Vaccine Rights
Home Exemptions E-Book Consultations Q&A Attorney Phillips

About Vaccine Exemptions and Waivers 

    Questions and Answers are presented here for general educational purposes only, and are not offered as legal advice. Few vaccine exemption questions are short-answer questions; rights vary with the specific facts in each person's situation. For more complete information, purchase The Authoritative Guide to Vaccine Legal Exemptions e-book, or schedule a consultation, or consult a local attorney.

43. Q: Do we have to sign a pediatrician's Vaccine Refusal Form? 

A:  I've never heard of an instance where a signed form was later used against someone. So, I see no likely harm in signing one, though I understand fully why parents do not want to sign them, and can't guarantee that there would never later be an attempt on someone's part to use such a form against a parent in some way. But ! I think the purpose of these forms is simple: coerce parents into vaccinating right now, or punish them if they dare to ruin the physician's 100% vaccination rate by standing their ground. On the other hand, if a parent doesn't sign it, and their child is kicked out of the practice, they may risk being accused of medical neglect for not getting their child regular medical check-ups or treatment. Which risk would you rather face? How poor is your judgment if your actions result in your child getting necessary medical treatment?
If someone did try to use such a form against a parent at a later date, the parent need only say, "I didn't have a choice; the doctor required my signature to treat my child. I didn't agree with the form, I signed it under coercion," etc. While modified forms are likely to be rejected (e.g., crossing out the parts you disagree with), a parent could try adding something short and sweet near their signature like, "I don't agree with all of the above." And if that was rejected, the parent could sign another form for the doctor, and keep the first one as proof that they tried to disagree, in case that proof was ever needed at a later date. I can't say how any future situation would play out, of course, and I'm not offering legal advice here, but these are some things to think about.
Signing the form has to be weighed against the consequences of refusing to sign, which may be that the child gets kicked out of the pediatrician's practice. This could leave a parent vulnerable to being accused of medically neglecting their child, unless the parent is able to quickly find a replacement physician. So, the potential consequences of each choice must be considered. The risks are not quantifiable, and that can make this a difficult matter to resolve, but as a general matter, I see the risk of being accused of "medical neglect" as more serious than "you admitted you excercised bad judgment." If authorities become involved, they will want to know that the child has access to medical treatment, and has received any standard or necessary medical treatment. So, whatever the choice, it should be one that leaves the child with access to medical treatment.

42. Q: If we do not attend church, never have, should we start?  Or pick a religion to claim as our own for the purpose of religious exemption?

A:  Depending on your state's laws and applicable legal precedent, you may or may not have to belong to an organized religion to qualify for a religious exemption. However, joining one for the purpose of avoiding immunizations has caused some people to be denied the exemption right, as it gave the appearance that the beliefs were not sincerely held. Also, some religious organizations may not be recognized by some states, so beware of "mail order" church memberships and churches founded on principles that are philosophical rather than religious.

41. Q: I understand that in [our state], parents are now allowed to change to religious exemptions after having already given their children some vaccinations. RA, March 2007

A: There is federal legal predent supporting religious exemptions to immunizations based on present beliefs, regardless of prior immunizations, that may apply in some situations. The practical questions this raises are whether or not this may give the appearance that your claims are insincere, and whether or not you may need an attorney to make the argument on your behalf in order to convince local authorities to cooperate with you.


40. Q: I would like to know if I have right not to have my children vaccinated due to studies and research on the reactions from these vaccinations. TS, March 2007

A: Unfortunately, it is not any specific research per se that determines your exemption rights, but present law. The place where research that is contrary to current policy and law may be meaningful is with efforts to change policy and law--that is, state and national policy-makers and lawmakers. See The Pandemic Response Project for information about efforts to expand the right to choose concerning vaccines.

39. Q: If I were to homeschool, would I have to jump through any legal hoops to avoid vaccinating? BR, March 2007

A: Since states are concerned with the spread of disease within their geographical borders, it is likely that state exemption laws apply to homeschoolers as well as public school students, but this may vary from state to state.


