Sunday, February 22, 2015

Coming Soon to a Political Theater Near You: Expansion of the "I Believe" Argument to Justify Refusal to Have Children Vaccinated

Coming soon to a political theater near you: an expansion of the "I prayed about it" and "I believe" and "I have a personal relationship with Jesus" argument to justify the refusal to have children vaccinated against infectious diseases. In fact, as Catherine Thompson reported for TPM several days ago, we're already there.

As Thompson's report indicates, almost every state in the Union already has laws in place permitting parents to opt out of vaccinating their children on grounds of "I believe." As her article notes, none of these laws require parents claiming objections to vaccination on religious grounds to demonstrate how and why they have faith-based objections to inoculating their children. Remember the precedent already set by the U.S. Supremes in their Hobby Lobby ruling, which maintains that, even if a religious belief appears to be undermined by strong empirical evidence, people (e.g., Hobby Lobby's owners) have a right to interfere in the lives of (and provision of healthcare to) others, as long as they claim that their religious beliefs are sincerely held?

It helps, of course, if they have oodles and kaboodles of money and political clout.

Thompson also notes that many people who have philosophical objections to vaccinating their children on other grounds are now maintaining that their objections stem from religious belief, and folks in the anti-vacine movement are coaching parents on how to claim religious objections as a way to get around regulations requiring the vaccination of their children.

As I say, we're already there. We're already at a point in which people can proclaim that "I prayed about" climate change and "my personal relationship with Jesus Christ" then convinced me that it's a fabricated liberal myth. Or "I believe" that vaccination is harmful to children despite sound scientific evidence contrary.

Because — you weren't listening were you? — I believe.

And so why should people blink an eye when florists and bakers and candlestick makers maintain that Jesus has told them to deny services and goods to gay people — because they believe for God's sake! — in a culture already predisposed to bend over backwards to accomodate the religious freedom argument, which the U.S. Catholic bishops have so powerfully and cleverly exploited to provide a rationale for attacking the rights of LGBT human beings? We're already there.

And when we don't seem to mind the harm this nonsense does to vulnerable children, let alone to the common good in a society where what you choose to do (or not to do) has radical effects on me and everyone else, we surely won't think twice about the harm it does to gay folks, who already have many strikes against them in the minds of many citizens, simply because of who they happen to have been made by God to be.

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