Supreme Court Denies Religious Freedom Challenge, Disappointing Advocates

By: David Donovan | Last updated: Jul 08, 2024

The U.S. Supreme Court has rejected a religious liberty case against a Connecticut law that was passed in 2021 and centers on an exemption for faith from vaccinations and immunizations.

This new denial lines up with a string of controversial Supreme Court judges, especially Justice Samuel Alito, whose feelings about religion have drawn criticism that they could sway the court’s decisions.

The Connecticut Law

A regulation canceling the state’s earlier waiver from immunization prerequisites for students was endorsed in Connecticut in 2021. Individuals can no longer be exempt from the childhood vaccination requirements of public schools, childcare facilities, and other institutions.

New Haven Union Station in December 2016

Wikimedia Commons user Pi.1415926535

Parents had the choice to give their children a strict exclusion from having these inoculations before the entry of this regulation.


Receiving Immunizations

Connecticut requires specific immunizations before permitting children to go to class. However, for medical reasons, there may occasionally be exceptions.

COVID-19 vaccination point in the sports hall of the Sports Center of the Medical University of Gdańsk - internal view.

Wikimedia Commons user LukaszKatlewa

Religious exemptions were eliminated by the 2021 legislation. As a result, numerous opponents of the recent legislation have claimed that it has restricted their freedom of worship.

Reduced Rates of Vaccination

This law was passed during the COVID-19 pandemic when it became clear that a lot of people were applying for religious exemptions, which was causing a noticeable drop in vaccination rates in Connecticut schools.

person in white long-sleeve protective covering holding a needle vaccinating someone

Unsplash user matnapo

In addition, caregivers have been informed about recent outbreaks that are solely the result of students failing to receive the recommended vaccinations at the time the legislation was enacted.

A Single Exemption

Although new children registering in Connecticut institutions must demonstrate that they have received the required doses of polio, mumps, and chickenpox vaccines, the statute allows for a single exemption.

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Unsplash user notethanun

Current K–12 students who have been granted such faith-based exemptions from vaccination do not need to get vaccinated. They will not be affected by this legislation.

Connecticut: The Fight

We The Patriots USA, an association that has effectively challenged other immunization orders across America, quickly documented protests against this bill.

We The Patriots USA promotional image for Mid-year Giving Appeal 2024

X user WTPatriotsUSA

The association contends that this guideline abuses their freedom of religion and rather creates animosity toward the state’s religious populace.


The Supreme Court's Choice

The case was turned down by the Supreme Court, which maintained the decision of a federal appeals court. The Connecticut statute is maintained by this decision.

Brian Festa posing with a woman in front of a We The Patriots USA photocall

X user WTPatriotsUSA

Brian Festa, VP and co-founder of We The Patriots USA, has communicated frustration over the Supreme Court’s choice.


We the Patriots USA Statement

In the wake of the Supreme Court decision in the religious exemption case, We the Patriots USA released a statement expressing their disappointment.

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Source: Paul Weaver/Unsplash

“In a disappointing turn of events, the U.S. Supreme Court this morning issued an order denying certiorari review in our lawsuit to restore religious exemptions for schoolchildren in Connecticut,” said the June 24 statement.


Sad Day For Liberty

The statement goes on to frame the Supreme Court decision as a terrible day in the fight for religious freedom in the country.

A view of the U.S. Supreme Court in the daytime.

Source: Fine Photographics/Unsplash

“It is a sad day for health freedom and religious liberty in America, as the Court today also denied review in two cases brought by Children’s Health Defense, one against Rutgers University over its COVID-19 shot mandate, and the other against the FDA challenging its licensure of the covid shot for children,” said the statement.


Court Not Interested in Facts

We the Patriots USA were confounded by the court’s decision not to take up the cases they had been pushing for despite their best efforts.

A hand is hitting the gavel on a black. The surface is dark brown and the block is lighter. The judge is wearing a black robe.

Source: Katrin Bolovtsova/Pexels

“It seems clear that the Court is not willing to take up these cases at this time, no matter how well-pled the complaints, or how compelling the facts,” the group said.


Not Backing Down

Despite this setback, We the Patriots USA emphasized that hope was not lost, saying there is still reason to remain determined.

An open book resting on a stone with a fall forest background

Source: Aaron Burden/Unsplash

“But WE WILL NOT BACK DOWN, and we will not lose hope. We know that there is a Divine plan in all of this, and that ‘all things work together unto good’ (Romans 8:28). Even in this loss, in fact, there is some good news,” said the group.


Some Good News for Religious Freedom

We the Patriots USA would go on in their statement to assert that the case has not been fully dismissed, which will still allow them an avenue forward.

A large Christian cross stands against a cloudy blue sky, symbolizing faith and religion in a vast natural setting

Source: Aaron Burden/Unsplash

“Our case against the State of Connecticut to restore religious exemptions was not fully dismissed by the Second Circuit, which allowed one of our claims to proceed – i.e., that a child with an Individualized Education Plan (IEP) is entitled to an education under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA),” said the group’s statement.


Hope For Children With Disabilities

The group is hopeful that if they are able to win this trial they can secure health freedom for children with disabilities.

