Controversial politician Robert F Kennedy Jr is suing New York over the state’s recent decision to make vaccines mandatory amid its massive measles outbreak, despite his family’s insistence the environmental lawyer’s ideas are ‘tragically wrong.’
Kennedy is an outspoken anti-vaxxer who has written extensively on such widely dispelled notions as blaming vaccines for teen anxiety and depression and mercury in the shots for poisonings and deaths.
In his latest attack on vaccines, Kennedy, alongside lawyer Michael Sussman, filed a class action lawsuit against the state Wednesday on behalf of 55 families, claiming that the vaccine mandate flies in the face of religious liberties.
Meanwhile, 986 cases of measles – which is preventable with the MMR vaccine – have been confirmed in the state, mostly among unvaccinated, insular religious communities.
Robert F Kennedy Jr, an outspoken anti-vaxxer and environmental lawyer has filed a class action lawsuit on behalf of 55 New York families claiming the state’s new legislation banning vaccine exemptions violates their religious rights, despite New York’s 986 measles cases
As anti-vaccination sentiments ripple through the nation, the US is facing the worse measles outbreak its seen in 25 years.
Struggling to stem the spread of the highly-contagious disease, New York quickly pushed a new law requiring all schoolchildren to get their shots through the state legislature last month.
The new legislation did away with the state’s religious exemption to shots, a measure similar to one taken by Maine in May of this year.
Its passage meant that some 26,000 New York children who had been granted shot exemptions were no longer immune to immunization.
The move came after New York City Mayor Bill De Blasio declared a state of emergency and threatened $1,000 fines to any families that refused to vaccinate their children.
Parents of three unvaccinated children have been slapped with such fines.
In April, five parents brought suit against the city’s health department, claiming that it was outside its rights to force them to take their kids for shots.
Now, Kennedy, an environmental attorney, and Sussman, who won a case over Rockland County’s initial religious exemption ban, have filed a class action lawsuit in the New York Supreme Court in Albany.
They claim that the religious exemption ban impedes First Amendment rights to freedom of religion.
In a statement accompanying the filing, Sussman said that the state is depriving ‘families of the rights to the freedom of religious expression, failing to meet the criteria for doing away with the exemption and acting with ‘hostility’ toward religions.
Kennedy, who happens to be New York Governor Andrew Cuomo’s former brother-in-law, called the move ‘unconstitutional.’
‘To enact such harsh legislation without any legislative fact-finding, and with the legislators’ open display of prejudice towards religious beliefs different than their own, is simply un-American; it is essential that we fight this,’ he said.
For this case, he’s stuck to concern over religious freedom.
But in the past, it’s been quite explicit that he takes issue with vaccines themselves.
In March, Kennedy tweeted recent statistics on teen depression and anxiety, asking, rhetorically, ‘shouldn’t we ask whether these trends are associated with the neurotoxic aluminum we are giving kids in the Gardasil vaccine?’
Even Kennedy’s sister, Kathleen Kennedy Townsend brother, Joseph P Kennedy II, and his niece, Maeve Kennedy McKean, have rejected his anti-vaccination crusade, calling his views ‘tragically wrong’ in a Politico op-ed.
Kennedy also made his objections heard at a Washington state hearing on its ban of philosophical vaccine exemptions, which came after the state’s own measles outbreak sickened over 80 people, mostly children.
On the steps of the courthouse yesterday, Kennedy had fiery words about the New York religious exemption ban.
‘In this case there is no science, just bigotry,’ he said, according to reporting from the New York Daily News.
Kennedy and Sussman have requested that the state issue a temporary injunction to honor the exemptions and shield the plaintiffs from fines while the lawsuit is pending.