500 Rally Over Proposal To Remove Religious Exemption

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Parents who don’t want the government telling them they have to vaccinate their children rallied on the north steps of the state Capitol Tuesday.

“You can still be pro-choice and pro-vaccination so not everybody here is averse to vaccines or their use,” LeeAnn Ducat of Informed Choice CT and a rally organizer said. 

Lawmakers are debating two bills that would remove the religious exemption to vaccines for elementary school children. The bills have yet to make it out of the public health committee. Gov. Ned Lamont supports the measures.

House Speaker Matt Ritter said the plan is to move forward with the bills. 

“It’s hard. It’s an emotional thing. But at the end of the day you have to fall back on science and if this pandemic has taught us anything without science, without scientists doing the things they do it puts a lot of people at harm's risk,” Ritter said.

For lawmakers in favor of the legislation it’s about public health.

Amy Pisani of Vaccinate Your Family said a poll they conducted showed most Connecticut parents want to vaccinate their children. 

Her message to lawmakers: “if they want to be responding and doing what we people who live in Connecticut we want our kids protected in school."

But parents at the state Capitol Tuesday said it’s about religion and government interference. 

“For many people they just don’t want government getting involved in that decision and I don’t think that’s an unreasonable stance to take whatsoever,” she added. 

According to the Department of Public Health,  8,300 children claimed a religious exemption in the 2020 school year. That’s up slightly from the 7,800 who claimed it during the 2019 school year. 

LeeAnn Ducat of Informed Choice CT said the data is flawed.

“We’re finding that many school districts have many many children in the school without the required vaccines, but they don’t have any exemptions on file,” Ducat said. 

She said the state continues to focus on the children with religious exemptions and that’s discriminatory.

“It is about parental choice. Some people choose just to not go as aggressively as the mandated schedule dictates,” Ducat said.

Griff Conti and his husband recently moved from Colorado and they want to be able to make a choice for their son Julien. 

“That’s a personal family decision that should be based on choice. Julien is not informed. We are. We are educated on the subject,” Conti said. 

Julien is almost two years old.  

“If there’s any form of risk for our child we’re going to be responsible and we would like choice,” Conti said.

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