that is why we chose delayed schedule vaxing in stead. if you’re dead set on not vaxing i’d homeschool
[/quote]

With respect, I fully agree.

Blessings,


#12

Juli:

Thanks to original sin, our bodies are not perfect and since they are not what God designed originally (meaning sinless), we need to intervene to remain healthy. Would your children have dental work if they had a cavity? Or a shot to relieve the pain of the drilling? Would you allow treatment if your child had cancer? Would you have a broken bone set? Give a child with a high fever Tylenol? Put Orajel on the gums of a teething baby? Where do you draw the line? Exactly what level of medical care are you willing to provide for your children?

I have never understood what the anti-immunizations issue is all about. Why do people become militant when the data is undeniable, that is, immunizations prevent life-threatening or crippling illnesses. It is completely regrettable that some children are adversely affected by these vaccines, but it’s a trade-off, just like everything else. In fact, one of the only reasons that these anti-vaccine parents can do this is because the rest of us immunize our children thereby keeping the probability of acquiring the illness low. If everyone refused to vaccinate, we would have a terribly high rate of childhood mortality. These folks, while whining loudly about vaccinations, take for granted that the rest of us get our kids’ immunizations which further protects the health of their own children. It think it’s hypocritical and self-centered. They’ve somehow forgotten just how frightening these diseases really are. It seems to me that good Catholics have far more important social and moral issues at stake then debating the efficacy of routine vaccines in children.

Our Catholic schools are bound by these policies. The school has enough on it’s plate without having to worry about unvaccinated children. It is ridiculous that someone would take formal action against their Catholic elementary school on this issue. For heaven’s sake, if you don’t like it then find a small Christian school that will let you do what you want when it comes to your children’s health. If I were a parent at your Catholic school, I’d be glad to see your family transfer to another school anyway, since your children could spread diseases that might harm others.

it isn’t so cut and dry and your info isn’t really helpful to the OP. even though i vax i totally understand why some people have issues with it. autism for one!!!1
i did my research and came up with what i thought was the SAFEST way to vax: one shot at a time, minimize the attack of metal perservatives that hit the babies body at once, breastfed right before and after and keep breastfeeding until the shots are done (we’re doing one more shot this month at his 2 yr check up and then i’ll wean) etc…
i just don’t see it helpful to the OP for you to challenge here way of doing things


#13

Deciding not to immunize has nothing to do with denying preventative medicine. It has to do with the immunizations being made from aborted fetuses.

To date, there are 5 vaccines that use aborted babies as part of the manufacturing process: Rubella, as found in the M-M-R®II, the M-R-Vax®II, the Meruvax®II, and the Biavax®II; Poliovax® inactivated vaccine for Polio; Varivax® Varicella Virus Vaccine Live, for Chicken Pox; Imovax® Rabies ID, Wistar Rabies Virus Strain PM-1503-3M Vaccine (and the rabies immune globulin); and the newly recommended Havrix® Inactivated for Hepatitis A. Some of this information is fairly easy to find and some of the information needs some history and medical information to detect.

Some who are pro-life have a problem with this. I’m sure that if Orajel were made from the Pre-born, we would have the same problem.

You make the Catholics who make this decision out to be bad parents. If a wonderdrug was made from the stem cells of aborted babies, would you be asking the same questions?

Over and above that, some of these vaccines are just ridiculous. A Hep B shot for a baby is nothing but a money maker. My older daughter was born in Ohio in 1997. My best friend’s mom was the head of Peds in the hospital and told me that it was crazy to give a baby a Hep B shot as this is only transmitted by blood or sexual contact.
Now it is required, Hmmmmmm.

The best a parent can do is pray and make His/Her own decision about it. NO ONE should be judgemental about it. My girls were all immunized. I prayed hard because

  1. the Vatican has not ruled against them
  2. being pro-life I didn’t like them
  3. I don’t like putting anything foreign into them unless I have to
  4. the schedule of lumping the shots together does not make sense
  5. we are in an area of high immigration, many kids are not immunized.

We did it but I know many parents who schedule “Chicken Pox Parties” when one child gets them so they don’t have to immunize for it. It is a parental decision that should be just that, left to the parents.


