Letter to the Editor

Confusing religion with self-centered individualism

We have an opportunity to strengthen our vaccine policies and protect our most vulnerable neighbors.

Unfortunately, religious freedom and personal choice have been the central themes expressed by the opposition to proposed legislation in our state that seek to eliminate the “religious exemption” while strengthening the medical exemption that currently exists. Religion has been co-opted in the argument as more parents choose to opt out of life-saving vaccines for personal reasons. Under current law, parents may submit a form or write a letter claiming a religious exemption without the endorsement of any religious leader.

Given that consideration for others lies at the heart of so many faith traditions, this preoccupation with the self is very concerning — especially during a pandemic. Comprehensive vaccine programs are the cornerstone of good public health, protecting communities by ensuring the wellbeing of our most vulnerable neighbors.

Our faith informs our sense of responsibility to one another. Herd immunity is the resistance to the spread of a contagious disease within a community when a sufficiently high proportion of individuals are immune because of vaccination. One might say that we have a moral responsibility to work toward herd immunity.

Unfortunately, in some parts of the United States, including most recently New York, non-medical exemptions were used to skip vaccines for measles. The largest measles outbreak in the country led to swift action in New York where lawmakers revoked the non-medical exemption for mandatory school vaccinations.

At the recent public hearing before the Public Health Committee, we heard from parents who moved to our state because of the action in New York. We must not face a similar crisis here in Connecticut, in the name of religion. It is our responsibility to speak up and be heard when the actions of a vocal minority are putting others at risk.

We are the community. We are the herd. And we must do our part to ensure the wellbeing of our most vulnerable neighbors. The General Assembly should do its part and remove the religious exemption. We all must do our part to care for one other.

The Rev. Curtis Farr, Rector, St. Paul’s Episcopal Church, Fairfield

The Rev. Alice Mindrum, Priest Affiliate, St. Paul’s Episcopal Church, Fairfield

The Rev. Kevin Olds, Rector, St. Timothy’s Episcopal Church, Fairfield

The Rev. Cass Shaw, President & CEO, The Council of Churches of Greater Bridgeport

Rabbi Evan Shultz, Senior Rabbi, Congregation B’nai Israel, Bridgeport

The Rev. David Spollett, Pastor, First Church (UCC), Fairfield

The Rev. Edrice Viechweg, Deacon, St. Paul’s Episcopal Church, Fairfield

The Rev. Peggy Hodgkins, Rector, Trinity Episcopal Church, Southport