38. Q: Do you know of any organizations that are actively trying to remove vaccine mandates on a national level? I personally feel removing mandates state by state is extremely costly and a waste of money. April, February 2007

A: The U.S. Congress lacks authority to enact laws requiring vaccines for state residents under the U.S. Constitution, which is why all such laws are at the state level. So, this is something that needs to be undertaken state by state for each state's residents. Federal law needs to be changed for federal jurisdictions--e.g., the military, immigration, U.S. territories, and matters concerning the interstate spread of disease or diseases coming into the U.S. for other countries.
See The Pandemic Response Project for information about efforts to expand the right to choose concerning vaccines.

37. Q: How the heck do I prove our convictions [with overseas adoption exemption requirements])?  We believe it is due to religious, medical and moral reasons.  Have you written any such exemption for I-601? LR, February 2007

A: The federal government allows for exemptions to vaccines for immigrants, including children adopted from overseas, for religious and philosophical reasons. However, these must be presented in the specific manner required by applicable regulations. You should consult a knowledgeable attorney for immigration waivers, to avoid delays or a denial of the exemption due to having not met the specific requirements and format. There is more information about immigration waivers in The Authoritative Guide to Vaccine Legal Exemptions e-book and on the Exemptions section of this site.


36. Q: My daughter received her 4 month vaccination shots and weeks later she started having muscle spasms which turned into seizures. She was in the hospital for 3 days and doctors could not figure out what was wrong. I mentioned the possibility that her seizures could be related to her vaccinations and the doctors did not want to comment. I am afraid to give her more vaccinations. How can we be exempt from vaccinations and can we file a lawsuit against the local Health Department? EW, February 2007

A: Your child may qualify for a medical exemption, but you'll probably need a medical doctor's recommendation. Medical exemptions have limitations--they may be temporary, only for the vaccine(s) believe to have caused an adverse reaction, and may be overturned by the state despite a doctor's recommendation in some states. There are often strict guidelines for which medical conditions qualify for exemptions to what vaccines. Given these limitations, you may also wish to consider a religious or philosophical exemption.

As for the lawsuit, if the person administering the vaccines acted within customary practice, a lawsuit is unlikely to be successful, but you should consult a local personal injury attorney who handles vaccine injuries for more information. You may also be eligible for state or federal compensation under Vaccine Injury Compensation Programs (Here's a link to the federal program; some states may also have compensation programs). The NVIC website lists vaccine injury firms and attorneys.

35. Q: How can a parent who is concerned about harmful vaccinations be held neglectful for not immunizing a child being cared for by him/her? MH, January 2007

A: This matter is about legal technicalities. There are only three "places" you can be with regard to required immunizations: 1) You are up to date with all legally required vaccines, 2) You are properly exercising a valid legal exemption, or 3) You are doing neither of these first two. If you are in that third category, you may not be in compliance with the law, and therefore be vulnerable to claims of medical neglect and prosecution for failure to immunize. So, take steps to comply with your state's immunization laws by vaccinating or exercising a valid exemption. Then, take steps to help raise awareness and support for more reasonable laws that allow parents to make informed choices for their children.
See The Pandemic Response Project for information about efforts to expand the right to choose concerning vaccines.


34. Q: Can you explain to me what a vaccine exemption is? What does it cover and who is eligible to claim such an exemption? SL, January 2007

A: See the Introduction to Vaccine Legal Exemptions article on this site.

Also, while no one is required to hire an attorney to exercise a legal right, consulting one knowledgeable in this area of the law can help you avoid future complications and the unnecessary loss of your exemption right that has occured with others. Attorneys make lots of money assisting people with problems that could have been avoided had the client consulted an attorney up front.

