Key point. Restrictions imposed by state law on unvaccinated children attending public schools may not violate parents' constitutional right of religious freedom.
A federal appeals court ruled that the constitutional right of parents to the free exercise of their religion was not violated by a state law excluding unvaccinated children from public schools under specified circumstances. New York requires that students in the state's public schools be immunized against various vaccine-preventable illnesses. The New York Public Health Law provides that "no principal, teacher, owner or person in charge of a school shall permit any child to be admitted to such school, or to attend such school, in excess of fourteen days" without a certificate of immunization. The statute provides two exemptions from the immunization mandate. First, a medical exemption is available "if any physician licensed to practice medicine in this state certifies that such immunization may be detrimental to a child's health." Second, a religious exemption is available for "children whose parent, parents, or guardian hold genuine and sincere religious beliefs which are contrary to the practices herein required."