Doubling down on mandatory vaccinations

Tod Kelly

Tod is a writer from the Pacific Northwest. He is also serves as Executive Producer and host of both the 7 Deadly Sins Show at Portland's historic Mission Theatre and 7DS: Pants On Fire! at the White Eagle Hotel & Saloon. He is  a regular inactive for Marie Claire International and the Daily Beast, and is currently writing a book on the sudden rise of exorcisms in the United States. Follow him on Twitter.

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31 Responses

  1. zic says:

    I see a huge coming for the Dutch Reformers.Report

  2. aaron david says:

    Mother Jones has a pretty good article on this whole subject:

    It is very interesting on how this whole thing maps out, I would be very interested in seeing this on a county by county basis. I think that would help identify the best methods of the education needed to help end this problem. Do you have one for Oregon?Report

    • Tod Kelly in reply to aaron david says:

      Not that I’ve found, and even if you did it would be potentially dubious: It appears that for some reason only about half the schools in the state have reported the numbers. (You can find the listing here.)

      From a cursory glance, however, it looks to me like the schools/areas that have high percentages of non-immunized kids skew upper-middle class, well educated, and liberal. Which, I would think, potentially makes the issue of education tricky. (My personal anecdotal experience tells me that it’s easier to get adults who haven’t been to college to agree that maybe they don’t know everything than it is adults who have been to college.)Report

      • dhex in reply to Tod Kelly says:

        i think part of the issue – and this is more of a nit mr. kelly than anything else – is that for years many parts of the population with media access have been using “educate” or “education” when they mean “persuasion”. people inside that loop understand that it means “convincing”, but taken as it’s #1 dictionary definition how would you educate the educated? (generally speaking orgs “educate downward”, so this is a double hitch)

        that make any sense? it’s a minor peeve of mine.

        you don’t educate this population; you convince them. and you do so by using stories that illustrate loss, destruction, widespread communal harm, deprivation of prosperity and station. if you can do so without turning it into “you are a bad person!” and focus instead on the choice…well, it’s tricky, but it would likely be most effective. or we just wait until wee dylan and wee brooklyn start being seriously injured within these enclaves, at which point it will start self correcting again. (which means terrible harm to many folk outside of the park slope schmuck demographic)

        or you do so with force of law, of course.Report

      • Mad Rocket Scientist in reply to Tod Kelly says:

        Sadly, educated still != scientifically literate. Even MDs, who arguably SHOULD be scientifically literate, have among their numbers the likes of Dr. Wolfson, who just will not be swayed no matter the evidence.Report

      • zic in reply to Tod Kelly says:


        how would you educate the educated?

        This seems a bit perverse; part of being ‘educated’ is understanding that there’s always more to learn, to educate yourself about; not that once you got through college it’s a done deal.Report

      • dhex in reply to Tod Kelly says:

        “This seems a bit perverse; part of being ‘educated’ is understanding that there’s always more to learn, to educate yourself about; not that once you got through college it’s a done deal.”

        it only seems perverse because it’s being used (and understood) interchangeably with different concepts and by different audiences:

        [1] educated meaning formally trained in school, likely to a certain level (college probably for most speakers).

        [2] educated meaning acculturated to a certain class and manners related to it, etc. a megachurch preacher with a divinity doctorate isn’t “educated” as understood under this definition, because they’re a megachurch preacher.

        [3] educated in the public health sense – persuaded, convinced, cajoled, etc, into a certain set of behaviors.

        [4] educated in the idealized sense you indicate, meaning intellectual humility and curiosity.

        so restated, my statement reads “how would you [3] a [2]?”Report

      • aaron david in reply to Tod Kelly says:

        I think dhex has the right of it here, with the added proviso that much of (2) feels that (3) has been used against them over the last few years and that (1) pretty much seems to feel that as they are (1) they already know what is going on. See:

      • @dhex

        hat make any sense? it’s a minor peeve of mine.

        you don’t educate this population; you convince them.

        That’s a pet peeve of mine, too, though perhaps for a slightly different reason (depending on if I read you aright in what you’re getting at). To me it seems to signify that you (the generic you, not you you) are enlightened, and the only reason people could ever see things differently is that they’re unenlightened and ignorant.Report

      • Stillwater in reply to Tod Kelly says:

        Excellent comment dhex.