33. Q: I lost custody today because I use homeopathic remedies, natural organic foods and no vaccines to support my child's health. The judge ordered that the child be given all of his vaccines . . . is there anything I can do? RK, January 2007

A: The order can possibly be appealed, but one really should approach this matter properly in advance to have the best chance of winning at trial or on appeal. There are procedures whereby one can request that an order be "stayed" (not carried out) pending the outcome on appeal. Specific procedures and options will vary from state to state, so consult a local attorney for more information. In the meantime, my e-book discusses arguments favoring non-vaccinating parents in vaccine custody disputes that family law attorneys are not aware of, and I have worked successfully with family law attorneys in several states in vaccine custody disputes--there are often strong legal arguments supporting the pro-exemption parent that judges and family law attorneys are not aware of. But it can be very difficult ot "fix" these once the matter has been adjudicated--it is far better (indeed, probably necessary) to organize your legal arguments in advance of trial.


32. Q: Our children have received homeopathic vaccinations--is this sufficient to meet the immunization requirements? SS, January 2007

A: Unfortunately, the question is not whether or not you have taken reasonable steps to protect your children, but whether or not you have complied with applicable laws. Unless your state's laws allow homeopathic prophylaxis as a substitute for medical vaccines (and I doubt that any state laws currently allow this), you must either be up-to-date on the required immunizations or exercising a valid legal exemption.

31. Q: I have been instructed that I must sign a notarized affadavid saying that I will immunize my infants in 30 days in order to adopt them from Guatemala. Is there any way around this? AV, January 2007

A: U.S. immigration laws require immunizations for foreign adopted children, but the requirement can be waived for religious reasons. This requires form I-601 and supporting documentation meeting specific requirements. You should consult a knowledgeable attorney to ensure that you follow the correct procedures, to avoid losing the exemption or delaying the adoption. This is discussed in-depth in my e-book and is introduced on the exemptions section of this site.


30. Q: I sent a letter to my child's school from my place of worship stating that our objection to vaccines had to do with ingredients from animals that the Bible describes as unclean animals that we are forbidden to touch, let alone inject into our bodies, and furthermore, that the effects of vaccines are detrimental to a child's health and development--the rate of autism has been linked to vaccines. In response, the school has given us 10 days to provide a written explanation of our beliefs. Please help. LN, January 2007

A: What you describe sounds like a mixture of religious and non-religious reasons--that may have signaled the school system that your objections are not primarily or sincerely religious. It may be fine to have both religious and non-religious objections to immunizations, but non-religious reasons do not apply to a religious exemption, and asserting them in support of religious beliefs can cause you to lose the exemption. Your "statement of religious beliefs" can make or break your exemption, so it is wise to consult an experienced attorney when drafting this, as there are pitfalls that have caused some to lose their exemption rights unnecessarily. I have helped hundreds of clients develop these statements, and have a good feel for what will and won't work in a variety of different situations and circumstances.

29. Q: Our baby is due soon. We do not want our child vaccinated. What documentation do we need to present to the hospital? LS, January 2007

A: It is probably best to state your wishes in writing, and in the form of a declared exemption under state law, and to give a copy to the hospital staff well in advance of the due date, to avoid accidental vaccination against your wishes due to routine birthing procedures. Find out what the requirements and procedure are for a valid legal exemption in your state, and provide documentation to all concerned of your exemption declaration and exempt status. Follow up to be sure that all have received and are actually aware of your position on the matter in advance, so you will be free to focus on the birth experience.


28. Q: I am trying to find out how to be exempt from immunizations and still fall under the law of a "bonafide religious reason".  Can you give me any information on this? NR, January 2007 

A: This is not a short-answer question, as each person's or family's beliefs will ultimately be unique. The U.S. Supreme Court has defined 'religion' broadly for legal purposes, and federal courts have applied that definition to vaccine religious exemption cases. Depending on your state's requirements, your personal religious beliefs may be sufficient to qualify for a religious exemption. See the article on this website about vaccine religious exemptions, and consider a consultation or The Authoritative Guide to Vaccine Legal Exemptions e-book on for additional information.

27. Q: Can I claim an exemption if my children are partly vaccinated? MK, November 2006

A: There is federal precedent that says only a present belief is necessary (and one's beliefs can change), but its applicability depends on the specific circumstances and your geographical location; but generally, yes. My e-book and consultations provide a more complete explanation.


