Federal court restores religious exemption to vaccines mandated by Mississippi schools

Published 11:40 pm Wednesday, August 30, 2023

A federal court issued a final permanent injunction pursuant to the First Amendment of the United States Constitution, requiring the State of Mississippi to provide its residents a religious exemption option for children to attend school without state mandated vaccines.

As a federal judge tasked with interpreting the United States Constitution, Judge Sul Ozerden issued a ruling recognizing that the First Amendment demands that a religious exemption option be provided where the the state offers secular exemptions. This final ruling reaches back to the very founding of our country and recognizes that religious freedom in America is a fundamental right that extends to every citizen, and this right does not depend on the shifting opinions of elected officials.

The final court order explained that because “Mississippi affords a discretionary medical exemption process by statute, it must similarly afford a religious accommodation process” and that not having a religious accommodation process, where it affords a secular one, is “unconstitutional.” The court therefore entered a final order stating that Mississippi “shall be enjoined from enforcing the Compulsory Vaccination Law unless they provide an option for requesting a religious exemption” and that “while this permanent injunction remains in effect, a person may seek a religious exemption to the Compulsory Vaccination Law by requesting a religious exemption.”

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Mississippi was one of only six states that did not have a religious exemption for students to attend school. Numerous parents have sincerely held religious beliefs that prohibit them from vaccinating their children, including because of the involvement with 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. 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 and include 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.