Bill A3818 has cleared Committee and may be scheduled for a full vote of the NJ State Assembly on Monday, February 25th. The bill has been amended to propose complete removal of religious exemptions to vaccinations, forcing parents to vaccinate their children against their will. Currently, parents can make personal family decisions to legally opt out of vaccinations that directly conflict with their religious principles by filing for religious exemption. This amendment will remove this right, with no regard to an individual’s religious views.
“This is not a vaccination debate. This is about defending parental rights and religious freedom. I understand the public health aspects of this issue, but removing religious exemptions from this bill, without any explanation or public hearing, infringes on parental rights and religious freedom, which is unconstitutional. I support religious freedom for all, and anyone who cherishes freedom should oppose this amendment,” said Councilwoman De Peña.
Councilwoman De Peña is a former public school teacher, who homeschools her children, and is an ordained minister. She is a member of several statewide organizations representing a vast array of religious diversity, who all seem to be asking the same questions. What criteria was used to determine that stripping parents of their religious exemptions was necessary? Where do we draw the line in removing religious freedom? What choices do parents have in guaranteeing their children’s access to education without compromising their values?
Councilwoman De Peña has spent the past week reaching out to members of the State Assembly in an attempt to have these questions answered. “I’ve been in communication with Assemblyman Conway’s office, who is sponsoring the amendment, as well as Assemblywoman Speight, who not only represents Belleville, but sits on the Health Committee. Other states have written mandatory jail time into the law for parents who choose not to inject their children with vaccines against their deeply-held religious beliefs. I believe this is an example of clear governmental overreach,” Councilwoman De Peña concluded.