The Defender is experiencing censorship on many social channels. Be sure to stay in touch with the news that matters by subscribing to our top news of the day. It's free.

Connecticut is the latest battleground state in the fight to preserve parental rights and the religious exemption for vaccines.

In 2015, then House Majority Leader and now Speaker of the House Matthew Ritter told a group of advocates, “the religious exemption will be gone in five years.”

Since that day, parents and religious leaders have scrambled to stay ahead of every legislative attempt to thwart proper legislative process in an attempt to prevent state lawmakers from repealing Connecticut’s religious exemption.

In recent years, several legislative bills have aimed to erode religious and parental rights They include: bills to allow minors to prophylactic treatment for sexually-transmitted diseases (i.e. HPV and hepatitis B vaccines); bills that would require additional signatories for religious exemptions; and then in early 2020, HB-5044, a bill to repeal the religious exemption entirely.

HB-5044 achieved the longest public hearing in Connecticut history. Of the 5,000 people who attended, more than 600 signed up to testify, and 88% of all testimony opposed the bill.

The Public Health Committee ignored the overwhelming opposition and voted the bill out of committee, putting it to the entire legislature for a vote. While on pins and needles about the outcome, the unthinkable happened — the world shut down, killing the bill.

Now, after an incredibly tough year and catastrophic hardship to children, Connecticut lawmakers, instead of focusing on real public health emergencies, have prioritized kicking kids out of school if their families oppose vaccination on religious grounds.

Lawmakers have introduced two bills to remove the religious exemption, SB-568 and HB-6423. In both cases, lawmakers cite flawed data to support the bills.

On Feb. 16, the Public Health Committee, composed of 22 Democrats and 11 Republicans, held a 24-hour virtual public hearing, breaking the 2020 record for the longest hearing in the state’s history. Out of the 1,931 people who registered to testify, the committee permitted only 236 to be heard. Of those, 226 — all but 10 — opposed the bills.

More than 1,500 people were denied the opportunity to speak due to the committee chair’s arbitrary time restriction. Parents, medical professionals and even children from all racial, political and socio-economic backgrounds participated.

As of today, both bills await a vote in the Public Health Committee. Most observers believe the bills will pass out of committee along party lines and move to the House and Senate floors by the end of March.

Connecticut advocates are fighting to protect their rights with the help of many groups: Informed Choice CT, Health Choice 4 Action CT, CT Freedom Alliance, First Freedoms and the newest group, Connecticut Residents Against Medical Mandates, a group that built a membership of 13,000 in just three months.

Since March 2020, the Connecticut Capitol Complex has been closed to the public. Legislators have been working remotely, without any in-person engagement with the public.

In an all-virtual legislative session, advocates have had to find creative ways to contact legislators, including using petitions as one of the only options to have a voice. More than 11,000 residents signed a petition to prevent the public hearing from being held virtually, and more than 15,000 let their senators know they don’t support either SB-568 or HB-6423.

In addition, on one of the rare days legislators will be at the Capitol, advocates will hold a rally to be seen and heard. “The Final Stand” rally will take place March 16, when representatives will go to the Capitol to vote on other bills on the House calendar.

Connecticut advocates invite friends from all over to join in the rally to protect religious freedom. Media and documentary makers will be present.

If you want to help preserve religious and parental rights in the Constitution State, here’s what you can do:

Sign “5 Reasons To Veto, a Petition to Governor Ned Lamont” no matter where you live, as what happens in Connecticut will affect people in all states. The petition is a simple list.

  1. The repeal is unnecessary: School vaccine mandates and religious exemptions co-exist without harming public health, according to Connecticut’s own school survey.
  2. Substantial use of fetal cell lines in vaccines alone makes this a legitimate religious issue. Protecting religious liberty is a compelling state interest.
  3. Mandates violate the state and federal rights to prior, free and informed consent.
  4. Mandates violate international human rights standards that prioritize the individual over the interests of science or the society.
  5. Repealing religious liberty creates religious refugees within the United States, forcing families to move to states that better respect religion.

Please help keep Connecticut as a place where people of all faiths will want to live. Please sign for every member of your household, even children, and share with others.