A rowdy crowd of anti-vaccination activists created a scene and threatened legislators at the New York State Capitol on Thursday after the Assembly and Senate passed a controversial bill that would end religious exemptions for vaccinations.
Democrat Assemblyman Jeffrey Dinowitz, the bill’s sponsor, appeared to suffer the brunt of the abuse, according to the New York Post.
He “got cursed out and flat-out threatened at one point by opponents of the legislation after it got passed and sent to the Senate floor,” the Post reported.
“We’ll be back for you Jeffrey!” one activist in Orthodox religious garb reportedly fumed.
“Motherf–ker! Shame!” another screamed.
Watch some of the activists’ antics below:
“I’m sure the hallways are very dangerous for me right now,” Dinowitz said to the Post. “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.”
Despite being cursed out and threatened, he continues to maintain that forcing religious Americans to obtain vaccinations is the right course of action.
I am incredibly proud that science has won with the passage of this bill. This will not be the end of our efforts to combat the ongoing measles outbreak, but it is an important step.
— Jeffrey Dinowitz (@JeffreyDinowitz) June 13, 2019
The bill that he sponsored and that Gov. Andrew Cuomo later signed into law Thursday “will require all children attending school or daycare to receive vaccinations, unless they could not be safely vaccinated because of a medical issue,” as reported by BuzzFeed.
Vaccinations became an issue after local officials declared a measles outbreak in April. The outbreak has reportedly been most prominent among the ultra-Orthodox Jewish communities in Rockland County and the NYC borough of Brooklyn.
“The state has recorded 854 cases of measles since September in outbreaks centered in Orthodox Jewish communities in New York City and Rockland County,” BuzzFeed notes.
“Health officials in both areas have called the outbreaks a crisis that risks the safety of the public — particularly infants, pregnant women, elderly people, and those with compromised immune systems, such as patients with cancer.”
In a statement to the media Wednesday, Cuomo claimed that while he understands the concerns about freedom of religion, they’re “overwhelmed by the public health risk.”
The activists at the Capitol on Thursday didn’t seem to agree:
A bill to repeal the religious exemption to New York’s school vaccination requirements just passed the #nyassembly by a 77-53 votes.
Opponents of the bill in the gallery started shouting shame and “motherfucker.”
“This bill will help save lives,” sponsor Jeff Dinowitz said. pic.twitter.com/d7fvZhWQIu
— Jimmy Vielkind (@JimmyVielkind) June 13, 2019
— David Lombardo (@poozer87) June 13, 2019
Though the issue does involve religious freedom, polling data published this week by Siene College Research Institute revealed that 84 percent of New Yorkers support the rule change. This included 85 percent of Democrats and 79 percent of Republicans.
Those opposed to the rule change include some ultra-Orthodox Jews who believe that vaccinations violate basic Jewish law and some who argue, among other things, that vaccines cause autism, weaken the immune system, etc.
The anti-vaccination fervor appears to be especially strong among the Jewish community. During an anti-vaccine rally last months, hundreds of ultra-Orthodox Jews gathered for a “vaccine symposium” with noted figures from the anti-vaccination movement.
One of the speakers at the Rockland County event was Greg Mitchell, a lobbyist who reportedly represents the Church of Scientology.
Other rallies and protests have been occurring through the NYC area for months:
WATCH: Vaccine opponents gathered outside of the New York State Capitol in Albany Tuesday to protest a new bill that would eliminate the religious exemption for school vaccinations in New York; currently, religious exemptions are permitted in 47 states https://t.co/KGwGUyopK2 pic.twitter.com/3aPI1jBuG9
— CBS Evening News (@CBSEveningNews) May 14, 2019
Also in opposition to the rule change are some legislators, including at least one Democrat.
The bill “chips away and diminishes our protections of religious liberty in our state,” Assemblyman Robin Schimminger, a Democrat, reportedly said.
Assemblyman Angelo Morinelli, a Republican, concurred, adding, “We have to stop legislating at the front door. … We seem to want to regulate everything here.”
Some social media users appear to agree. One argued that anybody who supports Roe v. Wade but also supports forcing religious Americans to obtain vaccinations is a hypocrite.
Several others pointed out that the right to religious freedom exists for a reason:
This is total b.s. if roe v Wade says you cannot force a woman to carry a child, constitution you can’t force people to do something to their bodies or a child’s body they do not want with no alternative. I would challenge this law for violation of civil rights
— Kimberly Murphy (@IlluminOfLight) June 13, 2019
I believe in vaccination. I will vaccinate myself/my children, but making someone do it is wrong.
Especially since the government is purging Chinese vaccine experts over fears of tempering. I have to choose between protecting my kid from diseases or safe guard against sabotage ?
— ?andom ?elivery ❤river (@FreshLikePennyG) June 14, 2019
But at the same time the Constitution protects the religious and non-religious.
— pistrix ??????????? (@pistrix) June 14, 2019
Nothing to see here… just history repeating itself. New York lost religious freedom in regard to vaccine exemptions today. This is not for public health. This is an attack on freedom and we should all be paying… https://t.co/KhORvptxzm
— Angelique Moselle Robbins (@Ghashikta) June 14, 2019
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