Thursday, August 29, 2019

What's Wrong with Religious Exemption?

Trigger warning:
My article below challenges the prevalent assumption that the state may mandate vaccination. I am NOT anti-vax, but just anti-coercion and pro-bodily-autonomy. If you find this view offensive or disturbing and would like to continue living in blissful ignorance while the very underpinnings of free society are under attack, then please don't read this:

What's Wrong with Religious "Exemption?"
Mandatory Vaccination and the Nuremburg Code

Part I:

There's something deeply troubling about the whole debate over "religious exemption" from mandatory vaccination.

It avoids the real elephant in the room.

Who granted the government the authority to mandate vaccination in the first place?

What happened to bodily autonomy?

Some point to the fact that the state doesn’t coerce anyone to vaccinate, and as such, doesn’t technically violate anyone’s autonomy.

Of course, this is a specious argument. Mandatory vaccination effectively bars a child from school. Depriving a child of an education is coercive. Education is a right, not a privilege.

For a working single mother, homeschooling is simply not an option. For many couples who both work, staying home to homeschool children condemns their family to indigence. This “non-compulsory” law forces them to choose between vaccination and poverty.

How can free society tolerate such cruel and intolerant policy?

Some folks argue that personal freedoms must be restricted (read: violated) when there's a public safety risk.

Their reasoning: measles can be deadly, and an unvaccinated child is at greater risk to contracting the dreaded disease and spreading it further to others. Since this child arguably poses a risk to the community, they argue, he may be barred from the public whose safety we are trying to safeguard.

The problem is that infringing in individual’s rights in the name of public welfare is risky business. We’re treading on thin ice, constitutionally-speaking.

Let’s first assess the actual risk that this one child poses. She is presently healthy, indistinguishable from a vaccinated child. The fear is that there is a higher statistical possibility that she may contract an infectious disease.

This reasoning might also lead us to conclude that children from ethnicities who have higher incidents of juvenile delinquency may be barred from society too. After all, a student from such ethnic and socio-economic backgrounds surely increases the statistical risk for school violence.

Muslim children may be barred from schools too, since they are certainly at higher risk of radicalization and jihadism.

Where do we draw the line?

Is the threat of measles more lethal than that of school shootings or suicide bombings?

Nevertheless, irrational fear of disease seems to provide excuse to curtail individual freedoms more so than other security or safety concerns.

The loudest voices in our society justify the banning of the unvaccinated due to public safety risk.

Public health outweighs an individual’s rights, they argue.

I'd assume these same people enthusiastically support the NSA recording our conversations and so-called concentration camps at the border, both of which supposedly exist to protect the public.

However, that's not the case. These same outspoken proponents of mandatory vaccination are oddly silent when it comes to the state suspending other civil liberties.

Instead, they often protest these government abuses, yet nod in approval when unvaccinated children are barred from school. 

[Even more inexplicably, they'll clamor for the rights of unvaccinated migrants (and their unimpeded integration into American society) yet advocate sequestering unvaccinated children of U.S. citizens.]

So I ask them: why do you believe individuals are any less entitled to medical freedom than they are freedom of mobility, speech, or expression?

You'll fight for a woman's right to wear hijabs, in spite of conceivable possibility that she's hiding a weapon underneath, but have no qualms forcing her to submit to bodily injection in the name of preventing potential harm to the public!

You deplore "apartheid” policies that exclude Arabs from crossing a border to mitigate security risks, but cheer when unvaccinated children are shunned from the public, banned from school, treated like pariahs and untouchables... all because they supposedly pose a public health risk!

I’ll be the simple son and ask the obvious question: why is this apartheid different from all other apartheids?

When NYC fines people for not complying with mandatory MMR, you cite increased risk of measles from unvaccinated population.  Yet you'd deplore racial profiling or biased attitude towards any minority group, even if there were indeed increased risk of violent offenders coming from that particular minority population.

You have zero tolerance for bias against LGBTQ people but plenty of tolerance for bias against unvaccinated people.

You’ll champion a woman's inviolable right to consent yet turn a blind eye when teen-age girls are penetrated with an intravenous needle under duress! Poked and force-injected with someone else's bodily fluid (i.e. that of aborted babies, not to mention monkeys and other mammals)!

You’ll stand up for a woman’s choice to kill her 9-month-old fetus but reject her choice to decline the Hepatitis-B vaccine for that same baby one day later!

Why the double standards?

