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Home / Health / The outbreak of chicken pox at the Kentucky's Assumption Academy leads to religious freedom

The outbreak of chicken pox at the Kentucky's Assumption Academy leads to religious freedom



Bill Kunkel used to vaccinate his children before he read where some vaccines came from.

He is skeptical of the motives of the pharmaceutical industry and came across anti-Vaxxer theories on the Internet, although they are not supported by science. But his main objection concerns abortion. Decades ago, cells were taken from legally broken fetuses to make vaccines. Kunkel is Catholic. Vaccines derived from abortion are immoral in his mind, but not in the church.

Therefore, he and his wife decided not to vaccinate their fourth child, Jerome.

Years later, this decision has positioned the Kunkels and their Now 1

8-year-old son as the youngest face of the nation's anti-Vaxx movement – and the tension between individual liberties and the public good. Since February 5, Jerome's catholic K-12 school, the Assumption Academy, has experienced an outbreak of varicella zoster – the virus commonly known as chickenpox.

The Northern Kentucky Health Department intervened and banned un-vaccinated students such as Jerome from the classroom and sporting events until the virus is contained. And Jerome, a senior and the start-up center for the school's basketball team, had to miss the playoff game. His team lost a point and finished the season.

Now the Kunkels are being sued, a move that has brought religion, constitution and health policy into a struggle for church and state.

"This is a tyranny against our religion, our faith, our country," Bill Kunkel told The Washington Post.


Jerome Kunkel, 18, with his father Bill Kunkel. Her family sued the Northern Kentucky Health Department and alleged that the officers violated the rights of Jerome's First Amendment when she expelled him from school and extracurricular activities for failing to receive a chickenpox vaccine.

Jerome Kunkel has no chickenpox but is a civil servant Northern Kentucky Ministry of Health says at least 32 other children have shown symptoms of the highly contagious disease that covers the skin in a blistering rash and causes fever.The varicella virus may be particularly prone to infants, pregnant women or those whose immune system is already compromised be dangerous.

In recent months, health authorities have taken steps to to prevent the spread of the outbreak. First, they announced that unvaccinated students could not participate indefinitely in extracurricular activities, including sports events, because the exposure risk was too high.

On Thursday, they banished unvaccinated students from the school grounds altogether.

The move " was a direct response to a public health threat," said the Northern Kentucky Health Department.

But for the Kunkels, the decision felt personal – a violation of their individual rights and their religion.

] The Kunkels filed their lawsuit with the Boone County District Court Thursday, claiming that the Department of Health in northern Kentucky violated the rights of Jerome's First Amendment. The adoption of the chickenpox vaccine would be "immoral, illegal and sinful," they said after their Catholic faith. The lawsuit also alleges that the health department violated due process when officials issued out-of-school and school-attendance bans without an official emergency, triggering the involvement of the state legislature.

The lawsuit alleges that members of the health department have shown special animus During a one-on-one interview with the Kunkel family, the Kunkels believed that the bans were the result of religious discrimination.

The Kunkels lawyer, Chris Wiest, said he was wanted by more than a dozen other families to have their children brought in as claimants. Wiest said many of the children at the Assumption Academy did not receive a chickenpox vaccine.

"This is a case where the clause on the founding clause is packaged," said Wiest.

Assumption Academy and Our Lady of the Assumption Church officials did not respond to inquiries from The Washington Post.

The Department of Health has issued two statements appealing the claim and denying the allegations, but due to pending litigation, an interview request has been rejected.

The bans are in line with the statutory fee of the Agency for the Protection of Public Health, "the officials said in a statement. The agency also shared copies of three informational letters sent to parents and school staff – on February 5, February 21, and March 14 – to fight something they believe is a misleading narrative, the Wiest and other members of the Community in social media. [19659021] "It is unfortunate that social media is being used as a weapon of disinformation to advance the process agenda and undermine our mission to protect public health," the department statement said.

The Kentucky Statute, which regulates state health authorities, allows health authorities to take action or enact regulations that could prevent the spread or introduction of infectious diseases, including "enforcing quarantines as they see fit."

The law also includes guidelines for the management of public health when religion is a factor "designed to require the immunization of a child whose parents defend themselves against medical immunization against disease and their appeal through a complaint An affidavit to immunize such a child on religious grounds. "

It's about whether the health authorities have exceeded these legal obligations in their quest for public protection.

Kunkel wants the school and health officials to" Watch out for the well-being of the community.

"But Doggone," he said, "they do not have to be tyrants over what they want to do."

The Kunkels Most Recently Began Appeal For months, he asked the school and health officials to end the ban Jerome could finish his senior season, Kunkel said. But health officials refused.

On March 14, the Kunkels filed their lawsuit – and hours later, the Department of Health issued its latest letter stating that students without vaccine protection or immunity to the varicella virus were not allowed to go to school until 21 days after the outbreak broke out last sick child or employee.

Wiest, the attorney, said he has since changed the lawsuit claiming that the last letter was "at the heart of a First Amendment retaliation claim."

A hearing on the lawsuit is scheduled for April 1, when a judge decides on a court order from the Kunkels lawyer requesting that the bans be terminated.

Many parents at Assumption, including the Kunkels, give their verdict on moral resistance of vaccines originating in fetal tissue to Catholic doctrine. However, nearly 15 years ago, the church found that Catholics are morally free to use these vaccines when public health is at risk Those who are not satisfied with the vaccine source to encourage drug manufacturers to develop a version of the vaccine that does not come from broken fetal cells.

The varicella vaccine is derived in particular from the cell lines of two fetuses that were deliberately discontinued in the 1960s. "There are no more abortions to continue these cell lines," said Josh Williams, an assistant professor of pediatrics at the University of Colorado at Denver, who studies the influence of religion on vaccine decisions.

"This underscores the need for us to continue to work with and contact religious leaders to discuss inoculations," Williams said. "Clergy can be really powerful advocates of vaccines."

Kunkel said he knows the decision of the church about fetal tissue vaccines.

"That does not mean anything to me," said Bill Kunkel, "I follow the laws of the church and know what's right and what's wrong."

Abortion is a moral absolute must.

The school canceled classes on Friday and Monday and avoided interacting with reporters during a parent meeting last week on the outbreak.

It is unclear whether vaccinated students return to school this week and how unvaccinated students will begin their studies during quarantine.

Jerome Kunkel said he was not sure how to fill his time He cleaned his car, he said, and would probably practice baseball with a teammate who was also banned from school. Three weeks are too short to get a job, said the high school student. And he's nervous when he's left behind in class.

"He's being punished because he's a healthy kid," said Bill Kunkel. "He may never get chickenpox."

Kunkel said he took part in "chickenpox parties" as a child and took his own children to one of his brother's home with the intention of exposing children to the virus.

But health officials urge parents not to do so because the virus can cause unpredictable and severe reactions. The Northern Kentucky Health Department recommends the vaccine in all letters to the parents of the Assumption Academy.

About 4 million people were infected in the United States each year before the Varicella vaccine was created, according to the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia. Now only 12,000 people get the infection – a drop of about 99 percent.


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