SACRAMENTO – An anti-vaccine group and four parents failed to impress a three-judge panel that recently joined with another state appeals court in upholding a 2015 state law that repealed the personal belief exemption to California's immunization requirements for school children.
In its 17-page opinion issued Nov. 20, the California 3rd District Court of Appeal panel found arguments by A Voice for Choice and the parents were "strong on hyperbole and scant on authority." The panel also cited an appeals court decision out of the 2nd District last summer, Brown v. Smith, which dismissed various constitutional challenges to the legislation signed by then-Gov. Jerry Brown in June 2015.
"We agree with our colleagues in Brown that Senate Bill No. 277 does not violate the constitutional right to attend school," the panel in the 3rd District said in its opinion. "We further conclude Senate Bill No. 277 does not violate plaintiffs' rights to substantive due process or privacy. While plaintiffs' free exercise of religion claim was not raised in their complaint, we consider it for purposes of determining whether plaintiffs should be granted leave to amend their complaint. We find any such amendment would be futile because, as the Brown court found, Senate Bill No. 277 does not violate the right to free exercise of religion."
Appeals Court Justice Ronald B. Robie wrote the opinion in which Justice Louis Mauro and Justice William J. Murray Jr. concurred.
The decision is unpublished, which means it is not to be cited or used as precedent in future cases.
A Voice for Choice and the parents filed the case, Love v. Department of Education, in November 2016, more than a year after the legislation that removed almost all vaccine exemptions for children in California attending public and private schools and child care facilities became law. Under the law, only medical exemptions remain.
Plaintiffs in the Love case claim they suffered monetary damages in complying with the medical treatments for their children and that it is illegal to require school-age children receive vaccinations without their parents' consent. The plaintiffs also claimed the law violates due process and equal protection clauses of the 14th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.
Plaintiffs' claim that Senate Bill No. 277 violates their right to free exercise of religion came too late in their litigation, according to the 3rd District's opinion.
"No such cause of action was asserted in their complaint nor were any allegations included in that regard," the opinion said. "While we consider the issue to determine whether plaintiffs should be given leave to amend their complaint, we note plaintiffs cite to only one case in support of their position that Senate Bill No. 277 violates their right to free exercise of religion -- an inapplicable Wyoming Supreme Court case. We agree with our colleagues' detailed discussion of this issue in Brown and their conclusion that Senate Bill No. 277 does not violate the right to free exercise of religion."