In January, a measles outbreak at Disneyland caught the media’s attention. Over 114 cases appeared not only in California, but in six other U.S. states and parts of Mexico. Even though measles was officially eliminated from the United States in 2000, there have been more and more cases of the disease in the last seven years, with over 600 in 2014 alone. That year, one outbreak in an Amish community in Ohio included 383 diagnoses of measles. This particular religious community reconsidered its previous relaxed stance on vaccines. The Amish weren’t opposed to vaccination, but rather didn’t realize that measles was still such a threat to public health.
In October 2013, a program entitled “Health Care from the Pulpit” was introduced by Enroll America, a non-profit organization whose purpose is to increase enrollment in services provided by the Affordable Care Act among the previously uninsured. They intend to bring churches of different faiths together to “be engaged in the education and outreach efforts around the Affordable Care Act open enrollment period.” Programs like “Health Care from the Pulpit” have existed for centuries and in a number of national contexts. The greatest example occurred during the spread of the smallpox vaccine in France in the early 19th century.
This past summer, a judge in New York City ruled against three families who filed suit against the public school system, claiming their right to free exercise of religion was violated when their unvaccinated children were barred from school. In another case last year, a measles outbreak sickened unvaccinated members of a large church in Texas, drawing claims the church had discouraged vaccinations. The church later hosted vaccination clinics, and a spokesman denied the church had ever advised against vaccines. These public episodes seemingly pit immunization against faith. Yet Christians have a long history of promoting vaccines.