A Catholic teenager who has never received a vaccination for the chicken pox out of moral objection to its apparent ties to abortion is not allowed to go back to school, a judge ruled Tuesday.
"It’s my understanding that the vaccine is derived from aborted fetal cells,” said plaintiff Jerome Kunkel, according to WLWT. "And it is against my religion. Abortion is against my religion.”
Christopher Wiest, Jerome’s lawyer, said his client was “devastated” by Tuesday’s ruling, according to USA Today.
The teenager was banned from attending classes and extracurricular functions, such as athletic events, after a chicken pox outbreak occurred at his high school Assumption Academy in Walton, Kentucky.
The Kunkel family did not vaccinate Jerome due to moral objections after finding out about a link between aborted fetal matter and the chicken pox vaccine. As noted by KHN Morning Briefing, "The Varicella vaccine, specifically, is derived from the cell lines of two fetuses that were electively aborted in the 1960s."
The Northern Kentucky Health Department intervened on March 14 to ban unvaccinated students, such as Jerome, from such school functions.
“Chickenpox is raging through Assumption Academy in the Boone County city of Walton. Since early February, more than 30 students, or 13 percent of the student body, have developed the highly contagious illness,” reported the Cincinnati Enquirer in mid-March. “Officials with Northern Kentucky Health Department ordered school events canceled until the outbreak is brought under control.”
Though Jerome was still handing in his school assignments, he was losing out on the full learning experience by being barred from the classroom, he said. And as the varsity basketball team’s starting center, he missed a season-ending playoff loss by one point, according to The Washington Post.
The family filed suit, arguing their son’s First Amendment rights were infringed, and, as noted by the Post, the suit alleges that the health department “violated due process when officials enacted the extracurricular and school attendance bans without declaring an official emergency.”
Wiest noted that the department’s rationale for banning unvaccinated students was ineffective. "The chickenpox order makes no sense," he argued. "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.”
“This is tyranny against our religion, our faith, our country,” Bill Kunkel, Jerome's father, told the outlet.
According to Law & Crime, parents in the state are permitted to opt out of such vaccines for religious reasons, but with the disclaimer that their child "may be subject to exclusion from school, group facilities or other programs, if the local and/or state public health authority advises exclusion as a disease control measure."
Fifteen years ago, the Catholic Church permitted Catholics to use the vaccine if there’s a threat to public health. “That doesn’t mean nothing to me. I follow the laws of the Church, and I know what’s right and wrong,” the boy’s father said of the Church’s stance, before adding that abortion is a “moral absolute,” according to the Post.