Carroll Conley's Testimony
Chairpersons Millett and Kornfield, distinguished members of the Educational and Cultural Affairs Committee, thank you for the opportunity to speak against LD 798, An Act to Protect Maine Children and Students from Preventable Diseases by Repealing Certain Exemptions from the Laws Governing Immunization Requirements.
My name is Carroll Conley, and I am the Executive Director of the Christian Civic League of Maine. Our organization doesn’t take a position regarding vaccinations. Personally, I was vaccinated as a child, and my wife and I chose to vaccinate our children. In addition to the ambiguities and broad scope of this legislation, our opposition is based upon the proposed bill’s disregard for two bedrock foundations of America: religious freedom and parental rights.
There are times when parents’ rights to raise their children according to their faith or conscience come into conflict with a compelling interest of our government such as public safety or public health. Historically, our highest courts have always put the onus on the government to execute its interests in the least restrictive means ensuring that religious freedom and rights of conscience are jealously and sacredly guarded. This bill’s wholesale elimination of any and all religious exemptions is anything but the least restrictive means.
The courts have consistently steered clear of evaluating whether or not proclaimed religious convictions are reasonable or popular. The fact that proponents of LD 798 are questioning whether or not there are grounds for genuinely or sincerely held beliefs regarding vaccinations runs contrary to the courts approach.
While Maine is one of the least churched states in our country, that does not mean our citizens do not hold religious and spiritual convictions. Neither is the absence of specific doctrine in some organized religions or hierarchical denominations regarding vaccinations relevant to this question. The fact that someone attends a church of a particular denomination doesn’t translate to 100% adherence to that denomination’s teachings – – especially when we’re talking about independent Mainahs.
I’d like to close my testimony with a quote from what many scholars consider to be one of the Supreme Court’s most important cases and one of its finest hours. The state of West Virginia was compelling young Jehovah’s Witness students to recite the Pledge of Allegiance against their families’ deeply held religious beliefs. In the majority report of West Virginia vs. Barnette, Justice Robert Jackson wrote, “If there is any fixed star in our constitutional constellation, it is that no official, high or petty, can prescribe what shall be orthodox in politics, nationalism, religion, or other matters of opinion, or force citizens to confess by word or act their faith therein.”
I urge you to respect the rights of Maine’s parents and vote ought not to pass for LD 798.
Mike McClellan's Testimony
Senator Millett, Representative Kornfield, and esteemed members of the Joint Standing Committee on Education and Cultural Affairs, my name is Mike McClellan, and I am the Policy Director for the Christian Civic League of Maine. Today I speak to you to strongly urge you to defeat LD 798, An Act To Protect Maine Children and Students from Preventable Diseases by Repealing Certain Exemptions from the Laws Governing Immunization Requirements. The Christian Civic League, founded in 1897, is a nonpartisan, nonprofit research and education organization dedicated to the preservation of the family and Christian values.
The Christian Civic League of Maine is not against vaccinations, and I personally am not against vaccinations. It is easy to document that they have helped humanity. We are against this legislation in part because of the ambiguity and broadness of the language. We are certainly against this legislation as it clearly seeks to remove religious rights and sincerely held philosophical rights of the people of Maine. These are rights that did not come from the State of Maine, and the State of Maine has no right to take them away. To take even one of these rights would be a far overreach by the state but to seek both in one bill is incredible.
I have heard the argument that it has been said that no Church doctrine speaks to vaccinations. I would point out that many churches in Maine are non-denominational and many of us know that from the beginning of the Church, it was not the building or a place that was viewed as the Church, but each individual believer/person was truly the Church. Another gift to us from God. We each then, coming together, hold some things to be sacred truth, others debatable. I see the use of vaccinations on our children as a religious belief that not all hold… but important because some do.
A few years ago the League supported LD 426, sponsored by Rep. McCrea. It sought to allow people who had a religious belief to not wear the color hunter orange but instead wear red. The League supported this legislation not because it was in our own belief system concerning what colors to wear but because it was a sincere religious belief to some. Please understand, our religious beliefs and rights would have been weakened if we chose to not support all religious beliefs and rights.
In closing, there are so many quotes concerning religious freedom from our founders, here are two: Founding Father James Madison, said “No power over freedom of religion (is) delegated to the United States by the Constitution.” Thomas Jefferson said “Rightful liberty is unobstructed action according to our will within limits drawn around us by equal rights of others. I do not add within the limits of the law because law is often but the tyrant’s will, and always so when it violates the rights of the individual.”
It is clear that the founding fathers viewed the rights on each individual to be sacred. Please join me and vote against this legislation – vote Ought Not To Pass on LD 798! Thank you for your time and consideration today.