A diverse group of young students engaged in classroom activities with papers and colored pencils on their desks

Source: CDC/Unsplash

“The Second Circuit sent this claim back to the district court for trial, but it has been on hold pending the outcome of our cert petition at the Supreme Court. If we are able to win this trial, children with disabilities on IEPs could receive an education and vital support services, regardless of vaccination status,” said the group.


Other Trials

In the meantime, Festa has made it clear that he still has lawsuits against this Connecticut statute pending against it. One of the lawsuits was brought for the benefit of a Christian preschool and childcare center.

We The Patriots USA booth set up at a convention

X user WTPatriotsUSA

Festa expressed that We The Patriots USA practice was not tying up all their assets in one place and battling simultaneously on various fronts.


Road to Opt-Out

By focusing on other cases, We the Patriots USA thinks it can still accomplish one of its goals despite the recent Supreme Court decision.

Road lines diverge down a snowy path.

Source: Karsten Winegeart/Unsplash

“If we are ultimately victorious in these two cases, students with disabilities and students at private religious schools would be able to opt out of vaccinations and receive an education in Connecticut. A victory in either of these cases at the Second Circuit would also apply to students in New York, which lost its school religious exemption in 2019,” said the group’s statement.


Door is Open

We the Patriots USA admit that a victory achieved in this way will be less broad than hoped for, but could still benefit possibly millions of children.

A blue door opens to the world outside.

Source: Jan Tinneberg/Unsplash

“Although it’s not the broad, sweeping victory we were aiming for, these cases could still open the door for hundreds of thousands – if not millions – of children to receive an education in New York and Connecticut,” the group’s statement said.


Stand With Us

The group advised its supporters to not give up hope and ended the statement with a call to action, encouraging people to stay involved.

A person with their hands clasped over an open bible that is on a wooden surface.

Source: Patrick Fore/Unsplash

“So we are asking that you please continue to stand with us. We are engaged in a prolonged war to regain health freedom and religious liberty for as many children as possible. This was just one loss in a single battle, and does not define us. We still have much work to do,” said the group. “God bless you. Stay strong.”


Respecting the Law

In the interim, Democratic Attorney General William Tong has praised the Supreme Court’s decision, which upholds the law’s validity as confirmed by the appellate court.

William Tong making a speech as his family stand to the side on a stage

X user WilliamTongCT

As indicated by Tong, there will be no further difficulties with Connecticut’s indispensable and legitimately mandated vaccination laws. He went on to say that the parties have always argued, and the courts have upheld, that Parliament did what it was supposed to do in order to protect Connecticut families’ health and stop the spread of diseases that could have been avoided.


Supreme Court and Religious Liberty

In light of the numerous allegations leveled against Justice Alito, many opponents of the Supreme Court have expressed surprise at the court’s decision to dismiss an appeal concerning religious freedom.

President Donald J. Trump watches as U.S. Supreme Court Associate Justice Samuel Alito swears-in new Secretary of Defense Mark Esper Tuesday, July 23, 2019, in the Oval Office of the White House.

Flickr user The White House

He is currently under heavy fire as a result of the presence of two contentious flags above his residence. During the Capitol riots on January 6, Christian patriots and agitators are said to have taken one of these flags, known as the “Appeal to Heaven” flag.


Secret Alito Tapes

Recently, there has arisen additional debate regarding Alito because of the divulgence of audio recordings of the judge explaining what he believes in private.

With President George W. Bush Looking on, Judge Samuel A. Alito Acknowledges his Nomination as Associate Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court, 10/31/2005

White House Photo Office

In light of those tapes, Alito appeared to agree with somebody who said that America needs to return to a “place of godliness.”


Nothing to Say From the High Court

At the point when the judges of the High Court uncovered that they had rejected the appeal in the religious freedom case, none of them offered a clarification for their choice.

The Pearl Harbor Memorial Bridge (also known as the Q Bridge) in New Haven lit red, white, and blue.

Flickr user Dannel Malloy

Christian conservatives who agreed with Alito during the latest legal disputes might be frustrated by the court’s choice. 

This is especially true if they were hoping that the Connecticut regulation would be overturned.


Religious Exemptions in America

Currently, there are 45 states that grant some form of religious exemption to those who oppose immunizations. 15 states allow philosophical exemptions for children because of personal or moral beliefs.

An open Bible photographed on a dark surface, highlighting religious texts in faded pages

Source: Aaron Burden/Unsplash

In recent years, some states started removing these exemptions as vaccines became a controversial political topic.


Removing Exemptions

In addition to Connecticut removing religious exemptions for vaccine requirements in 2021, there were other states that did the same previously.

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Source: Benny Rotlevy/Unsplash

New York and Maine both removed religious exemptions for public school immunization requirements in 2019. That same year, Washington removed personal belief exemptions for measles, mumps, and rubella vaccine requirements.


Expanding Exemptions

While the recent trend seemed to be going towards removing religious exemptions, in recent months Montana has been considering the opposite in response to children who are immuno-compromised or have special needs.

Young children engaged in play on a colorful rug with various toys in a daycare setting, showcasing early childhood education and playtime activities

Source: BBC Creative/Unsplash

In Montana, a proposal was revived last year to extend religious exemptions in response to there being only a handful of providers in the state that could enroll unvaccinated kids in childcare facilities.