26. Q: A statute requires TB skin testing or a chest x-ray for incoming teachers. I feel as though this imposition is unconstitutional. Is there anything that you would advise me to do about this? DD, November 2006

A: TB skin testing is not a vaccine, and can't be avoided under vaccine exemption laws. This would have to be researched separately. The bottom line is, if there is a law providing an exception and you qualify, you may refuse it for that reason.

25. Q: I was just told by a private, church-owned preschool/daycare that their policy will not allow my children to attend their school because I do not immunize my kids.  Our older children attend a Catholic school where they just followed the state's advice in having us sign letters stating that we do not immunize our children due to religious beliefs. Is the preschool discriminating, or since they are a private institution can they do this? MH, October 2006

A: The answer to this question varies with the specific wording of each state's laws. Some states' private schools have to honor exemptions, others may not. A relevant practical question may be whether or not you want your child in a school where he or she is not wanted? If so, then inquire further to determine whether or not your state's laws apply to private schools.


24. Q: I have even considered carrying with me a document that says something to the effect of “if the hospital will take full responsibility for ANY adverse reaction or ANY complications from the vaccine either now or in the future, then I will consent to vaccination”. Is there any problem with this? WM, August 2006

A: These sound good, but in practice are a bad strategy. Problems include: 1) No one would ever sign such a form, because they don't have to; and you still have to get any legally required vaccines; and 2) If you are doing this in place of exercising an exemption, you may not be in compliance with the law, and subject to legal penalties accordingly, including being reported to child protective services for medical neglect.

23. Q: After speaking with the school and with a representative of the state immunization office, I am told that our only option . . . is to have a [state] licensed physician stipulate that it would be medically detrimental [for our college-bound daughter] to be forced to meet the immunization requirements. What can we do? ML, August 2006

A: Curiously, not all states require immunizations for college students (not yet, anyway). If your state requires vaccines for college students, it will also offer one or more exemptions, and you may refuse any legally required vaccines if you qualify for an exemption. These laws will vary from state to state, of course. See the links to state laws on this site. Most states offer religious exemptions (and what qualifies is broad), and many offer philosophical exemptions as well.


22. Q: I was recently told that the religious exemption we plan to use for school is an "all or none" situation and that if we were to choose to vaccinate for one of the vaccines, it would void our religious exemption.  Is this true? JC, August 2006

A: Few if any states' laws appear to explicitly allow parents to "pick and choose" which vaccines they will get. If your state's laws do not provide this option explicitly, it is likely that the religious exemption law contemplated an "all or nothing" approach, and that an attempt to "pick and choose" would risk voiding the exemption. There may be arguments supporting a religious exemption to only some vaccines--e.g., avoiding only those whose development involved the use of aborted fetal tissue--but the practical reality is that such an argument may not be allowed and require a formal legal proceeding, the outcome of which would not be certain (and could potentially involve a series of appeals). This is a strategy that should be employed only after consulting an attorney about the possible procedures and associated costs, and possible outcomes at each stage of the litigation.

21. Q: I got an exemption form free of charge through [Internet vaccine organization]. Is there any problem with this? AM, July 2006

A: YES! If there is a form for claiming an exemption in your state, your state's health department will create and provide that form. Forms from Internet sites are sometimes used successfully, but they may not comply with your state's laws, so are risky--why take the chance? Check your state's statutes and regulations, and do what they say--use a form only if required and provided by your state.


20. Q: I am about to enroll my son in the public school system. My spouse, who is a member of an Indian tribe, and I do not believe in vaccinations, but are not members in any religious organization. We have a firm spiritual conviction against immunization. What are our rights? KE, July 2006

A: Requirements for a religious exemption vary from state to state--some states require membership in an organized religion, some don't. (Whether or not there is a way around the requirement in states that do is a question beyond the scope of this FAQ page). In states that don't have such requirements, federal precedent supports your right to claim an exemption based on your personal religious beliefs, so ultimately, it doesn't matter whether or not you belong to an organized religion in those states. The more practical question may be whether or not you will need to have an attorney make that argument for you--citing the specific legal precedent that supports your rights under the specific facts and circumstances of your life-- in order for local officials to hear and respect that right. That would depend in part on what the specific procedure for exercising the exemption is in your state, and what the specific situation is.

