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New lawsuit challenges end of vaccine mandate exemption

February 24, 2022 GMT

HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) — After losing their case in federal court, opponents of Connecticut’s elimination of a long-standing religious exemption from childhood immunization requirements have filed a new challenge in state court seeking to restore the exception.

The lawsuit was filed Tuesday in Hartford Superior Court by the groups We The Patriots USA and CT Freedom Alliance, as well as three parents of schoolchildren. It names as defendants the state departments of Education and Public Health, local school boards in Bethel, Glastonbury and Stamford, and other state agencies and officials.

Among the lawsuit’s arguments is that the ending of the religious exemption for childhood immunization requirements for schools, colleges and day care centers last year violates religious freedom rights provided by the state constitution. The state’s list of required vaccines does not include COVID-19 vaccines.

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The parents’ religious objections include the use of cell lines from aborted fetuses in the research, development and production of vaccines, the suit says.

A federal judge last month dismissed a similar lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court, saying the state has an interest in protecting the health of Connecticut’s students. We The Patriots, CT Freedom Alliance and the parents have appealed the ruling to the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New York.

The elimination of the religious exemption, approved last year by the legislature and Gov. Ned Lamont, sparked protests at the state Capitol. It came after state health officials and some lawmakers raised concerns about a growing number of parents claiming exemptions from childhood vaccinations for measles, mumps, rubella and other diseases.

We The Patriots USA said in a statement Tuesday, “Our goal is to create far-reaching precedent that will absolutely require states and local school districts to honor a child’s religious objection to any and all shots that are now, or ever will be, required for school attendance.”