A Kentucky teenager is reportedly suing his local health department for not allowing him to play basketball due to his refusal to get a chicken pox vaccine.
Jerome Kunkel, 18, has filed a lawsuit against the Northern Kentucky Health Department after an outbreak of chickenpox took place at his school, the Assumption Academy, which is associated with Our Lady of the Sacred Heart Church in Union, KY. After 32 cases of chickenpox were reported at the school, the NKY Health Department said that any unvaccinated students would not be allowed to attend school until 21 days after the onset of a rash on the last student or staff member.
Kunkel filed his lawsuit against the health department because he's disappointed that he can't attend basketball practice for his senior year, because he refuses to get the chicken pox vaccine. As a practicing Catholic, he says he cannot get the vaccine because it is "derived from aborted fetal cells" which he considers "immoral, Illegal and sinful," according to his lawsuit.
"The fact that I can't finish my senior year of basketball, like our last couple games is pretty devastating," Kunkel told CNN. "I mean you go through four years of high school, playing basketball, but you look forward to your senior year."
Some Catholics, like Kunkel, take issue with the fact that some vaccines were derived from cells taken from two fetuses who were aborted in the 1960s. The National Catholic Bioethics Center notes that a tiny sample of these cells were multiplied to create viruses that were, in turn, used to develop vaccines. Today's vaccines, however, are far removed from those cells because the cell lines have "grown independently."
Some vaccines have alternatives that have no history of connection with those 1960s cells, but one does not exist for chickenpox.
"And of course, we as Christians, we're against abortion," Jerome's father Bill Kunkel said.
The NCBC adds that Christians are "morally free to use the vaccines regardless of its historical association with abortion," because the risk to public health posed by choosing not to vaccinate "outweighs the legitimate concern about the origins of the vaccine." Pope Benedict XVI has even encouraged Christians to vaccinate their children.
The Kunkel family, however, said they feel the NKY Health Department is trying to push the chickenpox vaccine on them and they don't want to comply.
In response to the lawsuit, the NKY Health Dept. told Fox News that they were simply doing their job in trying to keep the public safe.
"We are aware of the lawsuit filed by Jerome Kunkel, and want to state that the actions taken by the Health Department with respect to Assumption Academy were done consistent with this agency’s statutory charge to protect the public health," a department statement said. Though NKY Health Dept. added it couldn't comment on an ongoing lawsuit, the statement said that individuals, including Kunkel's attorney, "have taken to social media to spread misinformation as part of their litigation strategy."
The statement continued: "Chickenpox, also known as varicella, can be a very serious illness that is especially dangerous for infants and pregnant women or anyone who has a weakened immune system. The recent actions taken by the Northern Kentucky Health Department regarding the chickenpox outbreak at Our Lady of the Sacred Heart/Assumption Academy was in direct response to a public health threat and was an appropriate and necessary response to prevent further spread of this infectious illness."