Anti-vaccine mom says “the devil” causes disease

I’ve written before about the anti-vaccine movement in America. About how we’re now seeing an increase in diseases that can be prevented by vaccinations, such as measles, chickenpox, and whooping cough. I’ve also weighed in on the spurious claim that vaccines cause autism.

This post is about the US and Croatian legal systems, and how each has responded to parents claiming the “right” to not vaccinate their children.

Vaccine-truthers in NYC

Recently a judge in New York City made a ruling against a group of anti-vaccine parents.

In NYC, parents are allowed to request that their unvaccinated children be allowed to attend public schools. A child is allowed to remain unvaccinated provided that the parent(s) have either provided a statement that their religious beliefs don’t allow the children to be vaccinated, or if they have a letter from a doctor giving a medical reason that the child shouldn’t be vaccinated. The letter then goes to the school board which can then either accept the child, or prevent him from attending. If an unvaccinated child is admitted, he must be sent home and kept home if there is a case of a disease in his school that he might be susceptible to, because of not being vaccinated.

Vaccine, vaccination, shot, health care, disease, bacteria, sick

Vaccine via Shutterstock

With the recent upsurge in cases of measles, chickenpox, whooping cough and other communicable diseases, some of these unvaccinated children were prevented from attending school for a month at a time. Parents of the children sued, claiming that their First Amendment rights to freedom of religion, and Fourteenth Amendment rights to equal protection under the law, were violated.

The parents also raised some other legal points. One of the parents in the suit stated her beliefs:

Ms. Check said she rejected vaccination after her daughter was “intoxicated” by a few shots during infancy, which she said caused an onslaught of food and milk allergies, rashes and infections.

Combined with a religious revelation she had during the difficult pregnancy, she said, the experience turned her away from medicine. Now she uses holistic treatments.

“Disease is pestilence,” Ms. Check said, “and pestilence is from the devil. The devil is germs and disease, which is cancer and any of those things that can take you down. But if you trust in the Lord, these things cannot come near you.”

The judge ruled against them. He cited a decision by the Supreme Court in which the Court ruled that the government could require immunizations of unvaccinated people to help protect public health.

Vaccine-truthers in Croatia

Croatia recently took a more forceful tack. A group of about 10,000 Croatians signed a petition. They wanted to be able to NOT vaccinate their children. The petitioners felt that vaccination was a risk to their children’s health.

Croatia’s Constitutional Court heard the case and reached a decision. The Court said in its ruling:

“The child’s right to health is more than the rights of parents to the (wrong) choice.” All children must now receive shots for DPT (diphtheria, pertussis, tetanus), polio, haemophilus influenza B, MMR (measles, mumps and rubella) and tuberculosis.

Essentially, what the court said was that the parents’ beliefs that vaccinations could harm healthy children were incorrect, and that allowing the parents to withhold vaccinations from their children would lead to a risk of harming those children. That’s a pretty forceful statement. By by writing that decision, the Croatian court system has made the future of its children better and more healthy.


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Mark Thoma, MD, is a physician who did his residency in internal medicine. Mark has a long history of social activism, and was an early technogeek, and science junkie, after evolving through his nerd phase. Favorite quote: “The most exciting phrase to hear in science... is not 'Eureka!' (I found it!) but 'That's funny.'” - Isaac Asimov

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  • vincenzajlogsdon

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  • docsterx

    I used the link and got access to the whole article. It does look like there may be a relationship between pesticide exposure and autism. But the research doesn’t demonstrate causality between the two. There may be other factors that were not studied or that may be unknown. But it’s certainly thought-provoking. There will probably be more research in the future that may prove a definitive link between the two.

    Thanks for providing the url!

  • Force Crater

    Wrapped in flag and carrying a bible protected by corporate personhood. All the rights (and then some) and none of the responsibilities. What happens when a human incorporates? Will that make us created equal again? Enterprising lawyers should find out.

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  • http://buddybest.tripod.com/index.html BuddyNovinski

    Louis Pasteur had the same problems with the Catholic hierarchy, which is why he was virtually agnostic at death.

  • http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bcrEqIpi6sg Moderator4

    Yes, Colin let us know that he used to be PappyVet, but wanted a change.

  • Thom Allen

    Is that you, pappyV, masquerading as a Druid?

  • 1jetpackangel

    Well, this was in the comments: http://ehp.niehs.nih.gov/1307044/

    It’s almost bedtime so I’m not really at my brightest right now, so forgive me if I misread you.

  • docsterx

    DK links to an article from the “Office of Medical and Scientific Justice” a site run by an “investigator” who lists no formal scientific training. The article there describes the effects of organophosphates in general, but doesn’t link to any hard data. Organophosphates, in high enough doses can be fatal to humans. The OMSJ site DOES link to a site, “Natural News.” Natural News says in its “About” section that “Natural News is a science-based natural health advocacy organization led by activist-turned-scientist Mike Adams, the Health Ranger.” The “Health Ranger” offers no information on how he turned into a scientist (no list of any degrees he holds in anything.) The article on that site talks about 25 Indian children dying from organophosphate poisoning because the cooking oil used in their food prep was laced with organophosphates, NOT from crop spraying or contact with small amounts of the pesticide. This article doesn’t link to the Indian story itself. Neither article mentions anything about autism.

