Robert F. Kennedy Jr. sues New York in attempt to stop state from outlawing religious exemptions to vaccinations

ALBANY — Prominent anti-vaxxer Robert F. Kennedy Jr. filed a lawsuit on Wednesday on behalf of 55 families to overturn a new state law that bars parents from refusing to vaccinate their kids on religious grounds.

Dozens of parents and kids packed a courtroom at the Albany County Supreme Court as Kennedy joined attorney Michael Sussman, who argued that the measure conflicts with state and federal law.

The law, requiring all schoolchildren in the state to be vaccinated, even if parents have religious objections, was passed by the state Legislature last month amid an ongoing measles outbreak centered around ultra-Orthodox communities in Brooklyn and Rockland County.

“What’s at stake here in New York is of profound importance to entire nation,” Sussman said after the hearing. “Without religious liberty, which is a bedrock principle of our country, we flounder, founder, and we violate critical rights of thousands and thousands of people in this state.”

Justice Michael Mackey said he will issue a decision on the group’s request for a temporary restraining order, halting the enforcement of the law while the court case plays out, on Friday after Attorney General Letitia James’s office has time to submit paperwork.

Kennedy said the lawsuit was about religious freedom and accused lawmakers of discrimination.

"There are protocols in New York State dealing with the measles outbreak and those protocols were never used, instead they used the legislature to jam through a bill abolishing religious exemptions, not just for the MMR (measles, mumps, rubella), but for 70 other vaccinations that have nothing to do with measles.

“In this case there is no science, just bigotry," he added.

The measles outbreak was the worst the U.S. has experienced in decades and led city officials to declare a public health emergency and fine parents of unvaccinated children $1,000 for not complying with the order.

Kennedy and others members of the burgeoning anti-vaccination movement were a common sight in the state capital during the recently ended legislative session as they attempted to convince lawmakers to oppose the measure tightening the state’s immunization laws.

At a May rally outside the Capitol Building, Kennedy, Gov. Cuomo’s former brother-in-law, linked vaccines to everything from arthritis to attention-deficit disorder.

On the day the bill passed, protesters in the Assembly gallery erupted in jeers and expletive-laden taunts.

Many of the so-called anti-vaxxers believe a government conspiracy is at play to protect pharmaceutical companies while others question the safety of inoculations, claiming without evidence that there is a risk of autism related to vaccines.

Jamie Tillery, an Albany mom now living in Massachusetts, attended the hearing with her husband and two unvaccinated children.

“They’re trying to take our rights away. It’s not OK, not OK,” she said. “They have no say what we do with out children, absolutely not.”

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