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Coast Guard forces vaccine derived from aborted child
Catholic officer sues to prevent injection – top brass disputes theology, demands jab
January 13, 2008
A U.S. Coast Guard officer and devout Catholic has filed suit to prevent being forced to receive a vaccination derived from the lung of an aborted child after a higher ranking officer disputed his understanding of Church theology.
The Alliance Defense Fund filed a complaint last week in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia on behalf of Lt. Cmdr. Joseph Healy, charging the government with using its own arbitrary judgment of what constitutes Catholic theology while permitting religious exemptions to others, effectively discriminating against Healy's sincerely held religious beliefs.
Healy's request for religious exemption cited a 2005 letter from the Vatican's Pontifical Academy for Life which condemned the use of cell lines from abortions in vaccines and supported Catholics' right to refuse them while not requiring them to reject the medicines.
In May, 2007, Capt. Brent Pennington rejected Healy's request, saying Catholic teaching "does not state that these immunizations are against the religious tenets of the Catholic Church."
"Please note that the refusal to be vaccinated or failure to comply with a lawful order to be vaccinated is a violation of Coast Guard regulations," Pennington wrote Healy. "Any member who refuses to be vaccinated or fails to comply with a lawful order to be vaccinated is subject to military proceedings under [the Uniform Code of Military Justice] or other appropriate administrative proceedings at the unit commander's discretion."
All members of the Coast Guard must be vaccinated against a broad spectrum of diseases. The requirement for all active-duty personnel to be inoculated against Hepatitis A was instituted in May 2006. While a vaccine derived from animal sources is awaiting FDA approval, the immunization procedure currently available in the U.S. is based on lung cells taken from an elective abortion performed at 14 weeks approximately 40 years ago.
"Those who lay their life on the line to defend our shores are entitled to the same religious freedoms as anyone else," said ADF attorney Matt Bowman, according to the Philadelphia Evening Bulletin. "Members of the U.S. military should never be forced to make an unconstitutional choice between honoring their country and honoring their faith."
Healy is a long-time opponent of abortion and is listed on a Coast Guard website as the contact for an October 2006 pro-life awards banquet held in Glen Burnie, Md. Healy is stationed at the Coast Guard facility in Alexandria, Va.