Crisis of faith: State pols want to eliminate religious exemptions to vaccination before measles outbreak subsides

Sick of it: Anti-vaxxers protest a press conference promoting a bill to eliminate religious exemptions to vaccinations on Tuesday.
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A cadre of New York lawmakers want to eliminate religious exemptions to vaccinations before a state-wide measles outbreak subsides, with one upstate senator claiming the political will to ax the exemption hinges on fears stoked by the epidemic that’s overwhelmingly affected unvaccinated Brooklynites.

“The fear is we lose this opportunity,” said Sen. David Carlucci, who represents Rockland County, which is combating its own measles outbreak. “As we lose the outbreak right now, there’s a sense of security that’s just not real. We’ve seen how vulnerable we are, and we need to say New Yorkers are at risk, we need to take action, and we can’t wait for session to be over, because then it will be too late.”

Carlucci joined Manhattan senate colleague Brad Hoylman and Bronx Assemblyman Jeff Dinowitz at a press conference near City Hall on May 28, where they hoped to drum up support for Senate bill S2994 and its Assembly counterpart A2371 before the current legislative season ends on June 19.

The lawmakers are looking to follow in the footsteps of California legislators — whose repeal of the Golden State’s religious exemption lead to state-wide increases in immunization — as the measles virus continues to sweep through New York, where it has infected 843 people since October. Of those, 535 cases were discovered in Brooklyn, where the disease has spread rapidly through Orthodox Jewish communities in Borough Park and Williamsburg, in addition to infecting 12 non-Jewish residents of Sunset Park.

The state’s religious exemption allows unvaccinated children to attend public schools, where students would otherwise require a more stringent medical exemption to enroll without inoculations.

At the press conference, a group of cancer survivors — all students — suffering severely compromised immune systems joined the politicians, who spoke out about the extraordinary care they must take to avoid disease and infection, saying that sharing a classroom with an unvaccinated classmate could lead to the end of their lives.

“We’re just trying to live,” said Teela Wyman, a 26-year-old law student who survived stage four lymphoma cancer, and required lung surgery three times last year due to infections, including one caused by the flu. “We’re just trying to be normal people. These diseases are preventable.”

Proponents of the exemption claim it’s a protection guaranteed by the First Amendment, while also arguing that the vast majority of non-vaccinated New Yorkers do not have a religious exemption, and that repealing it would have little practical effect on the spread of disease.

“It’s outrageous to try and take our religious exemptions away, when we make up less than half of one percent of the unvaccinated population,” said Queens resident Adreana Rodriguez, who joined a small group of anti-vaxxers outside the City Council’s Broadway office building to protest Hoylman and his colleagues.

Mayor de Blasio also disagreed that religion contributes significantly to immunization, and at a press conference earlier this month claimed the problem lies in anti-vaccination rhetoric, which eliminating the exemption would not affect, according to a Politico report.

“Just listen to my logic pattern here,” de Blasio said. “Somehow ending the religious exemptions doesn’t address what happened here where the anti-vaxxers convinced people not to get vaccinations. That’s the root of the problem.”

Hoylman, however, argued that unscrupulous anti-vaxxers are taking advantage of the religious exemption to enroll their unvaccinated kids in school, despite their objections being rooted in junk science — not faith.

“The religious exemption is a loophole,” said the Manhattan lawmaker. “It is masking someone’s conspiracy against vaccinations, and it needs to be closed.”

Ironically enough, a proponent of the religious exemption protesting outside Hoylman’s press conference Tuesday said it must not be repealed precisely because it’s a loophole for anti-vaxxers, claiming it’s the only recourse that parents — who attribute developmental disorders, including autism, in their children to recent vaccinations — have after they’re denied the medical exemption by doctors.

“It’s their only loophole right now,” said Flatbush resident Carolyn Battino. “It protects anyone who says to themselves, ‘I have a reason.’”

Vaccines do not cause autism, according to the Center of Disease Control.

Reach reporter Colin Mixson at or by calling (718) 260-4505.
Updated 10:34 am, May 29, 2019
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Reasonable discourse

Avi from Kensington says:
Leave my religion out of this! It's not a religious thing. It's an insanity thing. Parents who don't vaccinate their children should be locked up. Prison or a mental institution.
May 29, 2019, 10:14 am
Bob from Queens says:
There never should have been a religious exemption to begin with. If these wackos wan't to put their kids in danger, they can homeschool them. Let's do away with church tax exemptions next. I'm sick of paying for these people.
May 29, 2019, 10:41 am
Jim from Cobble Hill says:
An untenable belief in a magical sky-daddy, supernatural beings, Quetzalcoatl, the Fairy Folk, your precious animal spirit, or Xenu, is never enough reason to put the public in real tangible danger.
May 29, 2019, 10:46 am
Beverly from Bay Ridge says:
Vaccination should be mandatory for all, unless a medical reason (comprised immunity due to cancer for example) makes it impossible. Just like seatbelt laws for cars, they are so important for public safety that there should be no choice in the matter.
May 29, 2019, 12:24 pm
God says:
Religion is a waste of time and only stupid people need a book of fiction to tell them right from wrong.
May 29, 2019, 2:41 pm
Henry Ford from Bay Ridge says:
How do you know when someone is an atheist? You don’t have to wonder, they will be sure to tell you.
May 29, 2019, 3:17 pm
God says:
How do you know when someone is a D-BAG? You don’t have to wonder, they post their comment as Henry Ford from Bay Ridge.
May 29, 2019, 3:56 pm
God says:
How do you know when someone is a fool? You don’t have to wonder, hey will tell you God is real.
May 29, 2019, 3:57 pm
God says:
Can anyone prove I am real? I'll wait.
May 29, 2019, 3:58 pm
Henry Ford from Bay Ridge says:
I didn't post that comment above.
May 29, 2019, 4:02 pm
God says:
Doesn't matter, you're still a D-BAG?
May 29, 2019, 4:03 pm
Colonel Walter Kurtz from a jungle base in Cambodia says:
I remember when I was with Special Forces. Seems a thousand centuries ago. We went into a camp to inoculate the children. We left the camp after we had inoculated the children for polio, and this old man came running after us and he was crying. He couldn't see. We went back there and they had come and hacked off every inoculated arm. There they were in a pile: a pile of little arms. And I remember I...I...I cried. I wept like some grandmother. I wanted to tear my teeth out. I didn't know what I wanted to do. And I want to remember it. I never want to forget it. I never want to forget. And then I realized, like I was shot — like I was shot with a diamond...a diamond bullet right through my forehead. And I thought: My God, the genius of that. The genius! The will to do that: perfect, genuine, complete, crystalline, pure. And then I realized they were stronger than we, because they could stand it. These were not monsters. These were men, trained cadres — these men who fought with their hearts, who had families, who have children, who are filled with love — but they had the strength — the strength! — to do that. If I had ten divisions of those men our troubles here would be over very quickly. You have to have men who are moral and at the same time who are able to utilize their primordial instincts to kill without feeling, without passion, without judgement. Without judgement! Because it's judgement that defeats us.
May 29, 2019, 4:45 pm
Lonnie says:
How about enforcing the law against people here illegally? You think they are up to date with their shots? This is America. You can't force people to take shots. There is a lot of speculation on what is in them. Why is that stupid bill gates so hell bent on giving "free" shots to third world people? Put on your thinking cap people. And where do you think gulf war disease came from?
May 29, 2019, 4:58 pm
Henry Ford from Bay Ridge says:
Somebody give Lonnie his brain medicine, or maybe loosen his maga hat. It must be on too tight and it's cutting off the circulation to his small brain.
May 29, 2019, 5:13 pm
Anon says:
Please, please Brooklyn Daily, ban the comments. It was the best idea you ever had.
May 30, 2019, 2:56 pm
Henry Ford from Bay Ridge says:
Anon, I agree with you, but please, please, please stop your whining. You should stop reading at the end of the story.
May 30, 2019, 3:22 pm

Comments closed.

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