Keep Religious Liberty: Oppose SB 1669

My name is Lisette Allen and I am the Director of Education at the Texas Catholic Conference of Bishops testifying in opposition to SB 1669. The Texas bishops support school choice and religious liberty that respects the independence and autonomy of private and religious schools, while also fostering strong public-school options. We are concerned with the provision of SB 1669 that would prohibit a private school from requiring any immunizations as a condition of admission to or attendance.

Currently, students enrolled in Catholic schools in Texas are required to be immunized against vaccine preventable diseases with the immunization schedule adopted by the Texas Department of State Health Services. Importantly, the COVID-19 vaccines are currently not a part of this schedule and, therefore, not mandated. Per TCCB-ED policy, Catholic schools do not accept conscientious objections for vaccines but do allow for medical exemptions signed by a licensed Texas physician. Parents and families choosing Catholic schools know this enrollment policy beforehand and are free to choose another private school if they do not agree with it. The rationale of this policy is to protect students, staff, and teachers from infectious diseases.

In this respect, the Pontifical Academy for Life in 2005 and 2020 statements rejected the claim that Catholics have a moral duty to refuse certain vaccines on the grounds of conscience and Catholic teaching. For example, they encouraged Catholic parents to vaccinate their children against rubella and other serious diseases despite the illicit origin of the cell lines used in the manufacture of vaccines.  They said this does not in any way imply that there is a moral endorsement of the use of cell lines proceeding from abortions because “the morality of vaccination depends not only on the duty to protect one’s own health, but also on the duty to pursue the common good,” especially the weakest and most exposed. The overbreadth of SB 1669 is that it would prevent private schools from requiring any vaccinations whatsoever. This would impinge upon the religious liberty of Catholic schools and could lead to serious health crises – on top of an ongoing pandemic.  For the foregoing reasons, we respectively request you oppose SB 1669.