Sholom and Esther Laine filed an emergency injunction in Kings County State Supreme Court on October 17th, saying that while they understood that state law required their four year old son to be immunized in order to attend Yeshiva Oholei Torah, they believed that they were legally entitled to an exemption based on their religious beliefs.
Section 2164 of the state’s Public Health Law, which spells out state vaccination laws, allows for the immunization requirement to be waived in cases of parents or guardians who “hold genuine and sincere religious beliefs which are contrary” to the mandated immunization regulations.
According to court documents obtained by VIN News, the Laines applied to Oholei Torah last March and were told that proof of immunization was mandatory for all new students as per the school’s written policy.
Several attempts by the Laines and their lawyer to get Oholei Torah to reverse its decision before the start of the school year failed, and after meeting with the Oholei Torah’s elementary administrator during the first week of school, Mrs. Laine was again informed that the yeshiva does not accept any vaccination exemption requests.
According to an affidavit signed by Mrs. Laine, the school’s position unfairly infringed on her constitutionally guaranteed religious rights, with Mrs. Laine claiming that she was being forced to “to choose between vaccinating my child, which I won’t do as it is against my religious beliefs, and being able to begin his yeshiva education.”
In their filing, the Laines asked the court to order Oholei Torah to put an end to its policy of denying religious exemptions from vaccinations and to publicly admit that the rule violated state law. The Laines also requested that their legal fees be reimbursed and that they be compensated for any other costs or forms of relief deemed appropriate by the court.
The emergency injunction, which included only the Laine’s version of events, was denied without any further explanation by Judge Carl J. Landicino one week after it was filed. The parties are due back in court on November 14th at which time A Judge will decide whether or not to grant a preliminary injunction, which would compel the yeshiva to admit the Laine’s son to the school while the case is pending.
Approximately four dozen cases of measles have been confirmed in yeshiva students in Monsey, Brooklyn and Lakewood, all of which have been linked to an ongoing epidemic in Jerusalem.
As previously reported on VIN News (http://bit.ly/2yLBUBe), Rockland County took the rare step of barring unvaccinated children from any school where a confirmed case of measles had been reported on October 18th in the hopes of curtailing the outbreak which has already sickened 40 individuals, with another 11 suspected cases awaiting confirmation by the Department of Health.
Attorney Joseph Aron, who specializes in discrimination, said that the temporary injunction filed by the Laines was an emergency measure that, had it succeeded, could have gotten their son into Oholei Torah while the overall case was being adjudicated on its merits. According to Aron, the key factor in this case is whether or not a private school has the right to ban students based on their immunizations.
“I think they can,” said Aron. “The religious exemption seems to abrogate the general rule on vaccinations but it appears that there is nothing in the law that prevents schools from making their own rules. The religious exemption in the Public Health Law gives schools the ability to accept unvaccinated kids but it doesn’t appear that it means that they have to accept them.”