by Sarah Ulmer

It’s back before legislators, a bill that would allow religious exemptions for families who disagree with required vaccinations before their children can be permitted to attend school. This year it’s HB1505 authored by Rep. Andy Gipson.

In 1969 religious exemptions were ruled unconstitutional, but since then most states have begun to permit them.


Mississippi, California, and West Virginia are the only states that do not allow for religious exemptions when it comes to vaccinations. According to Rep. Gipson, this is the seventh year the issue has come before lawmakers, and he hopes this year will be the one to see a change.

During a hearing on Wednesday legislators in Judiciary B committee were joined by parents, medical professionals, and children who are on both sides of the issue. The hearing included testimonials from parents who have felt the negative effects of vaccinating.

Amy Martin, a BSN with over 20 years of experience, said her families religious beliefs were violated by the state of Mississippi when she was forced to vaccinate two of her children. Martin said she and her husband felt led by the Holy Spirit not to vaccinate.

Martin had her first two kids fully vaccinated, but as she and her husband did more research into vaccinating, they felt it went against their religious beliefs to do so with their two younger children. Since they refused to comply with vaccination laws, her two youngest are not permitted in any schools in the state.

Dr. Sherry Smith, also a nurse, said early in her career she witnessed many babies struggling after being dosed with the required amount of vaccines. But at that time Smith said, ‘how could she as a young nurse question the guidelines of the CDC?’


It wasn’t until years later when she was required to vaccinate her own children that she admitted to the severe side effects she had witnessed for so many years.

Smith’s 2 month old stopped breathing and almost died after she was given her required shots. Then, her 11 month old was diagnosed with autism shortly after receiving shots.

“It is absolutely unacceptable to force parents to do this. We just want safe vaccines that have been tested where parent’s provide informed consent not coerced consent.” said Smith.

Dr. Mary Currier the State Health Officer argued that while side effects cannot be denied, these vaccinations protect children and adults from disastrous outbreaks of some of these diseases.

Some diseases, like measles, can still cause death in babies. She said that it’s hard to remember the implications of having no vaccinations when outbreaks are not nearly as common as they use to be.

Mathematically, there’s no question that widespread immunization policy works to spread communicable diseases, but what of the potential negative impacts they have on some children who can’t acquire a medical exemption?  And does one parent’s right to not vaccinate on religious grounds infringe on another’s to reasonably protect their child from unnecessary exposure to communicable diseases?

Dr. Jameson Tayor, PHD, with the Mississippi Center for Public Policy, said he began researching the issue before he had a dog in the race, his own children.

“There is not a strong correlation between states that offer religious exemption and immunization coverage. Children will still be safe if exemptions are allowed.” said Taylor.

Taylor, like many of the parents that spoke, reiterated that forcing children to get vaccinated is a violation of freedoms. Many pro-life families are not comfortable with vaccination that are cultured on fetal tissue.

You an view a list of those vaccinations here: CDC vaccine ingredient table

He referenced the National Vaccine Injury Compensation Program that was created in the 1980’s and allows for people to file petitions if they believe they have been injured by a required vaccination. In some cases the program can provide compensation to those individuals.

According the Taylor the program was started after pharmaceutical companies producing vaccines threatened to end production due to the numerous law suits filed against them after negative effects were reported.

It’s been alleged that vaccines can have a serious adverse effect on children and adults, though truly scientific studies have not shown any empirical evidence to support that argument. It was argued, that if neighboring states who are more prosperous and healthier than Mississippi allow an exemption with no major side effects, then why can’t our state?

“House bill 1505 represents the exact same exemption as all our surrounding state’s have and is verbatim the exemption the state of Georgia has in place. Only Mississippi, California, and West Virginia do not have this religious exemption. Many states healthier than Mississippi have this exemption,” said Rep. Gipson.