    Neither of the information in these articles is documented with a single reference to any scientific study linking OPs to autism. There is a lot of sensationalism on both sites (more so on Natural News) of the type “Woman Eats Alien Baby” as might be found in the National Enquirer.

  • 1jetpackangel

    Hey Doc, I saw this on DKos a little while back, and was kinda surprised it hadn’t shown up around here. Your thoughts?

    http://www.dailykos.com/story/2014/06/23/1308929/-Study-links-autism-to-pesticides-I-d-like-to-know-if-Monsanto-funds-the-antivaxxers-now

  • http://www.rebeccamorn.com/mind BeccaM

    Well done.

  • crazymonkeylady

    Willful rejection of science is the real devil.

  • vickif

    You got that from Dr Who didn’t you? I remember the episode with Queen Victoria.

  • http://wicca.com/celtic/wicca/wicca.htm Colin

    You mean they’re not !

  • http://www.rebeccamorn.com/mind BeccaM

    She’s not a Lizard Woman? Huh.

  • http://www.rebeccamorn.com/mind BeccaM

    The ‘miracle’ is modern medicine.

  • Mike F

    We were thisfuckingclose to eliminating polio from this planet, then our government and the CIA came along and pissed off everybody who hadn’t yet been pissed off in Pakistan. We have come a mere 70 to 100 years, depending on the disease, from a time when the mere mention of cholera, yellow fever, polio, measles and numerous others struck fear into the hearts of mothers everywhere. And yet…yet, now we have these corrupted fools whose backward and selfish views threaten to bring us right back to the time when entire cities could be threatened with the ravages of epidemic.

    These retrograde, brainwashed automatons are a threat to public health, and they should be dealt with accordingly.

  • http://www.rebeccamorn.com/mind BeccaM

    The most enraging part for me in their misogynistic ruling was when they said it didn’t even matter if the religious belief was based in reality or fact.

    I mean, they might as well have said, “Yes, we know the plaintiffs have insisted there are tiny, living demons inside contraceptive pills, demons which can be seen by the naked eye if you look closely enough. But even though observation proves there are no such demons, the asserted belief the demons exist and are real is reason enough to grant an exemption.”

    I mean, the contrast (and contradiction) between the legal rationales could not be more clear. Beliefs that vaccines cause autism (and other neurological disorders) are demonstrably and scientifically false, and therefore are not sufficient reason to grant blanket exemptions. Beliefs that contraceptives cause abortions are demonstrably and scientifically false, yet ARE sufficient reason to grant exemptions.

    (Next up: “Your Honor, the defendant believes invisible sky pixies clean the air every night and furthermore they live on soot and carbon emissions. So therefore my client has every good reason to dump pollutants into the air as quickly as possible. Because those sky pixies are starving! Oh, and they love methane — it makes them talk funny and have you ever heard a sky pixie on methane giggle? It’s adorable. Or so I’ve been told by my client, who converted to Sky Pixieology just last month.”)

  • Denver Catboy

    “The devil causes disease…”

    Hey, lady. The 1600s called. They want their silly superstitions about disease back…

  • http://www.rebeccamorn.com/mind BeccaM

    Men can get vasectomies, and these days they can be set up to be reversed without much risk of loss of fertility.

    Oddly enough, Hobby Lobby (and their co-plaintiffs) never objected to coverage for that.

  • Jim

    Great post the only thing I would change is this is not a woman’s issues this is a human rights issue and needs to be framed as such to get real movement here. Men suffer too from the lack of female access to birth control. Color me skeptical that there will be a male pill in the next few decades that is as effective as the pill is even if used wrong. When people are in committed relationships it basically only woman that can take a birth control method that will keep both from parenthood. Because seriously the next person that says they enjoy sex with a condom with be the first person in history to say that.

  • Colin

    Well Sis, if they can no longer burn you at the stake they will burn you with their laws. That is why I say that I rejoice at some of our recent victories but will not lock away the battle gear just yet.
    What the Supreme Court said yesterday was that a person’s CHRISTIAN belief natters more.

  • Jim

    Sure Seymour Hersh uncovers real conspiracies. But, what he does not do is make a youtube video or comment on other youtube videos or use the word Sheeple. Or go I don’t like group A and company B so conspiracy. Or profit motive so it must be a conspiracy.
    Take the conspiracies about vaccines. Its amazing that not one person in the whole market has come forward with real evidence that they are some plot by the UN to take over the world. Its amazing because most of the people in the market do not work for the ebil BIG PHARMA. Do pharmaceutical companies do shady stuff yes but they are not hiding the ALL NATURAL GLUTTEN FREE cure to cancer. The reason they don’t cure diseases is not because they lose out on the money in long term treatment its because its really hard to cure diseases. The companies that still have an antibiotic units have them as charity at this point as there has not been a major break though in decades and none are on the horizon.
    Then you have the GMO/Global Warming conspiracies which are mirror images of each other. Those that think GW is a hoax think the whole scientific community has been bought off while those that think GMO are dangerous think Monsanto has bought off all the scientific community. Never mind that neither makes sense. The big coal and petro companies are the biggest companies on Earth they sure have a lot more money to spend on your next grant then government grants. And on the flip side Monsanto is fairly small. Shell alone makes more in revenue in 2 weeks then Monsanto does in a year.

