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MISSISSIPPI: Federal Judge Rules on Religious Exemptions For Mandated K-12 School Vaccinations

Attorneys for ICAN (Informed Consent Action Network) had a significant victory for religious exemptions against mandatory vaccinations in Mississippi.

In an evidentiary hearing, a federal court ruled that the First Amendment requires that the State of Mississippi “afford its residents a religious exemption for their children to attend school without one or more state mandated vaccines.”

“Today, following an evidentiary hearing, we obtained an injunction requiring Mississippi to provide a religious exemption to its school vaccination requirements!” Aaron Siri wrote.

ICAN provided further details:

A written entry on the Court’s docket was issued shortly after the hearing providing, in relevant part:

Minute Entry for proceedings before District Judge Halil S. Ozerden: Hearing on Plaintiffs’ Motion for Preliminary Injunction held on 4/17/2023. Court heard testimony and additional argument. For the reasons stated on the record, and to be more fully detailed in a written order to follow, the Court will grant Plaintiffs’ Motion. From and after July 15, 2023, Defendants Daniel P. Edney, in his official capacity as the State Health Officer … their officers, agents, servants, and employees, and anyone acting in active concert or participation with them will be enjoined from enforcing Mississippi Code § 41-23-37 [Mississippi’s compulsory school vaccination law] unless they provide an option for individuals to request a religious exemption from the vaccine requirement.

Mississippi is one of only six states that does not have a religious exemption for students to attend school. Numerous parents have sincerely held religious beliefs that do not permit them to vaccinate their children, including because of the involvement and development of vaccines using the products of abortions. Those parents were put in an impossible position as they were forced to violate their sincere religious beliefs if they wanted to send their children to school.

The refusal to recognize religious exemptions has needlessly harmed these children by forcing their parents to homeschool or move out of the State, often directly across the border to attend school in a neighboring state while otherwise continuing to live their lives in Mississippi.

Magnolia Tribune added further details:

In arguing in favor of their motion, Plaintiffs stated that “on its face” a policy of not providing a religious exemption to mandatory vaccinations “violates the First Amendment.

“As a threshold matter, it bears emphasizing that this is not a typical injunction motion that seeks immediate relief until a hearing on the merits,” the Plaintiffs’ briefing said. “This case is unique in that the material facts are settled, and the matter is ripe for final resolution. Under Supreme Court precedent, Mississippi’s statutory scheme of allowing medical exemptions – and discretionary review of those exemption requests – while prohibiting the possibility for religious exemptions is flagrantly unconstitutional under the First Amendment’s Free Exercise Clause.”

One of the points relied heavily upon by Plaintiffs in suggesting impermissible religious discrimination was that “Mississippi prohibits religious exemptions, but permits discretionary secular exemptions to its mandatory immunization scheme.”

Debbee Hancock, Communications Director for Attorney General Lynn Fitch released the following statement:

“We appreciate the judge’s thoughtful ruling from the bench and will give full consideration to his written order when provided.  General Fitch has always been of the belief that there is a religious liberty exemption, as stated in our filings in this case, and we look forward to working with the Department of Health to ensure faithful execution of the judge’s order.”

After the court ruling in Mississippi, the remaining states that don’t allow religious exemptions for K-12 school vaccine mandates include: California, Connecticut, Maine, New York, and West Virginia.

Read further information about the case HERE.


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