N.J. bill to remove religion as reason to avoid vaccinating kids enrages parents at hearing

By Susan K. Livio | NJ Advance Media for NJ.com

Updated Dec 13, 2019

NJ Advance Media/The Star-Ledger

Unpersuaded by hundreds of pleading and occasionally hostile parents, a state Senate panel voted Thursday to eliminate religion as an acceptable reason for New Jersey children to avoid vaccines required for school attendance.

After seven years of stalled efforts to compel better vaccine compliance and a recent reemergence of measles, state lawmakers are moving quickly to end the religious exemption that allowed 14,000 students to decline their shots last year.

The Senate Health, Human Services and Senior Citizens Committee approved the bill (A3818) by a 6-4 vote Thursday. Even before the hearing, the measure was listed on Monday’s agenda for action by the full 40-member body.

But hundreds of parents amassed outside the Statehouse in Trenton anyway. The crowds started arriving hours before the afternoon hearing. Hundreds of sign-waving, child-toting parents queued up in the first-floor hallway waiting for space inside the committee room. Before the hearing began, the audience recited the “Serenity Prayer.”

They said they were outraged by what they see as government intrusion in violation of their First Amendment right of religious freedom. They vowed to pull their children out of school or move out of New Jersey.

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