Holy Hardcore! Australia Nixes Religious Exemption


PM Tony Abbott

When I wrote about Ausrtralia’s new antivax policies last week, I was impressed by its boldness and wished other countries would follow its lead. Since that article, the Aussie vaccination crackdown has gone a step further: they’re eliminating religious exemptions.

The original policy change cracked down on “conscientious objector” antivaxxers, but at the time it was reported that religious exemptions would remain in place and would be “tightened” so that religious objections could only be gained if the objector is “affiliated with a religious group whose governing body has a formally registered objection approved by the federal government.” This was already going to make getting religious objections difficult as, it turns out, there was only one such religious group with Australian approval: the Christian Scientists.

As of Saturday, even the Christian Scientists are off the government’s very short list, and social services minister Scott Morrison announced that “the government will not be receiving nor authorising any further vaccination exemption applications from religious organisations.” The news doesn’t report if Morrison dropped the mike after saying that, but if he had, he would have been completely justified.

It makes me wonder what changed between the original report, which promised “tightening” and a list of objecting organizations, to the stronger “no list, no objectors” move. Perhaps the government was simply pleased with how well the Australian public and the international community responded to their initial move? It’s possible. Or perhaps this was the plan all along, and they simply chose to roll it out piecemeal.

One thing’s for sure: Australia is certainly putting their antivaxxers into a difficult position. While they have stopped short of requiring childhood vaccinations, they’re forcing many Australians to make some difficult choices, as well as stripping some legitimacy from the decision to not vaccinate. Meanwhile groups like the AVN are up in arms, characterizing the move as ” [punishing] law-abiding Australians trying to make informed choices for the protection of their children” and calling on their members to write letters to the government. They seem largely toothless, however, in the wake of these governmental changes.

[The AVN article linked above, by the way, makes the super hilarious assertion that antivax parents often “[spend] many hours (commonly in the hundreds or thousands of hours) researching this issue for themselves.” I suspect a smidgen of exaggeration there.]

Once again, I have to say: well done, Australia! And: I hope that other governments learn from this. When you have a public health crisis, you need to do something about it. Australia is acting very boldly for the health of their citizens. When will the rest of the world’s governments do the same?

About Alison Hudson

Alison is a writer and educator living near Ann Arbor, MI. She blogs regularly about skepticism, games, and the transgender experience.
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35 Responses to Holy Hardcore! Australia Nixes Religious Exemption

  1. Graham says:

    I think it’s the right move, anti-vaxers tried to create their own religion, simply so they could get exemptions a few years ago.

    • Dave says:

      Graham, if a man came up to you in the street, and said “Hey, I insist I’m going to inject you with something. Believe me, it’s good for you”, what would your answer be?

      • TorchWood says:

        My answer would be “Show me the legal order legitimately signed and authorized by the proper authority and prove that you are an equally qualified designated authorized professional certified to administer the substance which is of proven safety and effectiveness. Otherwise be prepared to make protoctological history.”

        I took my driver’s test to get a drivers license for the same reason.

        • Dave says:

          So presumably your answer is, “okay I would be happy to have the injection. I believe everything that you tell me is true, and I have complete faith in you. I have done some research but I don’t believe any of it. Stick that needle in.”

          I have the feeling that you are a bit too trusting of authority.

          • TorchWood. says:

            Dave: clearly you don’t read. Proof of validity comes before cooperation. “Presumably” you have me pegged as an idiot who can’t use a dictionary. I have a feeling that that you believe anybody who doesn’t agree with you is a moron. Trust is a serious issue where I work: We trust in God. Everybody else needs a valid picture ID and keep your hands where I can see them. Validity, proof, clear examination, and careful evaluation are required prior to decision and compliance.

            Have a nice day.

          • Dave says:

            You have stated: ‘Validity, proof, clear examination, and careful evaluation are required prior to decision and compliance.’ I I agree entirely. However, your decision will be ignored if you decide not to have Vaccination.It is compulsory, or soon will be, in Australia. There will be no considered choice.

      • Andries says:

        Dave, your ‘man in the street’ analogy is daft. Clearly there is more evidence here that prove the efficacy of vacines than a guy running around with a needle. Your analogy suffers from both the logical fallacies of being false and a rather pathetic version of reductio ad absurdum.