Why are you okay with infringing on individual's civil liberties only with regards to vaccines?

Who gave the state exclusive rights to our bloodstreams!?

It’s irrelevant that there’s a vaccinating majority. Since when do we condone dictatorship of the majority? 

We simply cannot tolerate such egregious violations of individual citizens’ rights. There's too much at stake.

Bodily autonomy is sacrosanct. An individual's right to medical choice is inviolable.

This is the USA, land of the free!

Not only may we not force-vaccinate anyone, neither may we ostracize them for not being vaccinated.

That’s Jim Crow laws revisited.

We may not bar children from schools. It's no different than barring African Americans from schools for phony excuse of "keeping the neighborhood safe."

Unvaccinated children are just as human as your own, and they are entitled to an education!

A school that will not accommodate all healthy children should not be allowed to accommodate any children. 

There can be no tolerance for such discriminatory policies in free society.  

So that brings me back to my problem with "religious exemption."

Why does anyone need an "exemption" in the first place?

Any person should be fully entitled to decline ANY medical procedure, no questions asked.

The state may enforce seatbelts, motor-vehicle or aviation safety, consumer protection, etc., but they may not force-medicate healthy individuals. That’s a red line that must never be crossed.

Part II:

Years ago, while we weren't paying attention, the government insidiously usurped our freedoms by enforcing mandatory vaccination policy, while tossing us a conciliatory doggy bone, so-called "religious exemption." That enabled individuals to decline, but for specifically-religious reasons only.  

Shockingly, “non-religious” individuals were never afforded such a “privilege.” Moreover, an individual could only cite uniquely-religious reasons, and was often harassed by his own coreligionists who disputed his right to his own religious beliefs!

Fast-forward to the present. Now we have an outrageous situation in which self-proclaimed religious experts ridiculously profess expertise on every known religion on earth. These so-called spiritual leaders claim that there are no valid religious reasons for declining vaccination ever.

New York state legislators were only too eager to follow suit and eliminated religious exemption altogether, banning some 35,000+ children from school in one fell swoop.

What is the reaction from the freedom-loving people of New York State?

Silence, complacence, and indifference.

Shameful, appalling and deplorable.

Truth is, however, that the population has been unsuspectingly indoctrinated over the course of many years, ever since mandatory vaccination was introduced, even throughout the time that religious exemption had been honored.

Zealous efforts to ensure “herd immunity” have led to “herd thinking.” No one is permitted to question the state-imposed vaccination paradigm. My goodness, independent thinking is viewed as a “public health risk” and suppressed! Anyone who questions the state’s mandate to vaccinate the population is roundly tarred and feathered in the name of “protecting public health.”

Despite their best of intentions, the champions of “public health” have sadly trampled our First Amendment rights in the process.

My friends, it’s time to take back the narrative and reclaim our autonomy.

Your body belongs to you and you alone. No one may dictate what you inject into yourself.

Doctors may encourage vaccination, and surely you ought to consider their advice and possibly comply, but that is YOUR decision and no one else’s.

Yes, it’s possible that if the unvaccinated population increases, some diseases might return.

Unfortunately, there’s nothing we can do about that, short of vaccinating ourselves and your children.

We may NOT vaccinate other people’s children.

If we allow that, then we are no longer a free country, but a police state.

We will have lost everything.

As Patrick Henry famously cried, “Give me liberty or give me death.”
Is measles worse than death?

(Parenthetically, has there been even one death in the recent measles outbreak in the US? 1,203 cases so far this year, but not a single fatality. Please remind me why measles is so dreaded...)

I’d rather deal with measles than with a dystopian police state, the risk we take if we don’t stymie the government’s efforts to restrict our free choice and bodily autonomy.

Let’s review the opening lines of the Nuremburg Code:

The voluntary consent of the human subject is absolutely essential.
This means that the person involved should have legal capacity to give consent; should be so situated as to be able to exercise free power of choice, without the intervention of any element of force, fraud, deceit, duress, over-reaching, or other ulterior form of constraint or coercion; and should have sufficient knowledge and comprehension of the elements of the subject matter involved, as to enable him to make an understanding and enlightened decision.

Vaccination ought to be a matter of “enlightened decision,” not a “forced” decision made “under duress” by “overreaching” government. Barring children from school amounts to coercion and cannot be tolerated.

Let’s all wake up now before it’s too late.

Yes, religious freedom is under attack in the Empire State and throughout the country.

