HARTFORD, Conn. (WTNH) — Those in opposition to a new law in Connecticut repealing the religious exemptions for childhood vaccinations announced Wednesday they plan to challenge the bill they’re calling “unconstitutional”.
Attorney Norm Pattis says lawsuits will be filed Thursday morning in both state and federal court. He added that the passage has nothing to do with public health, but rather it infringes on the religious rights of Connecticut families.
For years, there have been two reasons a child could go to school without the required vaccinations for things like measles and whooping cough.
Those were medical, kids who cannot tolerate the vaccine, and religious, parents who said their religions did not allow vaccinations.
The trouble is, more people claimed that religious exemption in the years since a false study claimed there was a link between vaccines and autism. Even though that has been debunked, some parents still object to vaccines, and now they are taking that objection to court.
The repeal of the religious exemption passed largely along party lines in both the House and the Senate; protests were seen at the Capitol Tuesday in response. At the governor’s mansion Wednesday evening, protesters gathered, angry after Governor Ned Lamont signed the bill into law earlier in the day.
Attorney Kevin Barry says there are three important rights at stake here.
“Public health is undoubtedly an important interest, so is religious freedom and so is right to education,” said Barry.
Wednesday, the two opposing groups known as We the Patriots and Connecticut Freedom Alliance said they plan to file litigation to overturn the decision saying there is no justification for the state to essentially shut the doors of Connecticut schools to families with religious exemptions.
Pattis, who is representing the groups, joined to say that this lawsuit will strike at the heart of a parent’s fundamental right to raise their children and that Governor Lamont and the state lawmakers that voted in favor of the bill will see the extent to which families are willing to go to protect their rights.
“This lawsuit will strike at the heart of claims that there can ever be a public health emergency such that fundamental rights to raise your children become the power of the state,” Pattis said.
Brian Festa, co-founder of Connecticut Freedom Alliance and We the Patriots USA pointed fingers at the state capitol Wednesday saying what happened was unconstitutional.
“It is our contention that what happened in the Capitol building last week, last night, and today when this was passed into law was beyond any doubt illegal and unconstitutional,” Festa said.
One parent we spoke with Wednesday says she is nervous for her kids’ future.
Sherry Harmon of Plainfield said, “My two older boys are grandfathered in but my Pre-K daughters are not, and they are special ed. They have IEPs, and that protection is a federal protection, so I wonder how the state and the federal government will afford my daughters’ free and public education.”
Some parents tell News 8 they are not giving up.
Kalee Mead of Parents Against Ban said, “We have children that deserve a right to an education. I pay my property taxes. I pay $6,000 a year in property taxes and my children are having the right to an education taken away from them…We can’t support this.”
Attorney General William Tong fired back in support of the law: “We think the legislature acted properly and lawfully and the legislature and the governor did the right thing…The Office of the Attorney General is ready to defend the legislature, the governor, and this law.”
Gov. Lamont is doubling down. “Everybody sues, but we’ll be okay.”
Attorney Pattis says the lawsuit will be filed Thursday morning.