        • Dave says:

          By your unnecessarily insulting comment,I take it that you do not like analogies. It is not a false analogy it is just an analogy that you don’t happen to like. In fact it is a scenario to illustrate that some people are extremely gullible and are prepared to believe so-called experts, who if you read medical history, you will see have caused the deaths of thousands of people through prescribed drugs.

          • Andries says:

            If my reply was insulting it’s because your analogy is so inane and offensive to any thinking person that it patently deserves the contempt I have shown for it.

            My dislike of your lame analogy is an utterly irrelevant side issue. You are adding another fallacy to your steadily growing collection by imputing a motivational fallacy to my statement. My feelings toward your analogy is extraneous to this discussion since your example suffers from both the logical fallacies I have pointed out, regardless of my supposed personal feelings toward it.

            Rational Wiki states the definition of a False Analogy thus: ‘A false analogy is a rhetorical fallacy that uses an analogy (comparing objects or ideas with similar characteristics) to support an argument, but the conclusion made by it is not supported by the analogy due to the differences between the two objects.’ A man on the street with a needle is a entirely different situation that a carefully researched medically proven and scientifically tested vaccine. Thus your analogy is utterly absurd and brimming with hysterical hyperbole.

            And clearly no sane person would accept an injection from someone is the street, thus comparing it to a tested vaccine is a case of Reductio ad absurdum. Normally this would be okay to illustrate a valid point, however – Rational Wiki AGAIN: ‘ Reductio ad absurdum is only valid when it builds on assertions which are actually present in the argument it is deconstructing, and not when it misrepresents them as a straw man.’

      • Mustang Daily says:

        Dave.. if anyone in the street came up to me insisting anything I would ask them to kindly nick off..

        But if I had gone through an Oz education system and still thought in the terms of the antivaxx.. I’d probably move to the states.. Just for some company..

  2. These antivaxers are in the same league as creationists and geocentrists–they refuse to
    accept the results of scientific research. Most don’t even accept the idea that most diseases
    are caused by parasitic microorganisms–they prefer such outmoded superstitions as divine
    punishment for sin, or demonic possession. In doing so, they endanger the lives of their
    children, who can’t make the choice. If you look up some of these cults–Christian Science,
    Followers of Christ, General Assembly of the Firstborn, you will see that their children have
    appallingly high death rates. Most not only reject the idea of vaccination–they reject medical
    science in its entirety, equating it with sorcery and satanism. If they want to endanger their
    own lives, that is one thing–but they don’t have the right to endanger the lives of their children.

    • Essie says:

      Did you know that vaccines need to be cultured in a biological medium? Did you know that various biological mediums are used including tissue from monkeys, cows and aborted fetus stem cell lines? Did you know that it is not possible to remove completely the biological medium from the final vaccine product? Did you know that this means that the final vaccine contains both DNA fragments from the biological medium – which have been shown to contaminate the recipients’ DNA with as yet unstudied consequences – and viruses such as the monkey tumour virus shown to be responsible for some ridiculous amount of human cancers in the last fee decades? Did you know all of this? Did you know that some of our vaccines cause cancer and that the government has decided that this is an acceptable price/risk?

      This all sounds pretty scientific to me. And I’d wager that almost nobody who vaccinates knows all of this while almost everybody who doesn’t vaccinate on schedule probably has this in their list of top 5 reasons why they reject / modify / delay the schedule for their kids.

      People who don’t follow the vaccine schedule are not uneducated flat-earth religious nuts who thereby deserve to have their rights trampled.

