by Steven Ertelt
January 13, 2008
Washington, DC (LifeNews.com) — Attorneys with the Alliance Defense Fund, a leading pro-life law firm, recently filed a lawsuit on behalf of a Coast Guard officer who, officials told him, must submit to a vaccine that was derived based on fetal tissue from abortions. Officer Joseph Healy, who is Catholic, said the vaccine’s derivation violates his pro-life moral and religious beliefs.
The U.S. Coast Guard refused to grant Healy an exemption even though it allows vaccine exemptions based on other religious beliefs.
"Those who lay their life on the line to defend our shores are entitled to the same religious freedoms as anyone else," ADF Legal Counsel Matt Bowman told LifeNews.com in a statement.
"Members of the U.S. military should never be forced to make an unconstitutional choice between honoring their country and honoring their faith," he added.
In May 2006, the Coast Guard, which requires its personnel to be vaccinated against a variety of diseases, ordered all active-duty personnel to receive one of two vaccines against Hepatitis A or show proof of immunity.
The vaccines are derived from cells taken from the lung tissue of a child who was electively aborted at 14 weeks gestation and then dissected.
The U.S. Coast Guard allows religious exemptions for those who hold a "religious tenet or belief contrary to immunization."
In compliance with Coast Guard requirements, Healy, a lieutenant commander, submitted a memo requesting religious exemption based on his Catholic faith and strong opposition to abortion.
In response, Capt. Brent Pennington denied the request because he disagreed with Healy’s theology, claiming that Catholic teaching "does not state that these immunizations are against the religious tenets of the Catholic Church."
Because of the denial, Healy may be forced, under threat of severe penalty, to receive the immunization against his will. ADF attorneys have filed a motion along with the lawsuit asking the court to prevent that from happening while the case moves forward in court.
A copy of the complaint filed in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia in Healy v. United States Coast Guard is available at https://www.telladf.org/UserDocs/HealyComplaint.pdf.