FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
APRIL 19, 2023
MPVR CELEBRATES RELIGIOUS EXEMPTIONS GRANTED IN FEDERAL COURT AFTER DECADE LONG BATTLE
Mississippi families are celebrating a historic bench ruling by a federal judge following an evidentiary hearing on Monday April 17th.
In his ruling, District Judge Halil Ozerden ordered that, by July 15, 2023, the Mississippi State Department of Health must create and publish on its website a process that would provide families with a religious exemption to mandatory vaccines for school. His ruling was based on the First Amendment right to the free exercise of religion as outlined in the US Constitution.
MPVR believes that all Mississippians have the basic human right to informed, voluntary consent in medical decision-making, including vaccinations. We are committed to the family as the first institution, ordained by God, with parents as the final authority over their own children. We have worked tirelessly through the years in attempts to convince Mississippi lawmakers to create a religious exemption, legislatively. We are deeply disappointed that it took a lawsuit and taxpayer expense to secure and protect our First Amendment rights.
For over a decade Speaker Philip Gunn, Governor Tate Reeves, and Lt Governor Delbert Hosemann, along with other Republican lawmakers have actively blocked bills that would have afforded Mississippi school children religious exemptions. Even in the face of overwhelming House support, Speaker Gunn and his Public Health Committee Chairman, Sam Mims, aggressively shot down any chance of passing a religious exemption for children, year after year. The facts and the US Constitution demand a religious exemption to vaccines, yet each of them intentionally ensured that Mississippi maintained the most draconian vaccine laws in the nation.
Only six states in the country deny religious exemptions to childhood vaccination: California, Connecticut, New York, Maine, West Virginia, and Mississippi. All southern and Bible Belt states have religious and/or personal belief exemptions. Mississippi has been the radical outlier for over four decades, despite being the most religious state in the country.
Many parents have sincerely held religious beliefs which prevent them from vaccinating their children. Some have objections to using several of the vaccines which were developed using products of abortion. If those parents want to send their children to school, they would be forced to violate their sincerely held religious beliefs.
Finally, in September of 2022, several Mississippi families filed a lawsuit against the state of Mississippi. Their children were denied school entry because their religious beliefs prohibited them from vaccinating. These families were harmed, as they were put in the impossible position to choose between their religious convictions and sending their children to school. Some were forced to move over state lines to a neighboring state which afforded them a religious exemption while continuing to work and attend church in Mississippi. Others were forced to abandon their careers to homeschool. Some families sadly uprooted and moved far away from generations of family.
MPVR started as a small Facebook group of moms and dads in 2012 but now exceeds eight thousand active Mississippi families and healthcare professionals. We are all elated and grateful to the Informed Consent Action Network for funding the lawsuit and for their bold, brilliant team of attorneys, and aslo to Judge Ozerden for his fair and just ruling!