An anti-vaccine Kentucky family is suing their county health department over a dispute about the chickenpox vaccine. Bill Kunkel says the health department is discriminating against his unvaccinated son because of the family’s religious beliefs related to the vaccine.
Our Lady of the Sacred Heart/Assumption Academy in Walton, Kentucky is in the middle of a chicken pox outbreak. Earlier this week the school reported a total of 32 cases of chickenpox.
As a result, the health department mandated all unvaccinated children to refrain from attending school. Additionally, unvaccinated students are not allowed to participate in any extra-curricular activities.
Kunkel’s son, Jerome, is a senior at Our Lady of Sacred Heart/Assumption Academy. Jermone plays on the high school basketball team. He is also not vaccinated for the chickenpox.
Because of the health department directive, the school told Jerome he could not play in any sports until 21 days after the onset of rash for the last ill student or staff member. Being that this is his senior year, he was upset with the news.
Jerome told WLWT,
“The fact that I can’t finish my senior year in basketball, like, our last couple of games, it’s pretty devastating. I mean, you go through four years of high school playing basketball you look forward to your senior year.”
In response to the school directive to parents, Bill Kunkel decided to sue the Health Department for discriminating against their religious beliefs. Bill told WLWT that his Christian beliefs prohibited him from vaccinating his children with the chickenpox vaccine.
The father’s rationalization for not immunizing is that the vaccine is derived from aborted fetuses. Due to his faith, Bill says that he does not believe in abortions. Therefore, he does not want to inject his child with a vaccine that contains aborted fetuses.
Bill also said that he had the chickenpox as a child. He said he went to “chickenpox parties” as a kid, and feels that the virus is not a big deal.
An attorney for the family said that the state of Kentucky allows for a vaccine exemption for religious beliefs. The attorney and the family believe the school has violated their religious freedom by withholding Jermone from school and basketball.
The lawsuit seems like a bit of a stretch for a couple of reasons. First, the school is not withholding Jerome from basketball because of his beliefs. Our Lady of Sacred Heart/Assumption is a Catholic School. The school is only withholding Jermone because of his vaccination status.
Second, the department of health isn’t discriminating against their religious reason for not vaccinating. No, the health department is requesting children not to attend school or sports to prevent them from contracting the virus. The health department is attempting to stop the spread of the virus.
Third, the chickenpox vaccine does not contain fetal tissue. Some vaccines are made with fetal fibroblast cells from cell lines that were obtained in the early 1960s from two elective abortions. Vaxopedia explains that the original cells have been copied over and over again.
Because the cells have duplicated so well, no additional fetal tissue has been needed for vaccines. Additionally, the original cells are long gone, and new vaccines are derived from copies of those cells.
For that reason, vaccines today do not contain fetal cells or tissue. Moreover, the tissue is removed before the vaccine reaches the final product. When someone receives the chickenpox vaccine, they are not injecting ‘aborted fetuses’ into their bodies.Finally, the Vatican and other Christian organizations have issued statements permitting families to vaccinate their children despite the origin of the fibroblast cells from the 1960s. The Vatican says that a parent is not morally contributing to abortion by immunizing their child.
Given the fact that even the Vatican says vaccinations are fine for members, the father has no leg to stand on. Kunkel may think this stems from religious persecution, but the truth is far more benign and unexciting.
The Northern Kentucky Health Department did not make the decision based upon religion. Instead, the department decided to contain and end the current outbreak by not allowing unvaccinated children at school. The public health of the community is of most significant concern to the authorities.
Bill should be grateful they are keeping his son out of school. Chickenpox is not a benign illness. Individuals develop painful and itchy pox all over their bodies.
The CDC reports that severe complications of the chickenpox include: bacterial infections, pneumonia, inflammation of the brain, bleeding problems, and even death. Some cases of chickenpox become so severe that the patient will require hospitalization.
No one is forcing Bill to vaccinate his son. Heck, he can continue to keep all his crotch goblins vaccine free. However, there are consequences for the choice not to vaccinate. In this case, the consequence is that Jerome can’t play basketball. A simple solution for Jermone to finish his season is to get the vaccine.
Hopefully, a judge will throw out the baseless lawsuit. Or maybe Jerome can pull and Ethan Lindenberger and defy his parents by getting vaccinated.
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*Katie Joy is a columnist and hosts Without A Crystal Ball on Patheos Non-Religious Channel. She writes articles on parenting, disability advocacy, debunking pseudoscience, atheism, and crimes against women and children.
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