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Parents sue California over religious exemptions for school-mandated vaccines as Newsom seeks to add COVID jab

California parents filed a lawsuit Tuesday challenging a law limiting religious exemptions for school vaccines.

Several parents backed by a conservative group are suing California over a state law that eliminated religious exemptions for school-mandated vaccines now that Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom and the state legislature are reportedly moving to add the COVID-19 jab to the list of required inoculations for schoolchildren. 

The federal lawsuit brought by Advocates for Faith and Freedom, a nonprofit law firm dedicated to protecting religious liberty, challenges SB 277, arguing the legislation restricting religious exemptions violates the constitutional rights of parents to make medical decisions for their children. The complaint, filed Tuesday in the Southern District of California, lists state Attorney General Rob Bonta as a defendant. 

SB 277, which was signed by former Gov. Jerry Brown in June 2015 and took effect on Jan. 1, 2016, eliminated nonmedical exemptions from state-mandated immunizations for children entering public or private schools. It applies to children enrolled in private or public elementary or secondary schools, day care centers, and public or private day cares and preschools. 


In 2022, the lawsuit says, the state legislature and Newsom “made attempts to add COVID-19 to the list of required vaccines for school entrance even though the virus poses a small risk to schoolchildren.” 

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Meanwhile, the complaint argues, California “allows immigrant and homeless children to attend public and private schools without proof of vaccination.”

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“California cannot demonstrate that religiously exempt students pose a greater risk than secularly exempt students,” the complaint says. “The exempt unvaccinated children under SB 277 are still free to sweat in weekend sports leagues together, participate in public extracurricular activities, and sit through hours of services at churches and synagogues.”

Fox News Digital reached out to Bonta and Newsom’s office for comment on the litigation Tuesday.

The complaint describes the religious convictions of four parents and claims that after conducting their own research, the plaintiffs discovered “many of the required childhood vaccines were derived from aborted fetal cells,” and some therefore decided not to continue vaccinating their children because they believe it would make them “complicit in abortion.” 

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The complaint alleges that “even if a vaccine is not directly associated with aborted fetal cells, they are still made by manufacturers who profit from the use of aborted fetal cells.” 

One parent started researching after her third child “developed injuries following vaccination, specifically the HepB and MMR vaccines” and was non-verbal until age 6 and later diagnosed with autism. That child was granted a medical exemption to the vaccine requirement, but the same woman’s younger children, whom she chose not to have vaccinated, were not eligible to register in public or private school.

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“Forty-five states and the District of Columbia currently offer religious exemptions from compulsory school vaccination laws,” the complaint says. “California is one of only five states that does not offer a religious exemption from compulsory school vaccination laws.” 

Advocates for Faith and Freedom say the complaint seeking an injunction and declaratory relief aims to restore the ability for parents and students to lodge a religious objection for those with sincerely held beliefs. The legal organization predicted that the matter “will ultimately be required to go before the U.S. Supreme Court.”

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“Medical autonomy and quality education are not mutually exclusive, and the government should not mandate parents choose one over the other,” Robert Tyler, president of Advocates for Faith and Freedom, said.

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