Anti-Vaxxer Says Michigan Misquoted Pope
By LORRAINE BAILEY
(CN) — Defending parents opposed to vaccinations that contain “aborted fetal cells,” a mother of four says Michigan muddies the waters by misquoting Pope Benedict XVI.
Tara Nikolao brought a federal complaint against the state officials Thursday, saying she is fed up with the “religious inquisition” that would keep her children out of public schools.
The Wyandotte-based registered nurse takes issue with guidelines that the Michigan Department of Public Health and Human Services gives local health department.
This “Note for Local Health Department Staff — Waiver Education: Religion,” according to the complaint, contains “a menu of statements and arguments to coerce parents with religious objections into vaccinating their children.”
A copy of the religious-waiver note on Michigan’s website notes that Pope Benedict XVI “addressed” the issue of vaccines made from aborted fetal cells in 2005.
“It was determined that parents who chose not to give vaccines derived from these cells would be in ‘more proximate cooperation with evil’ than those who gave their children the vaccines in question because of the life saving nature of vaccines,” the note says.
Although the document does not directly state that the former Pope uttered these words, Nikolao says the document is deliberately misleading.
“Pope Benedict XVI never uttered the phrase that parents would be in ‘more proximate cooperation with evil,’ or any similar statement regarding vaccines,” the 23-page complaint states.
Nikolao says the statement came from Monsignor Jacques Suaudeau, appearing in a July 2005 article by Catholic News Service titled “Vatican Says Refusing Vaccines Must Be Weighed Against Health Threats.”
Suaudeau later allegedly distanced himself from this statement, and emphasized that the Vatican does not condemn parents who refuse to vaccinate their children.
So too did the Vatican take care not to “contain any condemnation of parents who refuse to vaccinate” in its document on vaccinations, Nikolao says.
“The religious waiver note authorizes and encourages local health department employees to excessively entangle themselves in a person’s religion by having them instruct people in their faith,” according to the complaint.
Nikolao says the state refused to give her a religious exemption, and tried to use untrue papal statements, which carry the weight of papal authority, to coerce her into violating her religious beliefs.
In addition to calling the religious-waiver note unconstitutional, Nikolao wants an injunction granting her a religious waiver from vaccinating her children.
She is represented by Kate Oliveri with the Thomas More Law Center in Ann Arbor, Michigan.
The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
The measles, mumps and rubella vaccine is the most prominent vaccine cultured with cells associated with aborted fetuses, albeit distantly.
Cell lines used for this vaccine are actually descendant from the cells of fetuses aborted 30 to 40 years ago, according to the National Catholic Bioethics Center.
Other vaccines made with descendant fetal cells include two against hepatitis A, one against chicken pox, one against polio, and one against rabies.
The Catholic Church’s official policy on vaccines cultured in aborted cells is that parents have a duty to protect their children and the public by accepting the vaccinations where there is no viable alternative.
“One must follow a certain conscience even if it errs, but there is a responsibility to inform one’s conscience properly,” the National Catholic Bioethics Center states. “There would seem to be no proper grounds for refusing immunization against dangerous contagious disease, for example, rubella, especially in light of the concern that we should all have for the health of our children, public health, and the common good.”
Nikolao says she objects to the non-fetal-related vaccines too.
A devout Catholic, Nikolao says “she believes that the body is God’s temple and injecting it with chemicals that permanently alter the body violates the will of God.”