A group of anti-vaccination activists including Orthodox Jews fumed on Friday after the New York state legislature passed a bill that will eliminate religious exemptions as a valid excuse not to vaccinate children, according to the New York Post. Hours later, the bill was signed into law by Governor Cuomo.
Shouting from the gallery, one man dressed in traditional Orthodox Jewish attire threatened "We'll be back for you Jeffrey," referring to the bill's sponsor, Jeffrey Dinowitz (D).
Another protester shouted "Motherfucker" along with other profanities.
Opponents of the legislation ending non-medical exemptions for vaccinations shouting from the state Assembly gallery: "Shame!!" And other profanities pic.twitter.com/9XB8G3tNm2— Bernadette Hogan (@bern_hogan) June 13, 2019
"The government does not have the right to interfere with my personal religious beliefs," said one woman quoted by WLNY, who added "We will not vaccinate. What’s going to happen is we’re going to either home school or we’re going to move out of state."
Dinowitz felt that his safety was at risk following the vote.
"I’m sure the hallways are very dangerous for me right now," said Dinowitz, after the display. "I think it’s very sad that people who are up here in the name of religion were acting anything but. Judging by the way some people behaved and judging by the threats that we heard from some people, it would be prudent to exercise some caution."
"This bill was never about [religion], it was about public health, as I said on the floor," Dinowitz added. "It’s going to protect children’s health and we’ll never know which children don’t catch a terrible disease, but we know for this bill it will protect children."
Defending the passage of the bill, Gov. Cuomo said in a statement: "The science is crystal clear: Vaccines are safe, effective and the best way to keep our children safe," adding "This administration has taken aggressive action to contain the measles outbreak, but given its scale, additional steps are needed to end this public health crisis."
The vaccine problem was witnessed first-hand Thursday at two schools in Williamsburg, which had to be closed by the Health Department for allowing dozens of unvaccinated students to attend classes, according to officials.
Cuomo said that while he understands and respects the right to freedom of religion, “our first job is to protect the public health and by signing this measure into law, we will help prevent further transmissions and stop this outbreak right in its tracks.”
Dinowitz’s bill had been approved by the Democrat-led Assembly by a 77-53 vote, though the tally was unofficial. The legislation will end non-medical exemptions for vaccines statewide. -New York Post
"I don’t ever remember in all my years here, the screaming in the Assembly chamber and the disruption in the Assembly chamber — people yell and scream outside and that’s fine, that’s fine — but the disrespect, not to me … Forget me … to the institution, to all the members of the state … was frankly a disgrace," said Dinowitz. "And these are the religious people?! Shame on them. Shame on them."
Controversy has been brewing in New York over some members of the Orthodox Jewish community's refusal to vaccinate their children for religious reasons. As detailed in March by the New York Times:
SPRING VALLEY, N.Y. — Erica Wingate was working at a clothing store in town this week when a male customer, with the black hat and sidelocks typically worn by ultra-Orthodox Jews, started coughing.
Another shopper standing next to him suddenly dropped the item she had been holding and clutched her child. “She was buying something, and she just threw it down,” Ms. Wingate recalled. “She said, ‘Let’s go, let’s go! Jews don’t have shots!’”
A measles outbreak in this suburban New York county has sickened scores of people and alarmed public health experts who fear it may be a harbinger of the growing influence of the anti-vaccine movement. But it has also intensified long-smoldering tensions between the rapidly expanding and insular ultra-Orthodox Jewish community and secular society.
The authorities here in Rockland County have traced the spread of measles to ultra-Orthodox families whose children have not been vaccinated.
It should be noted that while some ultra-Orthodox rabbis have come out against vaccines, it is a misconception that all Orthodox Jews don't vaccinate.
"The conception that is out there is completely distorted, and that is, that the Orthodox community for the most part don’t vaccinate their children, and that is not true," said Rockland County legislator Aron B. Wieder, a prominent member of the Hasidic community.
Steve Gold, chairman of the Jewish Community Relations Council for the Jewish Federation of Rockland said in March: "I think it just opened up the door for everybody to say whatever they wanted to say," adding "And they’re putting, the way it looks right now, 100 percent blame on the Orthodox community."