Tags: Religion | Vaccines | connecticut | religious exemption | immunizations | state | house

Connecticut Bill Ending Religious Vax Exemption Passes House, Heads to Senate

Connecticut Bill Ending Religious Vax Exemption Passes House, Heads to Senate
Gov. Ned Lamont, D-Conn., addresses the media in Westport, Conn., on Aug. 7, 2020.  (AP Photo/John Minchillo, File)

Tuesday, 20 April 2021 02:41 PM

A bill to end Connecticut's long-standing religious exemption from public schools'  immunization requirements passed the state's House of Representatives on Tuesday, and was awaiting action in the state Senate.

The bill won't apply to COVID-19 vaccines, which are not mandated under Connecticut's vaccine protocols for public schools.

The legislation passed on a 90-53 vote in the Democrat-controlled House early Tuesday after more than 16 hours of contentious debate. No date has been set yet for when the Democrat-controlled Senate will vote.

Gov. Ned Lamont, D-Conn., said Tuesday he's ready to sign the bill if it passes.

"We saw there was a very strong vote in the legislature, which I consider [to be] in support of vaccinations, and doing everything we can to encourage, in this case students, to get vaccinated, with obviously the necessary medical exemption," Lamont said. "And I think it sends a strong signal, which I appreciate. Get vaccinated."

The issue has been debated in Connecticut for several years. Some Republican opponents argued the bill was unnecessary, an overreach by state government, and an attempt to impede the religious liberties of potentially thousands of children.

Included in the House bill was a GOP amendment that makes it clear students who are now exempt from immunizations because of religious reasons to continue to be exempt if they transfer from one public or private school in Connecticut to another, or to a different school district in the state.

According to lawmakers, roughly 7,600 children in grades K-12 currently have religious exemptions in Connecticut.

Republicans raised concerns about what will happen to the 683 children in pre-K and daycare currently using the religious exemption, as well as future students that would've sought a religious exemption.

"This body is attempting to remove the religious liberties of 8,000 children in this state because the good chairman says they have a choice," said Rep. Doug Dubitsky, R-Chaplin, referring to Rep. Jonathan Steinberg, D-Westport, co-chair of the public health committee, who argued that children with compromised immune systems can’t choose to get a vaccine while those with religious exemptions can.

"What choice does a kindergarten child have in the prospects of their religion? Little, I would say. Little. So throwing those children out of school, it’s not based on their choice, it’s based on the choice of the people in this chamber, people who should know better."

Connecticut is currently one of 45 states with a religious exemption from childhood vaccinations. The medical exemption will remain in place available for families. There are currently more than 1,000.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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Politics
A bill to end Connecticut's long-standing religious exemption from public schools'  immunization requirements passed the state's House of Representatives on Tuesday, and was awaiting action in the state Senate...
connecticut, religious exemption, immunizations, state, house, senate
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2021-41-20
Tuesday, 20 April 2021 02:41 PM
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