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Moses v. Bayport Bluepoint Union Free School Dist.

February 13, 2007

IN THE MATTER OF STEPHANIE MOSES AND ANDREW J. NAGY, INDIVIDUALLY, AND STEPHANIE MOSES AND ANDREW J. NAGY AS PARENTS AND NATURAL GUARDIANS FOR INFANT SAMANTHA O. NAGY, PLAINTIFFS
v.
BAYPORT BLUEPOINT UNION FREE SCHOOL DISTRICT. DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Hurley, Senior District Judge

MEMORANDUM OF DECISION AND ORDER

Plaintiffs, Stephanie Moses ("Moses") and Andrew J. Nagy ("Nagy") (collectively "Plaintiffs") commenced this action, individually and as the parents and guardian of Samantha Nagy, alleging violations of their First Amendment rightto Freedom of Religion and Fourteenth Amendment rightto Equal Protection arising out of Defendant's denial of their application for a religious exemption to mandatory immunization for their school age daughter.Presently before the Court is the motion of Defendant Bayport Bluepoint Union Free School District (the "District") for summary judgment. For the reasons set forth below, the motion is granted in part and denied in part.

BACKGROUND

The following facts are taken from the parties' submissions and are undisputed unless otherwise noted:*fn1

By letter dated February17, 2004, Plaintiffs wrote to the principal of the Academy Street Elementary School, one of the District's schools. The letter states, in relevant part

Our daughter Samantha Jo Nagy will not receive vaccinations because to do so is contrary to our religious beliefs. Please register our daughter for Kindergarten with this letter completing her files, as vaccination is contrary to our family's religious beliefs.

These beliefs are genuine and sincere, which fulfill the legal requirement for the religious exemption provided by New York State law as set forth in N.Y. Pub. Health L. Section 2164(9).

The District responded by letter dated March 2, 2004 advising the Plaintiffs that pursuant to its policy and practice a meeting was scheduled for March 26, 2004 with the District's attorney and Assistant Superintendent to discuss their request for religious exemption. By letter dated March 6, 2004, the Plaintiffs wrote confirming the March 26 meeting. The letter also stated that the Plaintiffs "would like to be helpful in satisfying the districts [sic] requirements for our daughter's exemption. We want you to be assured that we are sincere in our convictions on this matter." Continuing, the letter cited case law in support of the claim.

The meeting was held on March 26, 2004. The Plaintiffs were cooperative and answered all questions asked of them. The meeting was not recorded and the parties dispute certain statements allegedly made. It is undisputed, however, that 1) Moses stated that her religious beliefs included having empathy for others, being civilized to others, tolerance of others, being true to yourself; 2) Nagy stated that if he needed medication for one or two weeks he would take it because he would want to get better as soon as possible; 3) Nagy stated that taking Novocain is against his religion but he did not want the pain from the treatment and therefore he took the Novocain and simply asked God for forgiveness: 4) both Plaintiffs said they thought immunizations were harmful, and Nagy said they contained ingredients such as mercury which is dangerous if exposed to the bloodstream; 5) neither Plaintiff stated that they were opposed to immunizations because they are made with aborted fetal tissue; and 6) Moses stated that she was opposed to immunization because of her faith in God and we should not interfere with the evolution of the immunization system. It is also undisputed that the Plaintiffs did not state at the meeting that the body and its machinations are divine in nature and did not quote any biblical passages.

On March 31, 2006, plaintiffs' counsel wrote a letter to the District, which was signed by the plaintiffs. The letter sets forth the Plaintiffs' religious beliefs as follows:

I believe in God, the Creator of heaven and earth and all therein. God is the supreme authority over this creation and is all-powerful. We are created in God's image and must not be defiled. As the divine Architect, God designed our bodies to have immune systems, which must not be defiled by immunizations. Immunizations are a violation of God's supreme authority, and therefore, unholy. Since immunizations are "unholy" they violate my religious beliefs.

I believe that God has created us in His image. In being created in God's image, we are given His immune system. We are bestowed with His gift, the immune system. I believe it is sacrilegious and a violation of my sacred religious beliefs to violate what God has given us by showing a lack of faith in God. Immunizations are a lack of faith in God and His way, the immune system. (Complaint Ex. 5.) The letter goes on to cite quotations from the Bible as support for these religious beliefs.

At some point in time, Plaintiffs consented to have their dentist and pediatrician send Samantha Jo's medical records to the District. They were received by the District in June 2004.

By letter dated July 14, 2004, the District advised Plaintiffs that based on their correspondence with the District, the information provided at the March 26, 2004 meeting and Samantha Jo's medical ...


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