A response to a Seattle television reporter who inquired about this denomination’s perspective on vaccination —
Concern for public health and safety is something that all responsible people share—including Christian Scientists. Grateful as we are to live in a state where honest differences can be respected, Christian Scientists are also mindful of the obligations all citizens have to respect the rights of others in their communities.
The present measles outbreak in our state, and the governor’s declaration of a public health emergency, underscore these civic obligations. For more than a century, our denomination has counseled respect for public health authorities and conscientious obedience to the laws of the land, including those requiring vaccination. Christian Scientists report suspected communicable disease, obey quarantines, and strive to cooperate with measures considered necessary by public health officials. We see this as a matter of basic Golden Rule ethics and New Testament love.
As for the issue of exemptions for vaccination in the law, Christian Scientists’ perspective on this issue may be unique. In the past, many public officials have been broadly supportive of exemptions when these have not been considered a danger to the wider community. In more recent years, public health concerns relating to vaccinations have risen as exemptions from them have been claimed by larger numbers. Christian Scientists recognize the seriousness of these concerns.
Most of our church members normally rely on prayer for healing. It’s a deeply considered spiritual practice and way of life that has meant a lot to us over the years. So we’ve appreciated the vaccination exemption and sought to use it conscientiously and responsibly, when it has been granted.
On the other hand, our practice isn’t a dogmatic thing. Church members are free to make their own choices on all life-decisions, in obedience to the law, including whether or not to vaccinate their children. These aren’t decisions imposed by their church.
The current public controversy over vaccination has produced strong opinions—and strong divisions—on the competing concerns of public health and toleration of diversity. Whatever the right legislative answer may be for our state at this time, Christian Scientists hope that their long experience as a religious minority working in cooperation with society’s majority might point to the possibility of a resolution based on mutual respect and understanding in the best interest of all.
And most of all, we hope that all who have been affected in the current outbreak will recover to full health and activity.
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