So far there have only been three cases here in Connecticut, but it brought attention on Tuesday to a legislative committee vote on a proposal concerning the reporting of religious exemptions.
Once again on Tuesday, many mothers and some fathers with small children came back to the Capitol concerned that the legislature is moving toward removing the religious exemption for parents who decide not to have their kids vaccinated against the measles, mumps, and rubella.
Kristen Festa of Bristol said, “I believe this is a ‘place holder bill’ to completely eliminate the religious exemption.”
Marcella Kurwoski of Wallingford said, “This is ‘legislative creep.’ It’s happening in other ‘blue states’ in the country.”
Festa added, “As is being pushed in New York, New Jersey, Maine, Washington, Oregon, Colorado, many states. It’s not coincidental.”
In the Education Committee on Tuesday, Rep. Liz Linehan (D-Cheshire) said, “This bill has nothing to do with getting rid of the religious exemption.”
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In fact, the bill approved by the Education Committee on Tuesday actually just specifies who can certify a Department of Public Health form declaring a religious exemption.
Committee member Rep. Noreen Kokoruda (R-Madison) retorted, “Anybody who thinks this bill is not just the first step to totally taking parents rights away and religious exemptions away is wrong.”
The reason these parents believe it is just the first step in abolishing the religious exemption is because the Majority Leader in the House, Democrat Matt Ritter of Hartford, has vowed that within the next year the General Assembly will vote on a bill to eliminate the religious exemption for vaccinations for school kids.
Milissa Sullivan of Suffield said, “I do believe that this is a vehicle for them to do that and that if this reaches the floor, that potentially an amendment such as that could be stuck onto it.”
The State Department of Public Health estimates the number of exemptions is a little over 1,200 out of more than half a million kids going to public schools here in Connecticut.
The final vote approving this bill in committee on Tuesday was 19 to 13.