TRENTON - A New Jersey Senate committee took up a bill that would make it harder for parents looking to use a religious exemption to get their kid out of receiving a vaccine.
Under current law, a religious exemption letter from parents only needs to contain a religious reference to be valid. However, some lawmakers want to make sure parents, opposed to vaccines for personal reasons, aren't abusing the system.
"Everyone who can be vaccinated, should be vaccinated” says pediatrician Jeanne Craft. “These diseases kill children and those that they don't kill they can leave with permanent harm."
Under the proposed bill, parents would have to present a signed and notarized document explaining how the vaccine violates one of their deeply held religious beliefs.
People opposed to this bill say it puts the government between the people and their faith.
"Putting the state in a position to determine how deeply religious a person may be is extremely troubling,” says Sonia DaSilva. “I believe it is an infringement on our constitutional rights."
Three doctors testified in support of the bill. Some suggest recent political and personal hostility towards vaccines are hiding behind religion.
"As the Ridge Wood school doctor since 1984, we had typically, from 1984 to 2008, maybe one or two religious exemptions,” says Dr. Wayne Yankus. "We now have 86."
Under the proposed bill, medical exemptions must be accompanied by a letter from a doctor.