Under the law, religion is defined as “personal, strongly held beliefs,” not necessarily related to organized religion.

It’s no coincidence that our founding fathers enshrined it in the very first amendment.

When government attempts to tamper with it, all freedom is lost. It is the beginning and end to our cherished liberties, and we cannot afford to lose it.

We already began to forfeit our freedoms when we tolerated state-imposed mandatory vaccine schedule.

Religious freedom is our last stand, so to say.

It’s time for every freedom-loving citizen to stand up to defend it, irrespective of one’s opinions on vaccines.

This is not about vaccines. It’s about preserving the essence of who we are as a nation.

G-d bless America, and G-d bless our freedoms.

Thursday, August 15, 2019

15th of Av and Religious Exemption

Happy 15th of Av!
This day is celebrated by Jews worldwide since antiquity. Never before has this special day had as much timely relevance as today, as the fate of religious exemption hangs in the balance.

Why? Let's first consider the five happy events that occurred on this date in Jewish history.
    1. The dying of the generation of the Exodus ceased. Men in their sixtieth year – who were thought to have been doomed to perish in the desert – were forgiven and allowed to proceed to the Promised Land with the new generation. G-d began to lovingly communicate with Israel via Moses once more, after 38 years of not doing so.
    2. Tribes were permitted to marry within one-another. Prior to that date, during the early times of conquest and settling of the Land, a woman who had no brothers was not permitted to marry outside of her tribe, since her heirs would then be members of their father’s tribe. Such a marriage would eventually cause the transfer of land from one tribe to another (see Numbers 36). On the 15th of Av, this rule was repealed, and women inheriting land were permitted to marry men from other tribes.
    3. On this date circa 1200 BCE, the Tribe of Benjamin, which had been excommunicated and alienated from the other tribes due to the incident of the “Concubine at Gibeah” (Judges 19-21), was welcomed back into the community of Israel. Men from Benjamin were once more permitted to marry women from other tribes. 
    4. After the death of King Solomon, the ten northern tribes rejected the kingdom of Judah to form their own breakaway kingdom. Roadblocks were built to prevent citizens of the northern Kingdom of Israel from making pilgrimage to the Holy Temple in Jerusalem, the capital of Judah. On this date, 15 Av (in 574 BCE), these divisive barriers were finally removed by Hoshea ben Elah, the last king of the northern kingdom, who opened the roads to Jerusalem
    5. On the 15th of Av (in 148 CE) the corpses of the many thousands of residents of Betar (slain by the Romans after the Bar Kochba rebellion) were finally allowed to be buried by their fellow Jews.

Do you see the common theme here?
Each of these events signified reconciliation and reunification after a period of alienation and estrangement.

  • The generation doomed to die in the desert was forgiven and permitted join the new generation, and Israel was reconciled with G-d once more.
  • The barrier of patrimonial inheritance laws that had once divided the tribes was now repealed, and all Israel could unite through marriage.
  • After years of alienation, Benjamin and the Tribes reconciled and reunited through matrimony.
  • After two centuries of restrictive barriers, Israel could once more join their brethren to the south and reunite with G-d in the Holy Temple.
  • The bodies of the slain Jews could finally be laid to rest in proper Jewish burial, a posthumous reunification with their people.
And now, on the 15th of Av of this year (August 16, 2019), we yearn for reconciliation and reunification yet again.
Sadly, several months back, thousands of Jewish children were wrongly banned from school for no good reason. Due to zealous school administrators and principals, goaded on by city and state officials, these innocent children were alienated from their schools and neighborhoods, treated as pariahs and lepers. Even worse, the state legislature then hastily passed an unjust law cementing these poor children’s fate.
In a flagrant violation of First Amendment rights, the state eliminated religious exemption thereby coercing all residents of NY State to vaccinate or be barred from school… an unprecedented barrier driving a wedge between these children and their peers, marginalizing Jewish families from their communities.
Today, the 15th of Av, we hope and pray for the end of this unlawful alienation of Jewish children.
We yearn for a reconciliation between NY’s Jewish communities and these precious children who suffered estrangement, humiliation, and scorn. 
Let Klal Yisroel reunite once more, and let’s tear down the artificial barriers that divide us into “provaxxer” and “antivaxxer” camps.
Let’s learn to respect one another, and honor each individual’s freedom to his or her own medical choices. In truth, we are one people, bound by an inherent unity that transcend all differences.
Please join me in prayer as we look forward to hearing good news, the return of sanity to N.Y. State and a stay on this deplorable law, and ultimately, its repeal.

