Chris Powell: Vaccination objections are not really religious

 SEKLET-VETENSKAP-50                 Poliovaccineringen inleds i Sverige 1957. Sjukdomen kallades ocks� f�r barnf�rlamning tills den upptr�dde �ven hos vuxna. Den senaste stora epidemin i Sverige var 1953. Bilden visar skolsk�terskan Birgit Rutberg som ympar Nils Birger Linderholm den 1 feb 1957. 
Foto: Ingemar Berling  Kod: 5/9909  COPYRIGHT PRESSENS BILD

Freedom of religion is freedom of belief and expression. It is not the freedom to do anything one pleases, though lately claims of religious freedom are being used to rationalize more craziness in Connecticut -- the resurgence of dangerous diseases arising from the failure to vaccinate schoolchildren.

That craziness marked a Connecticut General Assembly hearing the other day on whether the religious exemption should be removed from the state's vaccination law, now that the exemption is being claimed much too often.

One woman shrieked that her child would be vaccinated only "over my dead body." But the issue was not her death but the risk of premature death to her child and others.

Defenders of the exemption carried signs reading "My child, my choice," as if state government doesn't spend nearly a billion dollars each year for the care and rehabilitation of children damaged by their parents' terrible choices. No decent society can let children become the mere property of parents.

Another woman said, "God made my body perfect." Really? Has she never had a toothache? She well might reflect on why she never had polio, from whose scourge millions have been saved in the last 60 years thanks to the vaccines devised by Doctors Salk and Sabin.

Objections to vaccination may be based on conscience, personal preference, misapprehension, or ignorance, but to call them religious exaggerates them. At least no organized religion forbids vaccination, not even Christian Science, whose practice has been to submit to vaccination where required by law. Those claiming religious motives make no theological argument.

Indeed, state law doesn't require vaccination for children generally, only for those attending public schools, where risk of contagion is greatest. The parents who were so indignant at the hearing don't have to interpose themselves between their children and the state. Instead they can home-school their kids or enroll them in a private school indifferent to contagion.

People who want to pursue absolute liberty, including liberty to risk the health of children, can try living in the jungle. To enjoy the benefits of society, liberty must respect a few of society's rules. While society lately is being intimidated out of its self-respect, on this point it better hold fast. The religious exemption should go.

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TWO FREE CAR THEFTS: Society isn't demonstrating much self-respect with legislation advancing in the General Assembly that purports to address the epidemic of car thefts and joyriding by juveniles.

Under the bill juveniles would not be subject to detention until they had committed their third car theft. While the kids are on their car-theft spree the courts are to provide them with more of the social services that long have failed to deter them, as police lately have reported the arrests of some youngsters for car thefts just days after their arrest and release for previous car thefts.

Now the law formally will tell the kids that their first two car thefts are free. That may be fewer felonies than some kids are already getting away with, but the principle is awful all the same.

The bill also authorizes a study of the causes of the youthful car-theft epidemic, as if nobody knows that it correlates closely with the child neglect and fatherlessness perpetuated by the welfare system.

But since that correlation cannot yet be openly discussed, people will just have to keep their cars locked. The law won't be protecting them any time soon.

Chris Powell is a columnist for the Journal Inquirer, in Manchester, Connecticut.

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