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Colorado

August 12, 2016

State Forces Parents to Violate Conscience

Mike Donnelly MIKE DONNELLY
Contact attorney for Colorado

Earlier this year, Home School Legal Defense Association helped defeat Colorado legislators’ attempts to invade families’ privacy by authorizing the collection and centralization of immunization data via H.B. 1164. Now, overzealous state officials are back at it—this time with an unconstitutional form which may force parents to violate their conscience in order to obtain immunization exemptions for their children.

The form, created in June by the Colorado Department of Public Health & Environment (CDPHE), is mandatory for anyone seeking a non-medical exemption from state immunization requirements. Persons who sign the form in order to obtain an exemption are required to affirm a number of statements which may go against their personal and religious beliefs.

An Unconstitutional Form

On August 9, HSLDA sent a letter to CDPHE, requesting that they modify the form.

“Whether to immunize a child is a medical decision that HSLDA believes is best made by fully informed parents in accordance with the law and without undue interference or burdens imposed by the state,” HSLDA stated.

The letter goes on to say:

This form contains language that requires those filling out the form to either explicitly or implicitly assent to viewpoints with which they do not agree. These include the sentence contained in each antigen exemption box description: “My child/I may be at increased risk of developing . . .” and “Failure to follow the advice of a physician . . . who has recommended vaccines may endanger my child’s/my health or life and others who come into contact with my child/me.”

Citing two Supreme Court cases, HSLDA asserted that CDPHE’s form violates a person’s constitutional rights, which include a person’s right not to speak as well as to speak. Parents should not have to sign a statement that violates their conscience in order to obtain something to which they are entitled.

Additionally, HSLDA questioned the authority of CDPHE to issue the form in the first place, saying that the form goes above and beyond the requirements of state law, which only mandates a “statement of exemption” for homeschool families.

HSLDA concluded the letter by warning that litigation would be necessary if CDPHE does not comply with our request.

Do I Have to Violate My Conscience?

In an email to members in Colorado, HSLDA Staff Attorney Mike Donnelly assured homeschooling parents that they do not have to use the form if it violates their conscience.

“HSLDA suggests that parents (or others) who have an objection to using the CDPHE form continue to use the same signed statement they always have for their respective exemption,” Donnelly wrote. “Although CDPHE considers its form mandatory, HSLDA is willing to defend those whose conscience is violated by the form.”

Donnelly also encouraged administrators of independent private schools to accept parents’ signed statements of exemption as sufficient for exempting their children from immunization requirements.

If you have questions or concerns about CDPHE’s immunization exemption form or about the homeschool regulations in Colorado, please contact HSLDA at 540-338-5600 or info@hslda.org.

HSLDA will continue to post the latest developments in this situation on our Colorado Petition page.