The Talmud states: "There were no greater festivals for Israel than the 15th of Av and Yom Kippur.

Indeed, there is no greater joy than when Jews reconcile and unite as one.

בימים ההם בזמן הזה. In those days and in our times.
Celebrate Jewish unity. Celebrate the 15th of Av!

Wednesday, August 14, 2019

First Crusade Revisted?

First Crusade Revisited?
Don’t abandon Jewish children!

The First Crusade is mourned by Jews each year on the Ninth of Av.

Precise numbers are not known, but it is estimated that between 7,000 to 10,000 Jews were murdered by bloodthirsty mobs during May of 1096, and the killing sprees continued till 1099. In their pious zeal, Crusaders violently attempted to coerce the defenseless Jews to submit to baptism. Thousands of Jews of all ages refused and were cruelly butchered. Frenzied Catholic peasantry committed these atrocities in the name of their faith and “righteous indignation,” eager to punish Jews for the crucifixion of their messiah. By murdering Jews, they thought they were performing an act of “holy bloodletting” for the sake of a greater good!

Although the actual death toll was relatively low in comparison to subsequent tragedies, it is nonetheless regarded as a watershed cataclysm that unleashed 850 years of widespread hatred and persecution of Europe’s Jews that culminated with the recent Holocaust.

In the morning prayers of Tisha b’Av, we read the mournful dirge “מי יתן ראשי מים” ("Would that my head were water...") lamenting the devastation of this bloody Crusade. In particular, it bewails the marginalization, abandonment, and slaughter of Jewish school children:
“My eyes shall be filled with copious tears… over the tender children…

“wrapped in their scrolls and dragged to the slaughter…

“their appearance ruddier than rubies, sapphires and gems,

“yet they were trampled and discarded like mud in the streets.

“’Turn away from the unclean Jew!’ they called out to each other, lest they come too close.”

That was in 1096, but here we are, over 920 years later, and a destructive Crusade has been unleashed against our children once again.

Precise numbers are not known, but it is estimated that between 7,000 to 10,000 children Jewish children have been banned from being able to attend Jewish schools with their peers in New York State. That’s right… seven to ten-thousand children!

This time, however, the Crusaders are fellow Jews including some rabbis, Hashem yishmor!

In their pious zeal, these individuals attempted to coerce Jewish children to submit to vaccination for the sake of public health. With righteous indignation, they sought to punish these non-compliant children by barring them from schools, synagogues, and in some cases even camps. By marginalizing and abandoning these defenseless children, these modern-day crusaders truly believe they’re performing a holy act on behalf of a greater good, so-called herd immunity!

“Turn away from those unclean ‘contagious’ children!” They call out to each other.

In 1096, it was the ruthless Catholic peasantry, but now it's our own community leaders uttering these reprehensible words against holy Jewish children:

“Ban those unclean children from school, lest they come too close.”

Abandoned, trampled, discarded like mud in the streets… by whom? By the administrators of yeshivos and day schools throughout NY and the entire USA.

When will we learn the painful lessons of history?

Haven’t we suffered enough?

To these errant administrators I say:

Enough of your malicious crusade against Jewish children!

Enough of your madness and destructive fury.

These precious Jewish children are not “unclean” nor are they “contagious.” The fact that they don’t have immunity to Hepatitis B does NOT make them unclean or inferior, or somehow undeserving of a Torah education.

These are healthy yiddishe kinder, beloved and cherished by the Ribono shel olam.

It is in the merit of the breath of their holy lips that the world is sustained.

Let them into school!!

Don’t discard Jewish children!

“Touch not My anointed!” says Hashem. This refers to Jewish children, tinokos shel beis rabban. (Shabbos 119b).

These children are our future.

Their Torah study is the key to bringing Moshiach.

"Touch not My anointed" indeed.

Don’t malign them and don’t marginalize them!

Stand up for them. Stand with them. Assure them they are not alone and will not be abandoned.

Teach them Torah.

Don’t neglect them. Don’t neglect your sacred halachic duty to educate all the Jewish children in your city without exception.

We suffered enough crusades. Enough marginalization and abandonment of Jewish children.

Have we learned nothing in 920 years!?

Please! I implore you… on behalf of Klal Yisroel.

Ad mosai!? Until when?

May these days of sadness be transformed to days of gladness and joy.