Mother claims inoculations for child violate her religious beliefs
By The Associated Press
SYRACUSE, N.Y. A federal judge will decide whether a
5-year-old girl can claim a religious exemption and enter kindergarten without
Kelly Turner filed a lawsuit in federal court asking a judge to
prevent the Liverpool School District from denying her daughter Victoria's
entrance into kindergarten.
Turner, a member of the Congregation of Universal Wisdom, claims that
medications are against her religious beliefs and that the district is
violating her constitutional rights to religious freedom. The state requires
inoculations for schoolchildren, but allows an exemption when there's a sincere
religious belief against them.
U.S. District Judge Frederick Scullin signed an order last week
allowing Victoria to go to school at least until the case is argued in court
Sept. 11. Classes began yesterday.
Liverpool School District officials contend that Kelly Turner does not
belong to a legitimate religion and cannot use the religious exemption.
"It is the district's opinion that your belief is based on science
and/or philosophy, and not on religion," Liverpool Superintendent John Cataldo
wrote in a letter to Turner.
Cataldo wrote that "the Congregation of Universal Wisdom is formed by
a chiropractor, requires no real training for its ministers, its members do not
have regular contact with the leaders, and there is no indication that it
provides religious services for its members."
"For the district to pass judgment on the legitimacy of Kelly Turner's
religion is very problematic," said Samuel Young, Turner's lawyer.
Young said the law is clear that when someone's beliefs "embrace
concepts of a higher power and are the type that one would put ahead of one's
own self interests, they are religious beliefs."
Turner said the Congregation of Universal Wisdom preaches that the
injection of any medication or other man-made substance into the body would be
a violation of the sanctity of the body.
"Man-made medicine claims to heal, and to put my faith in a man to
heal me would be to turn from God and lose faith in God, and that's sacrilege,"
Turner told school district lawyers at a hearing in February. "Nothing is to be
injected into our bodies. ... That can result in physical,
spiritual, emotional illness or disease, or your natural balance will be off.
Your openness to the receiving of God will be interfered with."
Turner says she has never given either of her two daughters any
medications. The girls have been treated with the laying on of hands "several
hundred times," she said.
Turner asked the district last year for permission to let her daughter
attend school without being immunized. Cataldo denied the request and his
decision was later upheld by the Liverpool school board.
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