For action there is an equal and opposite reaction. I’m pretty sure I just made that up, and as a science blog, I’m sure you readers will let me get away with that assertion. Anyway, while that may be Newton’s Third Law of Gravity, I find it a scientific way of saying the more poetic, “What goes around come around.” And in Kentucky, we’re seeing a version of that axiom play out, kind of pitch perfectly.
For the life of me, I will never understand anyone not vaccinating their children. Vaccines save lives, don’t cause autism, because that’s not even a thing, and they are vital to keeping our herd immunity up, which keeps the chances of us dying from an infectious diseases incredibly low. But here, in a country that values the freedom to be religious as we do the freedom to not be religious, we often find ourselves giving allowances to people who put themselves, their kids, or the population at risk due to their “deeply held” religious beliefs, and sadly vaccines are one of those things in America that we grant such leeway on.
I guess the thinking is that since the orthodox religions that are anti-vaxx are so small, they don’t pose a big threat to the rest of us. I don’t think that’s good enough, but I see the logic. The problem is when people who are anti-vaxx because of their religious beliefs try to keep participating in stuff we vaccinated folk are doing, like attending school.
That is precisely why a Kentucky health department recently issued an edict that students who are not vaccinated cannot attend school or play sports. It’s honestly such a no-brainer decision that the only reason we found out about it is that Jerome Kunkel, an anti-vaxxer member of an orthodox Catholic church, sued the health board to allow him back onto school grounds and into the sporting events he wanted to play in.
His father explained their religious-based objections to the vaccine earlier this year when the lawsuit was filed.
“It’s not a hard dilemma here, you know,” Kunkel’s father, Bill, said after a court hearing Monday. “If you’re against abortion, you’re against this vaccine.” (Source)
I don’t know about that, Bill. My parents are as pro-life as they get…which is a whole other mess in my life, but they still got their kids vaccinated against everything they could. Not everyone’s religious beliefs make them kooky enough to eschew basic biology that we all learn in high school.
The health department only decided to ban unvaccinated students because there had been an outbreak of chickenpox in the area, but that didn’t stop Kunkel from playing the martyr, of course. He sued the school board, citing his family’s religious reasons for not vaccinating against chickenpox. Apparently there are some Catholics who are so anti-abortion that they don’t get the chickenpox vaccine for their kids because it was developed over 50 years ago using the cells of aborted fetuses.
Luckily, thankfully, the Kunkles’ suit was dismissed. At some point, the health and safety of the irreligious have to also come into consideration. The Kunkle family was making the assumption that their right to practice their religion trumped the rights of other kids to be free from deadly diseases, and that’s just insanity.
There’s an epilogue, as it turns out to this story, as well. This past week, the Kunkles’ lawyer says that Jerome came down with chickenpox. And if you were wondering if they’d be smugly indifferent to their kid getting a disease that now greatly increases his risk of getting adult onset shingles, you will not be disappointed, fam.
“These are deeply held religious beliefs, they’re sincerely held beliefs,” family attorney Christopher Wiest said. “From their perspective, they always recognized they were running the risk of getting it, and they were OK with it.” (NBC News)
Yes, I’m sure “God” is super proud that their kid got infected with something that modern medicine could’ve prevented because his parents took a stand over two fetuses that were aborted last century. Can you all hear my eyes rolling from where you are, because they just rolled so far back, it felt like they were going to fall out of the back of my head.
Imagine if Jerome had been infected but not banned from school. Imagine how many others he’d have put at risk of contracting chickenpox. And now you know why the school banned him and others like him. So the kid who wasn’t vaccinated go the disease his religious beliefs kept him from getting vaccinated against.
There’s certainly a sense of justice there, no doubt, but this story couldn’t demonstrate the awesomeness and effectiveness of vaccination if it were some made for TV drama, written by Hollywood’s best and brightest. Jerome Kunkel perfectly represents the idea that we have vaccines for a reason, and that reason is keeping us from getting diseases we don’t want.
Here’s hoping for a speedy recovery for Jerome, and for him to see the light, of vaccination, not God, before he goes and procreates himself.
Writer/comedian James Schlarmann is the founder of The Political Garbage Chute and his work has been featured on The Huffington Post. You can follow James on Facebook and Instagram, but not Twitter because he has a potty mouth.