Medicine ruled a family affair

A federal judge has ruled in favor of families whose religious faith is opposed to immunizations for their children.

Wyoming officials had made hepatitis B vaccination shots mandatory for entry into the public school system. But some parents refused, saying they objected on religious grounds, and that administrative hearings held to determine their sincerity about the issue violated their constitutional right to freedom of religion.

The Wyoming Supreme Court barred the state from holding such hearings.

Debbie Cooper, who has three young children, said Tuesday that she was pleased that the issue had also been approved by the federal judge.

"I think most parents kind of have an instinct for what is best for their children," she said.

Steven H. Aden, a lawyer for the Rutherford Institute, a Washington, D.C., civil rights organization which aided the parents, said the hearings probably marked the first time in American history that a state had required residents to prove their "religious sincerity."

"We thought that had gone the way of the Inquisition," he said.

The state Health Department had made the vaccinations mandatory, contending that too many non-immunized children would endanger other children.

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