Oregon parents can’t keep the state from vaccinating their kids.

Two parents who didn’t want to vaccinate their children due to their religious beliefs have lost their fight.

Marion County parents who lost custody of their eight young children last year also lost their fight Wednesday to prevent the state from immunizing the children.

The Oregon Court of Appeals ruled that the parents — identified only as S.M. and R.M. in the opinion — didn’t have the right to stop child welfare workers from having the children, ages 1 to 8, vaccinated against an array of infectious diseases.

Good!  You don’t get to visit harm in the real world upon your children just because you do it for religious beliefs.  When the state has the choice to allow harm to befall a human being or to respect someone’s religious beliefs, the choice should be obvious.


About JT Eberhard

When not defending the planet from inevitable apocalypse at the rotting hands of the undead, JT is a writer and public speaker about atheism, gay rights, and more. He spent two and a half years with the Secular Student Alliance as their first high school organizer. During that time he built the SSA’s high school program and oversaw the development of groups nationwide. JT is also the co-founder of the popular Skepticon conference and served as the events lead organizer during its first three years.

  • invivoMark

    Good. Excellent. I think I am not alone in saying that children should have the right to not die of measles. I’m glad the courts agree.

    • Art Vandelay

      The Oregon courts recently put two parents away for manslaughter for praying over their premature newborn, so they may have a lower tolerance.

  • Glodson

    This anti-vax nonsense…. How the fuck is that even a religious belief?

    • Drew

      There is a religious group that pre-dates the anti-vax movement. Their gripe has nothing to do with perceived dangers of vaccination but the belief that all medical intervention is unnecessary.

      Diseases, you see, happen as a punishment because you don’t love god enough. Everything can be cured through prayer. If you seek medical treatment it means that you doubt gods power. Kids, therefore, don’t need to be vaccinated because the children won’t get sick if the parents are strong enough in their faith.

    • Drew

      I should add that it is not clear to me at this point whether the family object to vaccinations because of this religious belief or if they’re just using “religious belief” as a means of avoid vaccination because they are of the anti-vax (autism, disease woo) and it’s the only way they can avoid the state requiring immunizations for schooling.

      • Glodson

        Diseases, you see, happen as a punishment because you don’t love god enough. Everything can be cured through prayer. If you seek medical treatment it means that you doubt gods power. Kids, therefore, don’t need to be vaccinated because the children won’t get sick if the parents are strong enough in their faith.

        Yea. I can see that. Sadly.

        But I suspect, as you point out in the second posting, that they are using the “religious objections” as a dodge. The whole god’s will is the disease thing is out there, but I suspect there’s far more anti-vaxxers who ignorantly believe they are right.

  • Drew

    I think the title of this post is slightly misleading. If I understand this correctly, the parents have already lost their parental rights to make decisions for the children. This ruling simply says that parents who’ve lost custody of their children, rather appear to have demonstrated that they are incapable of caring for their children, have no right to object to health decisions made by the state.

    • LaRae Meadows

      Drew. Just because your children enter state care, does not mean you lose your parental rights besides custody. Most states have a “re-unification period”, where the parents are still the legal rights holder for medical care, education, hair cuts, and everything in between except custody. So just because they are in care is not reason enough.

      Now that they have been in care for a year, they may have had their rights terminated, then yes, that could be the case.

  • Jacob V

    These parents do not have custody but they have not lost their parental rights. It is common for there to be hearings on such care matters when parents and the state disagree about specific care issues of foster children. The judge simply ruled that these children were not going to get a different level of care over the objection of the parents. This is common stuff in dependency foster care cases and has no impact on anything beyond this specific case. All that was decided was that when Oregon cares for kids in their system they get vaccinated.

  • http://www.aramink.com Anne

    This is a victory for pseudoscience activism!

    I researched diphtheria for a series of posts I wrote a number of years ago about the Nome Serum Run. That is one scary disease.

  • otrame

    Here is what anti-vaxers want: Many years ago I was walking through a planted pine forest outside Fayetteville, NC. I found an old family cemetery. Most of the gravestones were from the first half of the 19th century, though there were a couple labeled CSA. One line of gravestones consisted of a man and his wife who died about 1855, however, their 12 children all died about 10 years earlier. Twelve children, ages 6 months to 19 years. All died within a week of each other. Twelve of them. In a week. If they ever had other children, they were not buried there.

    That is what diphtheria does to an unvaccinated population folks.

  • Jack

    Such a lame bunch of comments. I want to ask you this; If you choose to take any drug, do you think there is a possibility of a negative reaction? Read the lables, and understand, there is a rate of negative reaction with any treatment, it may be immediate, delayed, or not apparent until a trigger sets the negative trap. So, you decide for yourself, but YOU have no RIGHT to demand others to comply with your decision. And, I do not appreciate you blasting my GOD, for you will be the first to cry out for GOD when the agony comes. Wake up fools… ONE LAST THOUGHT, “LIBERTY”, READ ABOUT IT AND UNDERSTAND WHAT IT MEANS…

    • Nate Frein

      but YOU have no RIGHT to demand others to comply with your decision

      *bzzt* Wrong! But thanks for playing!

      Would you say that we (“the people”) have no right to demand that you obey driving laws? If you would say that, then you’re an idiot who has no conception of what liberty really is. If you wouldn’t say that, then you should have an inkling of why what you just posted here is wrong.

      You see, getting vaccinated isn’t just about protecting yourself, but about protecting everyone around you. We have a right to not have to deal with you spreading smallpox, or diptheria, or measles around just because you swallowed the anti-vaxx kool-aid.

    • Compuholic

      Yes, as with pretty much anything in medicine there are potential side effects. You should inform yourself but in the end, very few of us have the knowledge to actually assess the risk. This is why we have organizations like the CDC, RKI or the WHO who have the right people for this.

      Amoung other things it is their job to perform a cost-benefit analysis of various health measures and then give advice to governments. This is why in most countries no vaccination against smallpox is being carried out anymore: Because the disease is pretty much eradicated. And the few cases that pop up every year do not justify a widespread immunization anymore as the vaccination would likely cause more fatalities than the disease itself.

      And it is very much the job of the government to tell you what you have to do. If it only the person who refused the vaccine was affected I would agree. But There are a few diseases for which we don’t have any dead vaccines. And live vaccines are more problematic because some people (especially those with a weak immune system) cannot be vaccinated.

      Those people have to rely on herd immunity. But in order for this to work a certain percentage of the population has to be immune against the disease and that percentage is fairly high: For diphteria about 85% of the population needs to be immune and for measles it is esimated that we might need up to 94%.