On January 15th, the Massachusetts Department of Public Health rescinded a mandate that required all children over the age of 6 months attending Massachusetts childcare, pre-school, K-12, or colleges to get the flu vaccine by Feb. 28, 2021. The mandate drew protest by some who argued it was governmental overreach and take issue with bills that restrict or end exemptions for vaccinations.  

In neighboring Connecticut, state lawmakers recently discussed reintroducing legislation that would eliminate religious exemptions for mandatory vaccinations. This month, supporters of the exemptions rallied in Hartford to oppose the bill.  

Connecting Point’s Brian Sullivan visited the Connecticut capitol building on January 6th to hear the concerns of those opposing the measure. 

Read the full transcript

Zydalis Bauer, Connecting Point: The topic of vaccines can be controversial, with some citing religious beliefs or medical exemptions as reasons to not be vaccinated.

On January 15th, the Massachusetts Department of Public Health rescinded a mandate that would have required all children over the age of six months attending the Massachusetts childcare, preschool, kindergarten, K-12, or college to get the flu vaccine by Feb. 28. The mandate had drawn protests by some who argued it was a government overreach and take issue with bills aimed at restricting or ending exemptions for vaccinations.

Supporters of those exemptions in the state of Connecticut have concerns as lawmakers in the state legislature discuss reintroducing a bill that would eliminate religious exemptions for vaccinations. Connecting Point’s Brian Sullivan visited the Capitol Building in Hartford on January 6th, as opponents to the measure showed up to voice their concerns.

Brian Sullivan, Connecting Point: Placards like these are usually the types one might expect to see at a rally for women’s reproductive rights. But in this case, it’s about another hot-button issue that affects children.

It was in February of 2020 that the Connecticut state legislature rolled out a proposed bill to remove the state’s religious exemption to mandatory vaccinations for school age children. COVID-19 put those plans on hold.

But as the new session gets underway, lawmakers plan to revisit the measure. And as those lawmakers were being sworn in on January 6th, 2021, several groups representing religious freedoms and personal liberties gathered at the Capitol Building in Hartford to make their voices of opposition heard.

Leeann Ducat, Informed Choice Connecticut: What’s at threat right now is the ability for people to opt out based on their religious creed.And it’s protected by all kinds of laws in the Constitution that we do not have to identify with any organized religion to express our faith for any reason.

The government is asking people to either identify with an organized religion or completely discounting their beliefs in order to obtain a free public education guaranteed to them by the Connecticut Constitution.

Brian Sullivan: According to some people that I asked, the numbers were down from the previous year and that may have had to do with the frigid temperatures. But overall, they were still a couple hundred in attendance on this cold January morning. As a first timer, it was interesting for me to see exactly who made up this crowd

Brian Festa, Connecticut Freedom Alliance: We have people from all walks of life who really just support medical and religious freedom, really the freedom to choose and individual rights more than anything else.

Elizabeth Schlett, Connecticut Resident: I am here because we have the right to choose what is good for our body. It is not about religion or anything else. It’s about freedom. It’s about being free to be American.

Sharon Miller, Resident of Greenwich, Connecticut: We are concerned about the future for our children. We feel that the government is really getting into our lives in a way that we’re not — we don’t agree with them and we’re not comfortable with. It’s my child, his body, my choice for his body.

Brian Sullivan The crowd moved back and forth between the front and the back of the Capitol building in what felt like a bit of a game of cat and mouse between the elected officials and the people trying to get their attention.

On the plus side, it did keep everyone moving on this cold morning. And just maybe, the rally goers had their voices heard.

Rallies like this one here today at the Capitol Building behind me are largely symbolic. But with today being the same day that the new legislature gets sworn in, many of the constituents in attendance feel that today is the only day that their lawmakers will actually listen to them.

The festivities eventually moved down the road to the public square in front of the legislative office building. Here, there were several speakers on-hand boosting the spirits of those in attendance.

The long term goal of these gatherings is to not only hold the lawmakers accountable, but to get more people involved. This crowd in particular was mostly women, although there were some men there. But this one attendee would have liked seeing more men at this event and a lot more at future events as they move forward.

Abram Gonzalez, Resident of Norwalk, Connecticut: Men should be rising up to the occasion, a lot more church pastors should be here today. Men should just be here, in general, speaking on the behalf of their family.