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Has the Supreme Court ruled on the constitutionality of religious exemptions to state-compelled vaccination?

No Supreme Court ruling explicitly establishes a position on religious exemptions to state-compelled vaccination. However, it is clear from the Court’s establishment-clause rulings that it is unlikely for all such exemptions to be found in violation of the First Amendment. What is less clear is whether or not the Court would find the free-exercise clause to mandate the inclusion of religious exemptions. For this reason, the status of religious exemptions to state-compelled vaccinations is still very much unclear. What the Court has found, however, is that a state has the authority to require its citizens to receive certain inoculations. This authority was established in 1905 in Jacobson v. Massachusetts, where the Court ruled that Massachusetts had the authority to require its citizens to be inoculated against smallpox.

Which states require immunizations for public schoolchildren, and which offer religious exemptions?

All states currently require children to follow at least some form of standardized immunization schedule in order to be enrolled in public school. Vaccinations often required by this schedule include those against diphtheria, whooping cough, and the measles. Of the 50 states, all offer some exemptions for religious opposition to vaccination except Mississippi and West Virginia.

How are exemption requests evaluated?

States generally apply one of three standards for evaluating religious-exemption requests.

    1. Parents requesting the exemption must be a member of a recognized religious organization that is opposed to vaccination.
    2. Parents must demonstrate a sincere and genuinely held religious belief that opposes one or all vaccinations.
    3. Parents must simply sign a statement confirming that they are religiously opposed to vaccination and would like an exemption.

Are religious exemptions the only way to opt out of mandatory vaccination?

No, all states include a medical exemption in their vaccination policy, and almost half of the states offer philosophical exemptions in addition to their medical and religious accommodations.

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