        Reminds me of this: One of the things I learned when I was learning to teach was that no one teaches anyone anything. What a good teacher does is present stuff so’s to inspire other folks to put in the effort to learn it. Or slightly less than that, present things clearly enough that folks already so inspired will better understand the map of what a certain territory looks like. I mean, learning is an internal process, yeah? If so, then there is no teaching. Just better ways to help people learn. But some people don’t wanna learn. Others who may want to learn one type of “education” are pretty durn uninterested in learning another type. That’s just the way it is, it seems to me.Report

      • Stillwater in reply to Tod Kelly says:

        To me it seems to signify that you (the generic you, not you you) are enlightened

        Don’t disagree even tho I’m not sure I’d go with the word “enlightened”. I think it’s more a form of splainin or something. A presumption that anyone who disagrees with you does so because they’re too stupid to think properly. A good friend of mine likes to tell a story about how she used to (doesn’t anymore!) think that she could resolve disagreements with people merely by clearly and carefully explaining to them where she was coming from on an issue. She laughs about it now, but at the time it was horrible.Report

      • Damon in reply to Tod Kelly says:

        Yah, that’s the way to do it…

        Persuasion. Getting all preachy is nothing but a major turn off. Hell, I’d oppose or resist anything presented in that method, if only out of spite. Sadly there’s a very large population of folks who advocate for his “education” that consider you a rube who needs to be told what to do and how to live by their betters because you clearly wouldn’t make any other choice if you were smart enough.Report

  3. Mad Rocket Scientist says:

    I thought Christian Scientists also banned vaccines? And JehovahsReport

    • Lyle in reply to Mad Rocket Scientist says:

      Here is a link to a Mercury News article on vaccines and religions: The article points out that the church of christ science does not oppose vaccines just some members, likewise Jehovah’s Witnesses. In these an a number of cases it appears that parents may take the churches doctrines and stretch them a bit further than the church body itself does. In any case the 1905 case on vaccines essentially said that public health trumps religion, in the case of easily communicable disease (in that case smallpox).
      In one sense that is a basic result of the my freedom stops at the end of your nose idea, i.e. you can do what you wish as long as it does not harm me, and me or my kids getting measles is harming me.Report

  4. Burt Likko says:

    Re: religions forbidding vaccination. Doesn’t matter what the official doctrine of a particular organized faith is. A subjective, individualized belief is what counts for the religious exception. For instance, in the Holt v. Hobbs case, we learned that it doesn’t matter if ten out of ten imams say shaving your beard is cool with Islam, as long as you personally think the Koran says a man ought not to shave. So I might not be Dutch Reformed, maybe I’m a Jehovah’s Witness and I think — even if ten out of ten of my ministers say I’m wrong — that the Biblical injunction to abstain from blood (Genesis 9:4, Leviticus 17:10, Deuteronomy 12:23 and Acts 15:28-29) means I can’t taint my blood in any way, then it does and I have a religious objection to a vaccination. State must come up with a compelling reason to require me to do so and must also demonstrate that no less intrusive means are available to effect that objective.Report

    • Tod Kelly in reply to Burt Likko says:

      @burt-likko Yeah, I know. I just thought after hearing so much about it that it was interesting to see how many actual official doctrines actually backed up the belief.

      In fact, I’m wracking my brain on this right now: Can you think of any other semi-widespread religious belief that does not come from doctrine from anyone (except something as obscure as Dutch reformed)? The only one I can think of off the top of my head is “SSM for that brief two-month period between beginning to be somewhat accepted and being officially sanctioned by the Anglican/Episcopal churches.”

      People here are smarter than I am; what other ones are out there?Report

      • I just thought after hearing so much about it that it was interesting to see how many actual official doctrines actually backed up the belief.

        It partially depends on how you count “official” doctrine. Some religions, like the Catholic Church, have a fairly well-defined and worked-out way to establish what is “official” and not. Others don’t, or have a less well-defined definition.Report

    • Lyle in reply to Burt Likko says:

      I believe avoiding the spread of a communicable disease is a compelling reason, since at least a few may die from it is a compelling reason. The case cited did not present a risk to others. It is a question of rights my right to not get sick have a family member get sick versus your rights. In any case do to the folks involved refuse to eat hamburger, because it does contain some blood.Report

      • Gabriel Conroy in reply to Lyle says:

        I think Burt’s point had more to do with how “religious belief” enters the picture (must it be “official” or can it be “non-official” doctrine?). It has less to do with what counts as compelling (and I think he’d agree with you on that, judging from his other comments.)Report

      • Gabriel Conroy in reply to Lyle says:

        But if I’m so smart, why am I not sitting on SCOTUS instead of Samuel Alito?

        I’d appoint you. But I’d have to get a majority of the electoral college to vote for me first.Report

    • zic in reply to Burt Likko says:

      I though in the HL decision, Justice clearly said this was a limited decision; it did not apply to other things, most specifically vaccination, no?Report

      • Burt Likko in reply to zic says:

        Justice Alito went out of his way to indicate that the RFRA didn’t apply to things like antidiscrimination lawsuits under Title VII. But he didn’t really offer an explanation for why that would be the case, other than SCOTUS’ say-so, and the logic of his interpretation of the RFRA to the contraception mandate in PPACA and its regulatory progeny was such that absent such an unprincipled exception-by-judicial-fiat, RFRA pretty clearly would apply to antidiscrimination laws.