19. Q: We live in Cananda and are planning to move to [a foreign country]. Are vaccines required for school there? Do we have any options? FB, June 2006

A: Vaccine requirements in any given country are determined by that country's laws, so you'd have to consult with the proper official or source for the laws of the country you will be moving to.


18. Q: My child's next doctor visit (she'll be 4 months old) is coming up soon and the doctor says they will no longer see her if she doesn't get vaccinated at that visit! What should I do? CC, June 2006

A: A private medical practice may be able to legally refuse patients, but if they have ties to government (e.g., accept Medicaid), and you are exercising a religious exemption, they may be violating your First Amendment, Constitutional rights. You may wish to consider informing them in writing that you are exercising a valid legal exemption and offer to provide them with documentation for their file--if their concerns involve liability fears, this may help. However, if the doctor's bottom line is that they do not want to treat an unvaccinated child--legal exemption or not--you may be better off changing pediatricians...why insist on services from someone who doesn't want to provide them to you? Consider also complaining to the state medical board if you feel the doctor's policy is unlawful or unethical. Most states have state medical board websites posting medical ethical rules and complaint procedures when you feel a medical professional has violated them.

17. Q: Do you have any experience with exemptions for students entering medical school? BH, May 2006

A: There are two parts to this question: 1) Immunization requirements and exemptions for college students generally, and 2) immunization requirements of the hospitals and other facilities where healthcare students often are required to do clinical work. The first is answered by state immunization and exemption laws. If the student has religious objections, there is federal law that may support non-immunization. This is a more involved issue that is discussed in my e-book and could be explored in a consultation.


16. Q: Do you have free information booklets for people in illinois? Or do you have some for sale? I need something to help me with employment and children in school. Thank you so much for being there for those that haven't the time to study.... JJ, April 2006

A: The Authoritative Guide to Vaccine Legal Exemptions e-book provides in-depth information for people concerned with vaccines in work and school, as well as many other situations (adoption, immigration, college, the military, etc.). The information is provided to enable anyone concerned with U.S. vaccine exemptions and waivers to make informed decisions. There is also free information on this site. To have your specific situation evaluated, consider scheduling a consultation.

15. Q: I have had immense intimidation and pressure to immunize [our new baby].  I am fearful to step into the pediatricians office because I do not know the best way to defend my stance. I would like any bit of advice you might have to keep her away from vaccines and the accusations that I am a bad/neglectful parent.  Any ideas? NF, March 2006

A: This is unfortunate, and can be a tough situation. Legally, you should at all times be either up to date with any required immunizations or exercising a valid legal exemption. (If you are exercising a legal exemption, you can't simultaneously be neglectful for not vaccinating...) Any other status leaves you vulnerable to claims of neglect and/or possible penalties for failing to comply with vaccination requirements.

If you are exercising a valid legal exemption, there's not much you need to say to you doctor other than to inform him or her of that fact. If it's a religious exemption, you might say, "thank you for your concern; the state says I can put my faith in God, and I have elected to do that..." Don't try to explain the reasons for your exemption, that just gives the doctor something to argue with you about. Diffuse the situation the best you can--acknowledge his or her good intentions, but politely hold your ground--it's your right.


14. Q: We are thinking of joining the Christian Scientist religion . . . to avoid mandatory vaccination. Do we need to consult a vaccination lawyer, since I have read that in the event of an outbreak, that religious exemptions might not be honored? SS, March 2006

A: If you join a church for the purpose of avoiding immunizations, you are at risk of losing the exemption, as that may be construed as evidence that your beliefs are not sincerely held. In most states, it probably doesn't matter whether or not you belong to an organized religion with tenets in opposition to the immunization requirements, and some states do not have authority to question the sincerity of your beliefs, so start by checking your state's statutes and regulations.

