In Re LePage
Pacific Reporter, 3d Series, 2001; 18: 1177-1181
Court Decision: 18 Pacific Reporter, 3d Series 1177; 8 March 2001 (date of decision). The Supreme Court of Wyoming held that the Department of Health was not authorized to inquire about the sincerity of a mother's religious beliefs when determining whether her daughter is exempt from a public school immunization requirement. Susan LePage submitted a request to the Department of Health seeking to exempt her daughter from receiving the hepatitis B vaccination. The Department of Health inquired into the sincerity of LePage's religious beliefs against vaccination and determined that her objections were of a personal or philosophical nature and not on religious grounds. The Department of Health denied LePage's request. The Supreme Court of Wyoming held that state law requires the Department of Health to grant an exemption upon the submission of a written objection and does not allow the Department of Health to make an inquiry into the sincerity of the requestor's religious beliefs. The court balanced a valid state interest in protecting schoolchildren from disease with the relatively low number of requests for exemption and its confidence in parents to make decisions in the best interests of their children's physical and spiritual health. Because there was no justification within the statute to allow a religious inquiry, the court held the Department of Health exceeded its authority with LePage. Furthermore, the court held that state law did not require a religious waiver to exempt a child from this particular vaccine. The lower court's holding was reversed.
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