What’s the use of having a freedom and right if you’re penalized for exercising it?
Catholic student Jerome Kunkel, 18, is a senior at Our Lady of the Assumption Academy in Walton, Kentucky. He sued the Northern Kentucky Independent District Board of Health after it banned students without chickenpox vaccinations from attending school and extracurricular activities.
To add insult to injury, the ban was enacted at a time when Jerome’s basketball team was preparing for statewide league playoffs. So far, the ban has kept Kunkel and 30 other students from attending or participating in anything related to his school.
This past week, on April 2, Judge James Schrand of Boone County Court denied the request for a preliminary injunction that would have permitted Jerome to return to classes and other school activities.
According to the governing health group’s website, the Northern Kentucky Independent District Board of Health is comprised of the County Judge Executive or his/her designee from each county; the mayor or his/her designee from the largest city in each county; the chair from each participating local Board of Health; to the extent practicable 25 percent who shall be qualified licensed physicians, 10 percent qualified licensed dentists, 25 percent qualified licensed registered nurses, 10 percent licensed veterinarians, and 30 percent consumers.”
This government health board has told Kunkel and others not vaccinated that they can return to school and extracurricular activities 21 days after the onset of the last person in the school to get chickenpox. So, as long as there is a trickle of disease by a single new case, Jerome and others might be MIA until their health suspension jeopardizes their completion of courses for graduation.
Furthermore, Jerome asserted that the ban has also affected his chances of being scouted to play basketball in college, because he wasn’t able to play in his high school all-star game.
He explained, “My other cousin, who was voted into the all-star, just went down to practice at a college down there because he was scouted at that playoff game … and I haven’t been able to do that.”
I understand these health officials are trying to contain a disease. But remember, those students who are banned from the school’s classrooms and activities don’t have the disease and are not contagious. They are those whose families simply rejected the vaccines based upon their rights to do so. They are those willing to risk getting exposed to the disease because of their religious beliefs and objections, and who are regardless in constant contact with fellow students and friends outside of school.
That is why Kunkel’s lawyer rebutted, “The chickenpox order makes no sense. They all go to daily and weekly mass. The parish receives communion on the tongue. Communion-age kids are going to spread chickenpox. That testimony was unequivocal.”
Jerome added, “What the health department put in play isn’t stopping the spread of chickenpox. We’re still going to church together, we’re still doing everything together. After Sunday masses we normally get together and play a game of pickup basketball with other school kids.”
Evidence presented at Monday’s hearing in Circuit Court revealed that, of Assumption Academy’s 240 students, only about 18 percent of students at the school have been vaccinated against all childhood illnesses such as chickenpox.
Health department representative Jeff Mando explained that the ruling simply “upheld the health department’s mission to protect public health and the welfare of folks in Northern Kentucky.” But is it that simple?
At central issue is of course the authority that health officials can force upon citizens when trying to contain a disease. But does their oversight give them the right to suppress citizen’s rights? Isn’t the right given to the parents to immunize or not, and to choose whether or not their children are fit enough to go to school, be involved in sports, etc.?
What the government overreach here states without saying it is that Jerome’s great and loving parents, Bill and Karen Kunkel, are not capable of making the proper health risk assessment or decisions for their own son. So the nanny state makes their choices for them!
Board representative Mando again stated, “This is not a case of religious discrimination,” despite that’s the reason they reject chickenpox vaccination. Mando is correct. It’s not a case of discrimination. It’s actually a case of religious suppression, and a violation of Kunkel’s First Amendment rights.
Bill Kunkel was absolutely right in an interview with the Washington Post, when he called the health department’s actions “tyranny against our religion, our faith, our country.”
What is so difficult to understand about these words penned by our founding fathers: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof…”?
Again, what’s the use of having a freedom and right if you’re penalized for exercising it?
And where does this health cop overreach stop? The U.S. Center for Disease Control and Prevention already recommends 14 different vaccines for children between birth and six years of age. Can no parent or family have any philosophical or religious objection to any of them?
CNN summarized, “For more than 100 years, there has been public discord regarding vaccines based on issues like individual rights, religious freedoms, distrust of government and the effects that vaccines may have on the health of children.
“As of December 2017, 47 states and the District of Columbia allow religious exemptions from vaccines, and 18 states allow philosophical (non-spiritual) exemptions.
“[However,] Two states – Vermont and California – passed laws in 2015 that repeal exemptions for parents who do not want their children vaccinated based on personal philosophy While the California law bans both philosophical and religious exemptions, the Vermont law only repeals philosophical exemptions.”
I guess you can add Northern Kentucky to California’s ban on exemptions from vaccines for religious or philosophical reasons.
I’m not debating here the rightness or wrongness of vaccines. I’m debating the issue of freedom and the Kunkel family’s Constitutional rights, and how they are being trumped by a governing board which is supposed to be ensuring their rights, not overriding them. The burden of proof should be upon the health department, not the Kunkel family.
Just for the record, the Kunkels don’t oppose all vaccines, just those that use aborted fetal cells in their creation, including the chickenpox vaccine, despite that the Vatican has recently given a green light for their use.
Fox News reported, “Some Catholics, like Kunkel, take issue with the fact that some vaccines were derived from cells taken from two fetuses who were aborted in the 1960s. The National Catholic Bioethics Center notes that a tiny sample of these cells were multiplied to create viruses that were, in turn, used to develop vaccines. Today’s vaccines, however, are far removed from those cells because the cell lines have ‘grown independently.’ Some vaccines have alternatives that have no history of connection with those 1960s cells, but one does not exist for chickenpox.”
Bill Kunkel explained, “I don’t believe in that vaccine at all and they are trying to push it on us. The chickenpox vaccine is derived from aborted fetuses. And, of course, as Christians, we’re against abortion.”
Too bad for the Kunkels and others like them because the conscientious religious objection based upon Catholic or Christian beliefs apparently doesn’t hold Holy Water or matter much anymore to the nanny state.
I ask one last time: what’s the use of having a freedom and right if you’re penalized for exercising it?
On the eve of another Holy Week, I think this is a worthy question to ponder and answer for everyone across America.