As to the application of religious exemptions in a outbreak, states have authority under the Constitution to withdraw non-medical exemptions during an outbreak or declared emergency. Whether or not any given state does this depends on the specific wording of each individual state's laws. Many states require unvaccinated students to stay home during a local outbreak, for the incubation period of the outbreak disease--e.g., 21 days for chicken pox.

13. Q: We are a homeschooling family. If we decide not to continue  immunizations to our youngest children, what do I do at their next doctor visit? Do I need some sort of note of exemption? Do you know what medical neglect is?  The Doctors tell us if we refuse to do something they feel is medically neccesary it is considered medical neglect and they are reguired by state law to write the division of social services. What do we do? LP, February 2006

A: Technically, unless your state's laws require you to provide your doctor with evidence of a vaccine exemption (and I know of no such laws), you probably don't have to do anything. As a practical matter, though, you may want to provide the doctor with something in writing documenting your exercise of a legal exemption. If you are exercising a valid legal exemption, you cannot at the same time be legitimately accused of neglect for not vaccinating. Doctors also like having something in the files for liability purposes--to prevent you from later accusing them of failing to vaccinate your children. Give them a copy of the documentation you use (or would use) to claim an exemption for your children's school or daycare attendance.


12. Q: My ex-spouse never objected to not vaccinating our children until we separated--now he's trying to paint me as an unfit parent in a custody battle. What should I do? SH, February 2006

A: Many spouses conveniently change their position on vaccines after separating to gain an advantage in custody disputes. Judges and family law attorneys understandably assume that the children's best interests requires vaccination, because they are unaware of the strong legal arguments favoring the non-vaccinating parent in many instances. I have worked successfully with family law attorneys in several states in these kinds of cases. The analysis is outlined in my e-book; or, consider a consultation for an in-depth assessment of your particular situation. These cases can be difficult, but many are winable!

11. Q: My son got some shots, but I do not want to give him second MMR or chicken pox vaccine. What are my rights? AI, February 2006

A: The bottom line is, you may claim an exemption from vaccines only as permitted by your state's exemption statutes and regulations and applicable state and/or federal legal precedent. Few if any states' laws allow parents to "pick and choose" when and which vaccines they will give. As a general matter, past vaccines may not necessarily prevent you from exercising an exemption, but it may depend on the specific circumstances, your geographic location, and the wording of your state's laws. This is not a "short-answer" question, so review your state's statutes and regulations, and consider purchasing my e-book or scheduling a consultation for greater insight.


10. Q: I am a physician who doesn't believe in vaccines. I am about to have my first kid and I do want legal protection. I live in [a different state than you]. DO you know any attorney who can help me? CS, M.D., February 2006

A: There are very few attorneys in the U.S. who include vaccine exemptions and waivers as a routine part of their practice. I have worked directly with clients around the country concerning their federal rights, and with local attorneys in several states when one is needed. You are unlikely to find a local attorney experienced in this area of the law. Contact me for a recommendation if you live in New York.

9. Q: My daughters have chosen not to vaccinate their children. Can you please tell us what would be involved in protecting their rights? What does your office offer as far as legal help? Dr. RM, February 2006

A: Exercising an exemption is a matter of complying with your state's legal requirements for one or more of the exemptions your state offers, as indicated in state statutes and regulations. This office can assist you with finding state statutes and regulations (it's important to review both!), advising you about your rights under the U.S. Constitution (First Amendment, free exercise of religion) regarding the specific circumstances of your life, and provide a written legal opinion about those rights citing applicable law. For details about your rights, consider purchasing my e-book or scheduling a consultation.


8. Q: Last Friday I was told by the school nurse that I could not request exemption from just one vaccine . . . [She said] that if he has any other vaccines in the future it would nullify our exemption. Is there county or school district law that goes beyond the state statute? Is what the nurse saying true? TH,  September 2005

A: Few if any state laws provide for a religious exemption from only one or some vaccines, so it is not likely that claiming an exemption for anything other than all vaccines would be allowed. Getting vaccines after claiming a religious exemption could undermine the prior exemption claim. There may be possible legal arguments supporting a religious objection to some vaccines (e.g., only those whose development involved aborted fetal tissue), but there is no guarantee of the ultimate outcome, and it could involve a series of appeals. Finally, individual public school districts probably do not have authority to require anything more than what is required by state statutes and regulations.

