Securing Exemptions to Mississippi Compulsory Vaccination Requirements – A Win in the Larger Fight for True Medical Freedom

April 19, 2023

A federal court has ruled the First Amendment requires the State of Mississippi to allow its residents a religious exemption for their children to attend school without one or more of the state mandated vaccines. They must do this by July 15, 2023.

It is being reported that upon an April 17, 2023 evidentiary hearing regarding a complaint for declaratory and injunctive relief, a written entry on the Court’s docket was issued shortly after the hearing providing, in relevant part:

“Minute Entry for proceedings before District Judge Halil S. Ozerden: Hearing on Plaintiffs’ Motion for Preliminary Injunction held on 4/17/2023. Court heard testimony and additional argument. For the reasons stated on the record, and to be more fully detailed in a written order to follow, the Court will grant Plaintiffs’ Motion. From and after July 15, 2023, Defendants Daniel P. Edney, in his official capacity as the State Health Officer … their officers, agents, servants, and employees, and anyone acting in active concert or participation with them will be enjoined from enforcing Mississippi Code § 41-23-37 [Mississippi’s compulsory school vaccination law] unless they provide an option for individuals to request a religious exemption from the vaccine requirement.”

Mississippi, while previously having a limited religious exemption decades ago, removed it from their law completely following since-overruled court decisions in the state. Mississippi is now one of only six states that does not have a religious exemption for students to attend school codified in law. If this reported ruling is accurate and it stands, the people of Mississippi will be one step closer to medical freedom in the state.

Compulsory vaccination has always been immoral because it is based on an unjust coercion, so this decision is a great win for liberty and for the protection of medical and religious freedom and the fundamental inalienable right of bodily integrity/autonomy. There is still a long way to go to bring our laws and policies into accord with objectively-derived principles based on free will and informed consent however, and this case indicative of but one battle.

At most, vaccination “requirements” for state-mandated, publicly funded schools and programs ought to have a clear and easy exemption process, for any reason, not subject to review or open for rejection by authorities due to disagreement with the reasons for the objection.

Lawyers for the plaintiffs in this case argue they possess deeply held religious beliefs that forbid them from vaccinating their children, and their decision to observe their religious convictions has required significant sacrifices. This is undoubtedly true give the competing interests. The state’s school attendance law requires children ages 6 through 17 to be enrolled in an education program. The plaintiffs’ children have been excluded from Mississippi’s educational system because of their parents’ religious beliefs. It is unacceptable to require a compromise of one or the other because of the fundamental nature of the goods and beliefs. Courts and federal policy have essentially acknowledged the wide variety of religious belief and have rejected the idea some authority ought to be able to judge the merits of the religious beliefs.

While there is still some work to do to clean up this process to eliminate burdens for people seeking religious exemption, and there is still potential for unjust denial in some instances, we are at least headed in the right direction. Precedent and the wording of the First Amendment have made religious exemptions more powerful and widespread than philosophical exemption, but ultimately they are one in the same and the law ought to eventually universally recognize both or just get rid of the distinctive labels all together.

The pharmaceutical industry is powerful, and the value of vaccines to public health has been expertly exaggerated to the point of almost unquestionable benefit and unrelenting expansion. Their lobbying of government for laws favorable to their business and their infiltration of the bureaucracies to push policy their way was inevitable. While this article is not geared towards identifying and/or proving such big Pharma misinformation and tactics, one related subject to the topic of vaccine exemptions merits attention.

With exemptions codified into law in most jurisdictions and the COVID debacle exposing to more people a lot of what is wrong with the pharmaceutical industry, the health agencies, and mandates, pro-vaccine forces will likely shift gears even more towards promoting their “nudging” strategies and using administrative rule-making as a way to keep vaccine uptake high.

In Michigan, for example, even before the COVID era medical freedom advocates such as the group Michigan for Vaccine Choice have been pushing back against an administrative rule that requires parents seeking vaccine exemptions for their children to attend an “education session” at the health department and use their self-incriminating form in order to proceed. The actual law in Michigan is very straightforward and simply requires parents to write a written statement of objection for a religious or philosophical exemption. Pro-vaccine forces improperly used the administrative rule process to directly contradict the plain letter of the law in order to make it more difficult for parents to obtain an exemption.

Parents ought to be able to reject any or all of these medical interventions for their children and still send them to school

A Michigan “bio-ethicist” named Mark Navin works extensively to study “vaccine hesitancy” and craft policy to counteract it while working tirelessly to ethically justify coercive policy to increase vaccine compliance. In a 2016 paper called “The Ethics of Vaccination Nudges in Pediatric Practice,” Navin makes a case to ethically justify autonomy-undermining pediatric vaccination nudges (a “nudge” is a euphemistic term for a doctor structuring a parent’s “choice architecture” in the right way to trigger unconscious reasoning processes to incline them toward a particular choice), in this case vaccinating children. In non-bioethicist terms, this means leading (some might say misleading) a person to a pre-conceived conclusion without presenting the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth. This is of course towing the line of denying informed consent for the patients while also threatening parental rights.

Another article by Navin in the American Journal of Preventative Medicine called “Vaccine Education, Reasons for Refusal, and Vaccination Behavior” aims to identify associations between parents’ reasons for refusing vaccines and rates at which their children subsequently received previously refused vaccines.” The study used 2015 data from the Oakland County Health Division waiver sessions required per the establishment of the 2014 MDHHS “Administrative Rule.” The authors classified reasons for refusal into four general categories: “Low Benefit” (from vaccination), “High Risks” (from vaccinations), “Alternative Schedule” (sought) and “Religious.”

The introduction of the study states, “Research shows that communities with more burdensome Non-Medical Exemption (NME) application processes have lower NME rates. Unsurprisingly, the number of NMEs for Michigan’s kindergartners declined, from 4.8% in 2014 to 3.1% in 2015” (upon establishment of the Rule). The study concludes however, “This study’s finding of relatively low rates of subsequent vaccination for people who refuse vaccines for reasons other than a commitment to an alternative schedule should inform discussions about the efficacy of factual communication for countering vaccine hesitancy. Although 16.4% (657/3,999) of children subsequently received a vaccine their parents refused, 70.5% (463/657) of the children who subsequently received a refused vaccine had parents in the alternative schedule group. Many of these parents may have vaccinated their children later even in the absence of the education session. This result is relevant for communities that require or are considering requiring education sessions as part of their processes for granting NMEs. Although this paper’s results do not offer decisive guidance regarding the adoption of education requirements, such policies can be effective at reducing NME rates, as Michigan’s experience illustrates.”

This should be interpreted to mean that while the “education sessions” are now known to not be very effective at providing parents with any relevant information necessary to make a more informed medical choice for their children, they can nonetheless still be effective in making the process burdensome enough to coerce parents into vaccinating or vaccinating on a schedule other than that which they would otherwise have chosen. So in addition to the Rule being improper/contrary to the law and an unacceptable burden on both parents and health department staffs, the findings of this study confirm the “sessions” are not very effective at providing “education,” rather they are simply a burden meant to “nudge” people in a direction contrary to their actual will.

We must be eternally vigilant in the fight for liberty and against unjust coercion. We must not only push back against coercive laws and secure exemptions, we must also watch the flanks for attempts to undermine good laws and the rights of the people through bureaucratic abuse and via misinformation, fearmongering, and unethical “nudging” strategies.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: