First things first — there should be no exemptions. As far as I’m concerned, if you don’t vaccinate your child you are guilty of child abuse and neglect(unless there is a medical reason not to do so). The government retains an important role in enforcing laws requiring vaccinations. A state law like Mississippi’s (yes, that Mississippi) with only medical exemptions ensures that nearly all kids are vaccinated.
But in the United States, with our separation between church and state, why should only a religious person get special treatment? If a state offers something to someone because a religious belief, shouldn’t someone with an equally sincere philosophical belief be entitled to the same benefit? For example, as currently conceived, if called for military duty in the United States, one does not have to be religious to be a conscientious objector. It would also include “moral or ethical beliefs.”
There actually is a related NJ case from 2014 that touches on this topic, Valent v. Board of Review, Department of Labor. In this case, a nurse who refused to have a flu shot was dismissed from her job and denied unemployment benefits. The court reversed this ruling and granted her the benefits, because to do otherwise would violate the First Amendment.
Under these circumstances, by denying appellant’s application to receive unemployment benefits based only on her unwillingness to submit to the employer’s religion-based policy, the Board violated appellant’s rights under the First Amendment.
On the issue of vaccines, the answer is, of course, easy — no exemptions.