7. Q: I have a form that I downloaded a long time ago and I am attaching it so you can review it. Do you have a better one or a link to one so I can use it? MP, August 2005

A: The only forms you should use are ones provided by your state. If your state doesn't create and require a form, DON'T USE ONE, as it may not comply with your state's laws, and thus leave you vulnerable to a challenge--even if initially accepted. Review your state’s statutes and regulations, and comply strictly with them. If you have concerns or encounter problems with how those laws apply to the specific circumstances of your life, consult a knowledgeable attorney.


6. Q: My child had titers drawn and tested immune to all childhood diseases but polio. Can we avoid vaccines on that basis? AB/KB, May 2005

A: The bottom line is that you must comply with the law. If you state’s statutes or regulations indicate that vaccines may be avoided based on titer levels, then you can avoid vaccines that way; if not, you can’t.

5. Q: Can a medical exemption be obtained in [state] for a child that has shown severe illness after receiving childhood MMR vaccinations? SM, May 2005

A: State medical exemption laws generally require a qualifying medical condition and the recommendation of a state-licensed medical doctor. Some state laws may also allow the state to reject the exemption claim even when recommended by a qualifying medical doctor. If you want to avoid all immunizations generally and indefinitely, it may be worth exploring whether or not you qualify for a religious exemption. See the article on this website that introduces this topic.


4. Q: Can military personnel claim a religious exemption? CPT RS, February 2005

A: Military regulations provide for medical and administrative exemptions, the latter of which includes religious exemptions. Military religious exemptions are discretionary, and can be withdrawn if the mission is deemed to require it. There is a specific procedure set out in the regulations, with some branch-specific variations. These will require stating in writing the specific beliefs that are in opposition to the requirements. Since such statements have potential pitfalls--things one might say or neglect to say that could undermine the exemption application--it may be wise to consult an attorney experienced with this to maximize your chances for success. See also the exemption page on this site.

3. Q: We don’t have specific religious reasons for not vaccinating – can we still claim an exemption to vaccines? MG, February 2005

A: Depending on where you live and the specific wording of your state’s vaccine religious exemption statutes and regulations, personal religious beliefs may qualify. The U.S. Supreme Court has defined ‘religion’ in rather broad terms for legal purposes, and federal courts have applied that definition to vaccine religious exemptions specifically. My e-book explains how, if and when federal legal precedent applies to individual situations; or, consider scheduling a consultation.


2. Q: Is it constitutional for a state’s religious exemption law to require membership in an organized religion with tenets in opposition to the immunization requirements? JD, July 2004

A: Technically, any state law is “good law” (i.e., enforceable) unless and until it is challenged and deemed unconstitutional by a state appellate or federal court, or is repealed or stricken. However, laws in at least five different states that required such membership have been held to be unconstitutional, so there is a compelling argument that such laws still on the books in other states shouldn’t be enforced (as technically, they are Constitutional until a court actually rules otherwise; but practically, these laws would very likely be declared unconstitutional if they were challenged). The problem is, local officials are obligated to enforce current law, and the “compelling argument” is only that—an argument—for what the law should be--not what the law is now. It may be possible to exercise an exemption in states with such laws even if you aren't a member of such an organized religion, but there's no guarantee.

1. Q: What information and details do I need in a religious exemption letter? Mrs. J., June 2004

A: Requirements vary from state to state, and are spelled out in each state’s statutes and administrative regulations. Consult these codes first. If your state requires a letter, include all of what those codes require, and nothing more. See the links state laws on this site for more information. Consider purchasing my e-book or scheduling a consultation for more in-depth information about your rights.

 Alan Phillips, Attorney at, 828-676-2831
© July 2015