The state of Colorado violated parents’ First Amendment rights by making them sign an immunization exemption form that said they were harming their children, critics say.
“That (phrasing) amounts to compelled speech,” state Senator Kevin Lundberg told Denver’s KMGH-TV.
In August, the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment began forcing parents who wanted to exempt their children in school from vaccinations to sign a form that read in part: “For nearly all children, the benefits of preventing disease with a vaccine far outweigh the risks. Declining to follow the advice of a health care provider, or public health official who has recommended vaccines may endanger an unvaccinated child’s health and others who come into contact with him/her.”
That language troubled many parents.
“The wording compels parents to have to admit something that isn’t true,” said Nathan Charlan, a parent and a member of a group called CitzenGo. “It’s language that forces a parent to admit that they’re somehow putting their child in danger, because they are choosing what they think is best for their own child.”
Several organizations, including CitizenGo and the Home School Legal Defense Association (HSDLA), complained that the form violated parents’ First Amendment rights to free speech.
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The HSDLA went so far as to threaten to file a federal lawsuit against the state. It also created an online petition that collected 16,000 signatures.
Eventually, the state gave in to pressure and took out the controversial language.
“I just don’t believe big government should be telling me what I should or shouldn’t do with my child,” said Charlan’s wife, Renee, “especially with the thing that we’ve gone through with my son, who has a significant disability.”
Nathan told KMGH, “Our son (9-year-old Zak) was born premature. He received his normal vaccination up until he was six months old. At six months, he started having seizures.”
HSDLA has abandoned its threat of a lawsuit but it is still unhappy with the form that the state is using. Its website says the state agency is unlawfully:
- “seeking to impose a mandatory official immunization exemption form.”
- “collecting immunization information through web forms connected to the Colorado Immunization Information System.”
Homeschool children must follow Colorado’s mandatory vaccination law if they participate in public school activities like sports.
The form allows parents to opt out of immunizations for personal or religious beliefs.
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