I wanted to pass this along to others in Vermont who are facing the possibility of having to sign the new vaccine exemption forms for a religious or philosophical exemption:
Dear Vermont Vaccine Choice Advocate,
I would like to take this opportunity to notify you that a group of coalition members (I, and others) met with a constitutional lawyer yesterday (8/28/2012). This attorney confirmed for us that the new Religious and Philosophical Vaccine Exemption Form is a clear violation of the First Amendment of the US Constitution. As you know, the First Amendment allows us the freedom of speech, and the ability to say (almost) anything. It prevents the State from forcing us into saying something we do NOT want to say.
The form itself, which was promulgated by department of health using language that was set out in Act 157, has three bullet pointed statements. While the first bullet point is not problematic, the second and third bullet points are problematic. If you are concerned about this violation to your free speech, our attorney has advised us to share with you that there are easy ways to correct this situation.
Firstly, you might consider delay in sending anything until you are requested to do so. Secondly, you might consider sending in the old form (found here). And finally, if you are presented with the new form and told you must sign as a condition for your child to attend school, one way to protect your rights would be to strike "I understand" from the second and third bullets, and replace with, "I understand that the Vermont Department of Health states that"; another way to protect your rights would be to sign it and then underneath your signature line to write, "Signed under protest as to the items above. I understand that the state believes the above statements, but I disagree with their assertion."
The above guidance should suffice to protect your right to free speech, which the state cannot interfere with, should you be asked to sign the new form. We are aware of many people who will be following this guidance, should they be required to sign the new form. Please, KEEP a COPY for your records of the form you sign and submit.
We prefer not to be forced into court and hope that we might find other remedies in fixing this important threat to our right of free speech. Nevertheless, our attorney is "on standby" in case anyone needs help in defending the "I understand that the Vermont Department of Health states that" ("mark-up" actions), so please let me know immediately if you have any issues. Our organization can take donations (click here), and these donations will be used towards Legal Defense and PR/Advertising should the need arise.
We sincerely hope that this update is helpful. Please keep us informed should you have any issues.
Vermont Director of Advocacy, NVIC