(CN) - Requiring the vaccination of all children attending New York public schools does not violate the constitutional rights of their parents, the 2nd Circuit ruled.
"Plaintiffs argue that a growing body of scientific evidence demonstrates that vaccines cause more harm to society than good, but as Jacobson [v. Massachusetts] made clear, that is a determination for the legislature, not the individual objectors," the unsigned opinion published Wednesday in Manhattan states.
Jacobson, a U.S. Supreme Court from 1905, holds that compulsory vaccination does not violate an individual's due-process rights, given the state's interest in protecting the population as a whole.
Dina Check, the plaintiff who challenged the New York law at issue on the basis of her Catholic beliefs, testified that medical treatment should be "strictly by the word of God," and that vaccines could hurt her daughter.
A federal magistrate in Brooklyn denied Check's daughter an exemption, however, citing "compelling evidence that plaintiff's refusal to immunize her child is based on medical considerations and not religious beliefs."
The judge pointed to Check's own "testimony that she did not adopt her views opposing vaccination until she believed that immunization jeopardized her daughter's health."
Check later filed an amended complaint with Nicole Phillips and Fabian Medoza-Vaca, other parents whose children received religious exemptions but were excluded from school during an outbreak of chicken pox, per another state regulation.
The District Court granted the state summary judgment, and the 2nd Circuit affirmed that finding Wednesday, citing Prince v. Massachusetts, a 1944 decision by the Supreme Court.
This case holds that a parent "cannot claim freedom from compulsory vaccination for the child more than for himself on religious grounds. The right to practice religion freely does not include liberty to expose the community or the child to communicable disease or the latter to ill health or death,'" the ruling states.
A law requiring the vaccination of all children to attend public school, regardless of religious beliefs, would be constitutional, the court found.
"New York law goes beyond what the Constitution requires by allowing an exemption for parents with genuine and sincere religious beliefs," the judges wrote.
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