#14

The OP stated that her decision about vaccines was made before the news about the use of aborted babies in the creation of vaccines. And yes, I am judgemental. The OP asked for “thoughts and opinions,” so I’m giving them. I will challenge her because I believe that all the anti-vaccine parents can only take that position because most of us do immunize our children and therefore these un-vaccinated children have only a slight risk of contracting these horrible diseases. They are wagering their own children’s health and they will probably win since the rest of us have our children immunized. We can’t even imagine what children’s health across the nation would look like if everyone did what they are doing. I believe they are hypocrites for that reason. Look at countries that cannot vaccinate their children. Is that a goal for us? To have thousands of children dying every year from preventable illnesses? To overwhelm our hospital system with preventable diseases killing children? To allow these diseases to spread to weaker populations that do not have youth on their side, such as the frail eldery? Vaccines are an important national health issue. It is preventative medicine, it prevents the spread of deadly diseases. So I believe that my point was valid. Like vaccines, chemo and radiation are invasive and very foreign to the human body. What kind of medical treatment would Juli pursue if one of her children was diagnosed with cancer? Where does the OP draw the line? She cannot make these decisions in a vaccum. Juli lives in a society where most of us vaccinate our children so she can afford to be different.

I am pro-life, but I recognized even before the Church came out with an official policy vis a vis the aborted babies roles in immunization that in our sinful world, you can’t control or protest every objectionable matter that comes your way when it comes to prolife issues in our culture of death.You have to pick and choose and then spend your time and money accordingly. I would need to buy land and raise my own food, livestock, cotton for clothing, etc to avoid contact with the evil people and actions associated with abortion, euthanasia, pornography and the like. Since I don’t want to live in isolation and since I’d make a lousy farmer, I rely on God’s mercy when it comes to these other matters of grave evil and unwitting my contact with it.

If you choose to opt-out of vaccines, then don’t put other children at risk. Expect to be asked to go elsewhere. Please do. Parents need to stop complaining about it, weight the pros and cons when circumstances change, decide what’s right and move on without making an issue about it. I think that it is a matter of pride when they do otherwise, that is, expect that the world should revolve around their view of appropriate medical care for children.

As a mother of seven children who are not free of health issues themselves, I understand the caution that parents have the God-given right to exercise. Space out the shots, breast feed your children until the intense sequence of vaccines is complete, whatever. I’ve breastfeed my children for a total of over ten years, including one until he was three. I’ve been there. I think that the notion of a chicken pox party is laughable, why put your child directly in the path of an illness that can be deadly? I’ve known hundreds of families over the years and I have never once heard of something like that.

Finally, most of us put foreign things into our children’s bodies on a daily basis: polluted air, junk food, OTC and perscription medicines, etc. Not to mention the scary germs that we give and take from one another all day long. To me, immunizations are just another measure in maintaining good health. I’m even glad to get seemingly useless vaccines like some of the hepititus shots, because you never, ever know what your child will be exposed to or what risky behaviors they will engage in during their lifetime.


#15

They are wagering their own children’s health

ignorant vaxing is also a wager. you’d have to be a fool to think no negative affects have ever happened due to vaxs. even though i did choose to vax i reasearched the best way to handle it


#16

I’ve never “vaxed” out of ignorance, but out of gratitude that my children have access to the greatest medical care system in the history of mankind. Moreover, I think I’ve acknowledged in each post that I recognize the possible tragic negative affects of vaccines, which by the way, have never been definitely proven by scores of scientists to cause conditions such as autism in children. Moreover, those who don’t vaccinate their children will never truly know if their child might have had a bad reaction to a shot, since only a tiny fraction of a percent do so anyway. So the odds are vastly in favor of immunizations, it is a wager most parents will win time and time again. Good for you for determining the best way to get immunizations. It it people like you that the medical establishment needs to hear from. Have you written any letters to the medical community, national health organizations, or to drug companies outlining your approach to childhood immunizations?

The point I’m trying to make is that if Juli can’t follow the rules for reasons of conscience, her family should leave the school without a protest. That would be the logical consequence of her God-given right to raise her children according to her privately held beliefs. Since that is not the stance of the Catholic Church and it is unlikely that the diocese is going to change the policy for her family, she will only be happy if she finds a school that will accomodate her children. We’ll see what Juli decides, a lot is on the line when the decision means you might pull your children out of a school that they are thriving in.


#17

[quote=spacecadet]ignorant vaxing is also a wager. you’d have to be a fool to think no negative affects have ever happened due to vaxs. even though i did choose to vax i reasearched the best way to handle it
[/quote]

Life itself is a wager. Every choice we make – or don’t make – is a risk assessment. We have friends who have chosen not to vaccinate. We respect their right as parents to make that choice, even though we don’t agree with it.

However, choices have consequences. The parents are within their rights to choose not to vaccinate. But, the Catholic school in question is certainly within their rights, since the Catholic Church does not take an anti-vaccination stance.

As far as relative risks: yes, there are risks of side-effects with vaccines. This much is certain. However, the risks involved in not vaccinating are incalculably higher. The risk an unvaccinated person would take traveling internationally, for example. In many cases, such persons could not even get a visa.