  • http://www.americablog.com/ Naja pallida

    It’s the old story of the man in the flood, repeatedly denying help from people as the water rises because he says ‘God will save him’. When he finally drowns, in heaven he asks God why he didn’t save him, and God says: I sent you three boats, and a helicopter, what the hell more do you want?

    Expecting a miracle to save your child from illness is ridiculous, when there are methods to do so right in front of you.

  • http://www.americablog.com/ Naja pallida

    Alito’s legal gymnastics in the ruling were juvenile, at best. The majority opinion should have been written in crayon. The old “because we said so” reasoning, so fond of by six year olds, with yet another attempt to deny the use of this ruling as precedent in any other case. Which in itself should be a giant red flag as to the ridiculous nature of the ruling. If your ruling is so pathetic that no one else should ever use it as precedent, it was the wrong ruling. In the end, it’s just going to result in a thousand other law suits of rich people trying to impose their beliefs, religious or otherwise, on their employees. All we can hope is that lower courts throw them out before they get far.

  • http://www.rebeccamorn.com/mind BeccaM

    Some of those, perhaps — I’m sure they’d love to be able to fire gay employees in states that have state-level ENDA laws.

    But they’d never, ever fire a man for having a vasectomy. Why? Because their case, and that of all their other co-plaintiffs, never included an objection to male contraceptive methods.

    Remember, we’re talking Ala Carte Christianity here. Don’t expect them to be consistent. It’s who they want to oppress, not the justifications they use.

  • Thom Allen

    Will this decision embolden Hobby Lobby to: fire unwed mothers, discipline masturbators, not serve gays, forcibly convert atheists, not hire women who have had tubal ligations or men after vasectomies?

  • nicho

    And there are a lot of conspiracies out there. One of the major victories of those behind conspiracies is to convince the Sheeple that anyone who tries to expose the conspiracy is some kind of nut.

  • http://www.rebeccamorn.com/mind BeccaM

    And yet just yesterday, America’s Supreme Court said that it was an acceptable exercise of religion to interfere with women’s access to certain medicines and medical treatments based on a false understanding as to how those medicines and treatments work. Specifically, to assert that contraceptives are immoral because they cause abortions even though they don’t.

    The court majority even went out of its way in its ruling to say it didn’t matter whether the belief was factual or not, only the assertion of belief mattered.

    On the other hand, we are talking women’s rights versus everything else here… They even went so far as to say their ruling wouldn’t apply to vaccine laws.

    I wonder how they’d rule if there was a case involving the HPV vaccine — because it seems the Christofascists object to that on moral grounds, too.

  • Thom Allen

    Some of those who do have scrotums seem to be lacking in scrotal contents.

  • http://heimaey.us/ heimaey

    The ones with scrotums would.

  • Indigo

    I sense that the Supreme Court would be comfortable with that superstition.

  • Colin

    Does the devil cause disease? Well yes if the devil is stupidity and paranoia.

    In the 15th century if your crops failed it was caused by the town widow and her cat. If you became ill you were bled in an attempt to drain the evil. In the early 20th century there were numerous devices of quackery that guaranteed cures for almost everything. There is no god with decidedly Caucasian features hanging around waiting to cure anything. When there is some tragedy and only one survivor it is said that god has a plan for that person. And those other people , those mothers and fathers and yes children what of them? Trash in god’s eye? It is said that at the ‘end times’ god will allow all manner of evil to have reign. Too late. Been there , done that with the burning times with auschwitz and bergen belsen with Polio and a thousand other horrors. God did not step in , we did. Cool heads and full hearts did. Kill most of the ‘evil’ cats and what happened? Plague. Allow god to cure your child and what happens? Sick and dead children.

  • http://parkandbark.wordpress.com/ Houndentenor

    Most conspiracy theories are harmless. If you want to believe that Queen Elizabeth is really a reptilian that’s your business. Not vaccinating your children puts not only those children but everyone else’s children at risk of diseases that ought to have been eradicated. This is far worse than the usual nutty conspiracy theory.

  • Elijah Shalis

    Truthers tend to believe in conspiracy theories.

  • nicho

    Strike the word “truther” from your vocabulary. It’s a word made up by the PTB to denigrate anyone who won’t accept the “official” government story on things. Our government hasn’t told us the truth about anything in decades, but if you doubt the official story, you’re a “truther.” Only truthers don’t believe that Saddam had WMDs.

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