Vaccine Opponents Appeal Ruling Upholding Law


Attorneys challenging New York State’s repeal of the religious exemption allowing unvaccinated children to attend public school appealed Wednesday a recent ruling that denied a lawsuit attempting to temporarily block the law.

Attorney Michael Sussman filed in the state Appellate Division an appeal of Albany County Judge Denise Hartman’s decision Friday denying Sussman’s request for a preliminary injunction that would have kept the new law from going into effect before the new school year starts. 

“We are appealing the denial of the stay,” Sussman wrote on Facebook. “We will continue to litigate the underlying case, but know how critical it is to get children back into school now if at all possible and not await the ultimate outcome of the case.” 

Sussman’s suit is on behalf of an estimated more than 26,000 public school students statewide that can no longer claim a religious exemption for not getting vaccinated. State lawmakers repealed the exemption in June following a measles outbreak in New York City and Rockland County, the largest in a quarter century. The law keeps in tact a medical exemption for not getting vaccinated. 

Hartman’s ruling cites a 1944 U.S. Supreme Court verdict that “the right to religion does not include the liberty to expose the community or the child to communicable disease.”

Critics of the law had also filed another suit in Brooklyn federal court this summer but recently dropped that case. Parents steadfast in their belief that their children shouldn’t be vaccinated had been hoping the lawsuits would either overturn the repeal or at least give them more time to find another school for their kids while the lawsuit was pending. Considerations include home schooling, moving, or splitting up their family come September.

Some Long Island school administrators were among those that spoke out in favor of delaying the law.

“These kids have been our students in some cases for nine or 10 years and next year, they can’t come to school anymore,” said William H. Johnson, superintendent of the Rockville Centre School District. “It would be very helpful if more time was given to both the families and the school district to work this out.”

Related Story: For Unvaccinated Students on Long Island, Uncertainty This Back-To-School Season