Also, the effects of a “childhood disease” when contracted by an adult can have horrific consequences.

So while I understand the questions involved here – I don’t see how a legitimate case can be made against the Catholic school.

Blessings (from a father of 8 breast-fed children who has been extremely pro-active in matters of the health of his children)


#18

[quote=puzzleannie]the school is complying with the law. the bishop is letting Catholics know that since the Catholic church is not against immunizations per se that Catholics cannot claim a religious exemption, because they cannot cite a Church policy. This is the same as conscientious exemption to the military draft. Since the Catholic Church does not condemn military service on religious grounds, an individual Catholic cannot claim an exemption on the grounds of his Church membership.
[/quote]

Religious exemption is not based solely on a specific Church doctrine. It is also based on a decision that is arrived at through a well-formed conscience. The Church leaves both of these items up to personal conscience. I am, in fact, obligated to follow my conscience once it is well-formed. This Catholic school is violating the parents’s right to form their conscience and follow it.


#19

[quote=1ke]Religious exemption is not based solely on a specific Church doctrine. It is also based on a decision that is arrived at through a well-formed conscience. The Church leaves both of these items up to personal conscience. I am, in fact, obligated to follow my conscience once it is well-formed. This Catholic school is violating the parents’s right to form their conscience and follow it.
[/quote]

I’m curious about this, could you explain further? The Catholic Church does not have a stance against vaccinations, yet if parents feel their well-formed conscience says they should not get they children vaccinated, then that should be considered a religious exemption, even if their religion is not against vaccination? I see your point of following your well-informed conscience, but wouldn’t using “religious exemption” for any opinion on any matter lead to parents/children being able to disobey any rules done for the general wellfare, if they feel that it would not be in best interest for their child? (and when I a say best interest I don’t mean between something that is bad and good, but maybe good and better). What I mean is, sometimes, to be part of a community we might have to comply with rules that are made for everyones wellfare, even if we feel the rules do not maximize our benefits. Now, I am not talking about vaccinations, since I know some people feel strongly in different directions, but I’m just addressing the concept of “religious exemption” despite the fact that ones religion does not have an opinion.

BTW, if one is so convinced that a certain vaccine (or all of them) are so harmful for a fact, could one not find a Dr that would agree, and have him write a note? I think that would make more sense since it is not because Catholicism is against vaccines, it is that the parents feel it is bad for the child’s health, right? Wouldn’t a health/medical exemption make more sense?


#20

[quote=1ke]Religious exemption is not based solely on a specific Church doctrine. It is also based on a decision that is arrived at through a well-formed conscience. The Church leaves both of these items up to personal conscience. I am, in fact, obligated to follow my conscience once it is well-formed. This Catholic school is violating the parents’s right to form their conscience and follow it.
[/quote]

Then what of the case where the parent has formed their conscience in such a way that they decide to give their seventh grade daughter contraceptives and have them dispensed at the school? Granted, this is an ill-formed conscience according to the Church’s teaching, but that parent might then believe that it is within their God-given right to do that since they believe that their conscience is well-formed. We must acknowledge that it is within a Catholic school’s power to set it’s own polices about medical care for their students.

The point is that Catholic schools institutions that must function in a society where they must comply with regulations that are not always in their control. Moreover, ask the other parents if they want unvaccinated children at their school. Keep in mind that mother’s are constantly toting their own babies and toddlers that haven’t been fully vaccinated in and out of the school, so it’s not just the students at risk. Nearly all parents want every child in the school to be vaccinated.

And it is flawed reasoning to suggest that this Catholic school is violating any parent’s right to follow their own conscience and follow it. No one is forcing Juli to vaccinate her children. Any parent in this situation can follow their conscience, but there is a trade-off. Why is this a problem for people? Why do people think that rules should be changed to accept their personal beliefs about things like this? These schools simply can’t. Nor should they. Moreover, it’s not fair to the other families who send their children there believing that everyone is immunized. Juli wants a school that accepts her brand of parenting, though it means breaking the rules.

For a moment, replace head lice for vaccines. Would you feel that it’s okay for a hypothetical Juli to send her hypothetical children to school with active lice infestations just because she doesn’t want to treat the condition? Because one of her children might have an allergic reaction to the chemicals that kill the lice? That we should accept these children, lice and all, though they pose a hazard to the rest of the student body? Because I think this is parellel to what Juli wanting her school to do, that is, accept a greater level of risk to the good health of the rest of the students. That is why I believe this issue is centered on pridefulness.


DISCLAIMER: The views and opinions expressed in these forums do not necessarily reflect those of Catholic Answers. For official apologetics resources please visit www.catholic.com.