Skipping the jabs: Court forces Mississippi to provide religious exemption for vaccines required for school

Published 7:00 am Tuesday, April 18, 2023

Siri & Glimstad LLP announced a Monday ruling from the bench following an evidentiary hearing, wherein a federal court has ruled that the First Amendment requires that the State of Mississippi afford its residents a religious exemption for their children to attend school without one or more state mandated vaccines by July 15, 2023.

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.”

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Mississippi is one of only six states that does not have a religious exemption for students to attend school. Numerous parents have sincerely held religious beliefs that do not permit vaccinating their children, including because of the involvement and development of vaccines using the products of abortions and aborted fetal cell lines. Those parents were put in an impossible position by being forced to violate their sincere religious beliefs in order to send their children to school.

“The refusal to recognize religious exemptions has needlessly harmed these children by forcing their parents to homeschool or move out of the State, often directly across the border to attend school in a neighboring state while still otherwise effectively living their lives in Mississippi,” the law firm statement reads.

“The State of Mississippi affords a secular exemption to those with medical reasons reflecting that it can accommodate students that are unvaccinated. It has simply chosen to not accord an exemption when it is someone’s immortal soul that a parent believes would be at risk. Plaintiffs are incredibly heartened that a federal court agreed that the state cannot afford a secular exemption without affording a religious exemption and that doing so violated the First Amendment.”

The six plaintiffs in the case include parents from across the state including a pastor who had to exclude his own daughter from his own private Christian school because he could not accord his own religious convictions to let her attend.

Judge Ozerden issued a thoughtful tentative ruling from the bench, recognizing the importance and the magnitude of the infringement of religious freedom in the state, and will issue a written order to follow.

“We look forward to cooperating with the Department of Health in creating a process for religious exemptions,” the firm wrote.

Litigation funding for this lawsuit has been provided by Informed Consent Action Network.

Counsel for the plaintiffs are Aaron Siri, Elizabeth A. Brehm, Walker Moller, and Catherine Cline of Siri & Glimstad LLP and Chris Wiest, of Chris Wiest, Attorney at Law, PLLC.