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Supreme Court rejects challenge to Connecticut law that repealed religious vaccination exemptions

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Supreme Court on Monday rejected a challenge to a 2021 Connecticut law that repeals the state's longstanding religious exemption from requiring children to be vaccinated in schools, colleges and daycare centers.

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Supreme Court on Monday rejected a challenge to a 2021 Connecticut law that repeals the state's longstanding religious exemption from requiring children to be vaccinated in schools, colleges and daycare centers.

The justices did not comment on the fact that a federal appeals court ruling upholding the controversial law remained in effect. A lower court judge had previously dismissed the lawsuit challenging the law that sparked protests outside the state Capitol.

Connecticut law requires students to receive certain vaccinations before enrolling in school, so some medical exemptions are possible. Before 2021, students could also request religious exemptions. Lawmakers eliminated the religious exemption because they were concerned that a rise in exemption requests was accompanied by a drop in vaccination rates at some schools.

The change allowed students in grades 1 through 12 who already had a religious exemption to retain it.

“This is the end of the challenge to Connecticut's life-saving and entirely lawful vaccination requirements,” Democratic Attorney General William Tong said in a statement. “We have said all along, and the courts have affirmed, that the Legislature acted responsibly and within its authority to protect the health of Connecticut families and stop the spread of preventable disease.”

Brian Festa, vice president and co-founder of the group We The Patriots USA Inc., one of the lead plaintiffs in the case, called the decision “disappointing” but said it was “not the end of our fight to regain religious exemptions for schoolchildren.”

The group – which has challenged other vaccination laws, including for COVID-19 – had argued, along with several parents, that Connecticut had violated religious freedom protections by repealing the exemption. The new law shows hostility toward religious believers and jeopardizes their rights to medical freedom and child-rearing, court documents said.

Tong's office said only one part of the case remains active, involving a single plaintiff's claim under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). While the office said it was confident the suit would be dismissed, Festa said federal law is clear that schools are required to provide “a free and appropriate education” to children with disabilities who have individualized education plans, even if a child claims a religious exemption from vaccinations.

Additionally, We The Patriots USA is involved in a federal court lawsuit on behalf of a Christian preschool and daycare center challenging Connecticut's vaccination mandate on constitutional grounds.

“At We The Patriots USA, our practice is to fight on many fronts simultaneously and never put all our eggs in one basket,” Festa said, calling Monday's Supreme Court decision “a setback, but far from a total defeat.”

The Associated Press




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