Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Dec2008 NJDHSS memo clarifies Religious Exemptions

December 1, 2008
Attempts to eliminate inconsistent and arbitrary denials of religious exemptions occurring across NJ.
NJDHSS released a memo (read it HERE) to all NJ County and School superintendents, all principals, and public /private school administrators, clarifying and proposing amendments to the current religious exemption. This memo was the health department's attempt to make obtaining the religious exemption more uniform and concrete. For some time, health and school administrators have arbitrarily and incorrectly either denied or accepted religious exemptions. Citizen complaints forced them to take action.

The proposed amendment to the current Statute is the addition of specific wording meant to alleviate any confusion among administrators as to what legally qualifies as a religious exemption.
N.J.S.A. 26:1A-1 will add: "When a parent or guardian submits their written religious exemption to immunization, which contains some religious reference, those persons charged with implementing administrative rules at N.J.A.C. 8:57-4.4 should not question whether the parent's professed religious statement or stated belief is reasonable, acceptable, sincere and bona fide. In practice, if the written statement contains the word 'religion' or 'religious' or some reference thereto, then the statement should be accepted and the religious exemption of mandatory immunization(s) be granted."

The memo also specifies that "Objections to vaccination based on grounds which are not medical or religious in nature and which are of a philosophical, moral, secular or more general nature continue to be unacceptable."

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