        I don’t recall any mention of vaccination.

        FWIW, I think that @lyle is well within the boundaries of reason to suggest that a compulsory vaccination law might survive that level of analysis — I’m inclined to agree that vaccination is the least intrusive way imaginable to prevent outbreaks of these potentially disastrous diseases. But if I’m so smart, why am I not sitting on SCOTUS instead of Samuel Alito?Report

      • Michael Drew in reply to zic says:

        Wasn’t vaccination one of the issues explicitly brought up by the dissent (I think by Sotomayor at oral and RBG in the dissent, or maybe RBG in both) as one of the kinds of cases that would come ‘out of the woodwork’ as a result of HL?Report

    • Michael Drew in reply to Burt Likko says:

      @burt-likko is this on a nondiscrimination (i.e. possibly non-Establishment) principle, or on a free-exercise principle? I.e., if you’re going to have a religious exemption it can’t discriminate between beliefs in that way, or free exercise means that an exemption like this has to exist?

      I assume the former, because MS & WV don’t have any religious exemptions to their vaccination requirements at all. But perhaps those laws are unconstitutional/not RFRA-compliant but simply not yet challenged as such.

      Also, is there any limit to the policy contexts to which this principle clearly applies, based on the precedent from which it springs? Doesn’t it seem that restricting exemptions to longstanding institutional religious doctrine rather than personal religious findings might be justified by a compelling government interest in maintaining herd immunity levels of vaccination in school, and that no less restrictive means than requiring vaccination for enrollment are apparent for achieving this purpose? Such a restriction, after all, would itself be a less restrictive means than simply allowing no religious exemption to vaccination requirements of any kind at all.Report

      • This tracks the history of Constitutional interpretation of the Free Exercise Clause, and Congressional response to SCOTUS’ rulings, culminating in the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA), a legal trend that reached full flower in last year’s Burwell v. Hobby Lobby Stores, Inc. decision.Report

      • Michael Drew in reply to Michael Drew says:

        If it’s on free exercise grounds, are Miss.’ and WV’s policies then on less than solid ground?Report

  5. Road Scholar says:

    This made me do a double-take. I was raised in a Christian Reformed Church, which is sorta kinda like a North American variant of Dutch Reformed, although it’s more complicated than that too. Anyway, I had all my shots growing up and I had never heard of anything like this.Report

    • Lyle in reply to Road Scholar says:

      It appears from Wikipedia that a few churchs splintered off from the Reformed Chuch in America. Note that there is no longer a Dutch Reformed Church in the Netherlands it is now the Protestant Church in the Netherlands merging with the Lutherans and the Reformed Churches in the Netherlands in 2004.
      So it appear to be a splinter.Report

      • Road Scholar in reply to Lyle says:

        Right. That’s why I said it was more complicated than just “CRC as the DRC in North America.” As you noted, there actually isn’t a denomination by that name in Holland anymore. In other countries you can find churches called “Dutch Reformed Church in [country]” but in North America the moniker is Reformed Church in America which doesn’t say anything about being Dutch. In my hometown we have two churches: one CRC and the other RCA. They’re so close socially and doctrinally that they share a pastor. I remember talk when I was a lad about the denominations merging which apparently has yet to occur.

        Anyway the vaccination prohibition must have been specific to the Netherlands (and possibly other countries) because it’s the first I’ve heard of it. BTW, there is no overarching international structure to the governance or administration of the denomination. They may (or may not!) be doctrinally identical but the DRCs in [wherever] are just “associated” separate organizations.Report

      • Lyle in reply to Lyle says:

        Looked around a bit and found this link explaining the issue:

        It appears that it is the orthodox protestants in the Netherlands. ” The orthodox Protestants form a closed community within Dutch Society, They have their own churches, their own schools, then own newspaper and their own political party. The orthodox protestant opposition to vaccination dates back to the 19th century.” The article states that the opposition to vaccination started with bad reactions to smallpox vaccinations in the 19th century. More modern objects sound a lot like Christian Science in the US in that they believe god will take care of things and man should not interfere with God.

        Now of course if you are talking about vaccinations to enter school, then just like the amish in the US it becomes a non issue in one sense as school is where the vaccination rules are enforced.Report

  6. KatherineMW says:

    I’m pretty sure the Dutch Reformed Church doesn’t forbid vaccinations, because the Christian school I went to from grades 6-12 was associated with the Dutch Reformed Church (and many of the students went to Dutch Reformed churches) and we still got vaccinations at school.Report