By SUSAN HAIGH
Connecticut will no longer allow religious exemption from childhood immunization requirements for schools and day care facilities, becoming the sixth state to end that policy.
The legislation, signed into law Wednesday by Gov. Ned Lamont, came hours after the Democratic-controlled Senate passed the bill late Tuesday night. Over 2,000 opponents had rallied outside the state Capitol building, arguing the legislation unfairly infringes on their religious liberties and parental rights.
“Proud to sign this bill into law to protect as many of our school children as possible from infectious diseases as we can,” Lamont said in a tweet, announcing he has signed the contentious bill.
The other states that have ended religious exemptions for vaccines are California, New York, West Virginia, Mississippi and Maine, according to proponents.
The state’s medical exemption will remain in place. The legislation affects the 2022-23 school year and grandfathers in any students in kindergarten and older with an existing religious exemption.
Proponents argued that eliminating the exemption will help prevent potential outbreaks of illnesses like measles. They cited a slow and steady increase in the number of religious exemptions for childhood vaccinations and declining vaccination rates in some schools.
Critics have said they intend to challenge the law in court, arguing it’s an infringement of their religious liberties and parental rights. The organization Connecticut Freedom Alliance, which helped to organize Tuesday’s protest at the Capitol, accused Lamont and lawmakers who supported the legislation of “forcing parents out of the workforce” by giving them no other choice but to homeschool their children.
Lamont said he spent a lot of time researching the issue.
“When it comes to the safety of our children, we need to take an abundance of caution,” he said in a statement. “This legislation is needed to protect our kids against serious illnesses that have been well-controlled for many decades, such as measles, tuberculosis, and whooping cough, but have reemerged.”