The Rabbinical Alliance of America — Igud HaRabbonim, with a membership of over 950 Orthodox Rabbis across the United States and Canada — expresses its concerns over a new law in New York that eliminates the ability to file a religious exemption for vaccination.
The RAA/Igud’s Halacha and Medicine Commission, chaired by highly respected Rabbi Aaron Glatt, MD, has on numerous occasions issued a policy statement and Halachic ruling on behalf of RAA/Igud that, as a matter of Jewish law, vaccination is a religious obligation. RAA/Igud has taken a strong and consistent position that the failure to vaccinate contravenes Jewish law and that those who refuse to vaccinate are placing themselves and others in harm’s way. Clearly, the RAA/IGUD’s stance on the issue of vaccination is unambiguous that vaccination constitutes a religious mandate.
Given the strong pro-vaccination stance of RAA/Igud, our member rabbis are concerned with the passage of a bill that eliminates the ability to file a religious exemption to allow a child without vaccination to attend a New York State K-12 school. RAA/Igud’s concerns are rooted in constitutional law. The First Amendment, and the sacrosanct constitutional principle of governmental aversion toward impinging on the free exercise of religion, serves as a cornerstone of our country. As Jews with a long history of facing anti-Semitism, pogroms and religious discrimination, we deeply appreciate these constitutional freedoms that permit the American Jewish community to practice our hollowed faith free from the fear of reprisals and repercussions. We express our concerns that the law that eliminates religious exemptions for vaccinations opens the door for governmental intrusion into religion. We cannot set a precedent that permits governmental interference and erodes our free exercise of religion.
Although, RAA/Igud strongly advocates for vaccination and staunchly supports all efforts in prodding everyone into vaccinating, the law that eliminates the ability to file a religious exemption to vaccination can potentially create a chilling effect on religious freedom. While we stand in favor of vaccination, we simultaneously oppose setting a precedent of unwanted governmental regulation of religion. We concur that vaccination should be the goal but are concerned what rippling effects this new law that eliminates the ability to file a religious exemption on vaccination will lead.
Therefore, RAA/Igud calls on the New York State Legislature to take all necessary steps to prevent this legislation from being used as a weapon against the free exercise clause of the United States Constitution.