Published September 13, 2010
A New York couple is suing a Catholic high school for refusing to grant a religious exemption that would allow their 14-year-old son to enroll in ninth grade without state-required vaccinations, claiming immunizations are a "violation of God's supreme authority."
Andrea and Paul Polydor, of Garden City, believe human bodies "should not be defiled by vaccines," according to a complaint filed in Nassau County Court against Kellenberg Memorial High School in Uniondale.
They claim their son -- identified in the seven-page lawsuit as "JP" -- should be granted an exemption to public health laws that require children to be inoculated for diseases including mumps, measles, rubella, hepatitis B and others.
"[W]e are all created in God's image," reads a letter the Polydors sent to the school on Feb. 13, according to the lawsuit. "Therefore, we must not defile our blood and our bodies with diseases and other impure substances. As the divine Architect, God designed our bodies to have immune systems that must not be defiled by vaccines. Immunizations are a violation of God's supreme authority, and therefore, unholy. Since immunizations are unholy they violate my religious beliefs."
The Polydors also claim that using vaccines would show a "lack of faith in God, and His perfectly designed immune system," according to the lawsuit.
School officials rejected the parents' claim, saying state law requires students to receive inoculations.
"State law is very strong and very clear in its requirement that the appropriate Certificate of Immunization and record of Physical Examination must be on file at Kellenberg Memorial High School before a student can begin attending class," the school wrote in a letter it sent to the Polydors on June 7, according to the lawsuit. "[T]here is no religious conflict to this important public health concern."
But public health laws allow for exceptions for "children whose parent, parents, or guardian hold genuine and sincere religious beliefs which are contrary to the practices herein required, and no certificate shall be required as a prerequisite to such children being admitted or received into school or attending school," according to the complaint.
The Polydors are seeking a temporary restraining order and permanent injunction ordering the school to accept their son, who is attending ninth grade at the school in the interim, their attorney, Patricia Finn ,said.
She said the Polydors have 30 days to comply with the state's public health laws pertaining to vaccinations.
"At this time, we are in negotiations with the school," Finn told FoxNews.com. "[School officials] are making further inquiries, but it is quite likely the child will continue school there because [the Polydors] do have a valid and sincere religious belief contrary to vaccinations."
Claire Pospisil, a spokeswoman for the New York State Department of Health, said state law requires all students -- including those at private schools -- to be immunized. Families can be exempted on religious grounds, but those exemptions are not automatic, she said.
"If a student feels that they should be exempted from being immunized, they can provide the school -- and it can be a private or a public school -- with the information on why they believe they are eligible for a religious exemption," she said. "And then the school would review the information to determine if it's granted."
Pospisil continued, "If [school officials] don't feel that there is a legitimate reason for the request, than they don't have to grant it. They don't have to automatically grant it -- it has to be reviewed."
Finn declined to indicate which vaccinations "JP" did or did not have as of this week, but she said she was confident the matter would be settled shortly.
"I believe the matter will be settled because I am confident the family and the school and the archdiocese are acting in the best interest of the child," she said. "There's no reason to think otherwise."
Finn continued, "Can the archdiocese or any school have a blanket policy that refuses to extend religious exemptions when the legislature and the New York public health laws say you can have an exemption if you have a sincere religious belief contrary to the practice of vaccinations?"
But Judge Andrew Napolitano, Fox News' senior judicial analyst, said the suit is unlikely to succeed in court since the school at question is a private entity. It would be much more likely to prevail in court if the school was public, he said.
"[The Polydors] have freely chosen to go there, they've accepted the conditions to go there," Napolitano told FoxNews.com. "In my opinion, the lawsuit is frivolous and will be dismissed."
The Polydors were unavailable for comment, according to Finn. School officials did not immediately respond to a message seeking comment.