      • So they have resorted to fear mongering of the negative.
        Most vaccines that are derived from human cell lines originated from fetus cell lines more than 40 years ago, not from any current aborted fetal tissue. This argument may be semantics but the death of those unfortunate fetus probably have saved millions of babies from horrible deaths and disfigurement. But OK lets follow animal products that to the logical conclusion?
        People have indwelling porcine(pig) and (bovine) cow valves for 40-50 years. Insulin used to be made from pig pancreas. Antibiotics are often cultured in animal products. Yet no problems and you aren’t objecting to those animal product related medical treatments.
        Despite 70 years of administration and countless attempts by anti vaccine opponents to gin up some supposed terrible outcome for vaccines it is just not there. No vaccines do not cause cancer. Vaccinated populations from identical locations and similar lifestyles, and heterogeneous age groups have exactly the same cancer rate. Anti-vax “researchers” claim statistical correlation. Ignoring the cherry picking issue of populations with the highest vaccination rates live the longest and are more likely to develop cancer.
        What is the benefit for delaying the vaccine schedule? How does delaying prevent any of the anti vax proposed problems with vaccines?
        Dismissing anti-vax claims after careful consideration has nothing to do with a religion, but yes if you don’t understand the science, purposefully don’t want to know, and prefer illogical ideology. All because you have anxiety about something you don’t understand then yes you cannot harm my children by leaving yours unvaccinated… your rights don’t trump mine.

  3. Joe says:

    Should ‘contentious’ be spelled conscientious? Perhaps it’s spelt differently in Australia?

  4. Dave says:

    Those who have been vaccinated will in theory not be affected by the diseases against which they have been protected. Then only those who have not been vaccinated will be in theory vulnerable. There are numerous examples of vaccinated people actually getting the disease, so the vaccination is no guarantee of protection. I’m thinking of polio vaccination in India.
    To be forcibly injected with a substance which you consider harmful, seems to be a complete violation of human rights, and smacks of Nazi Germany, or some other police state. Freedom of choice is being wiped out.

    • Noah Dillon says:

      Wow. Nazi Germany, huh? That seems a little over the top.

      Hey man, if you had the choice of reducing your risk of deadly disease 10% with no ill effects or 0% with the possibility of spreading it to your loved ones, which would you choose? Most vaccines work much, much better than that. If you were in West Africa for some reason, would you reject an Ebola vaccine as a Nazi plot?

      • Dave says:

        Noah, you said reducing your risk of deadly disease 10% with no ill effects? There are thousands of cases of ill effects from vaccination. Check this out. It is not anecdotal evidence.
        As far as I’m aware there is no Ebola vaccine. Also check out what Bill Gates has to say about vaccination. Rather strange.

        • Mustang Daily says:

          Dave.. you have gone off crackers here.. can we see your lectures on virology, immunology, epidemiology etc on Itunes.. or is this just cut and paste guff from the AVN..

          We all suspect the latter..

          Strange how there are no antivaxx experts.. or specialists anywhere…

    • Alison Hudson says:

      “Those who have been vaccinated will in theory not be affected by the diseases against which they have been protected”

      That shows an oversimplified misunderstanding of both vaccination and the scope of the issues at hand. I’m sure by now someone, somewhere, has tried to explain things like “herd immunity” to you? Or at least explained how the immune system works?

      Here are some links in case they haven’t.


  5. savivet says:

    I do have a serious problem with any one individual (or government) forcing another to get vaccinated against their will.

    I am not an antivaxxer, far from it and vaccinated my children for most diseases, even some like Hep A that were not required. However, I elected not to vaccinated them until middle school for Hep B. The doctor said that duration of immunity for that vaccine was not know but probably 10 years. Why then do we vaccinated infants when the disease is spread through shared needle use (drugs), unprotected sex, tattoos and sharing things like razors? Youngsters are simply at a very, very low risk. It was more logical to wait and vaccinate until they were older so they would have a higher immune level when they were actually at risk of contracting the disease.

    Strict adherence to policies made up by think tanks are not the best way to practice medicine. My child is not a cow and not part of a herd. The family should have some degree of autonomy over their own bodies. I prefer to be educated by my physician and then make informed choices for my children.

    • Noah Dillon says:

      Hepatitis C is commonly spread via unsafe sex and unsafe drug use. Hepatitis A and B, I’m pretty sure, are much more commonly spread through water contaminated with infected fecal matter. And the infection is not as unusual as you might imagine. This probably isn’t an issue in many major American cities, where water systems are exceptionally good. But, on the off chance that something does go wrong at your local treatment plant, or your kids go swimming in untreated water, or somehow come in contact with contaminated fecal matter (which isn’t a very bizarre scenario), or whatever, it’s probably not a bad precaution to take, especially if there’s only an upside and no evidence of harm.

      The other thing is that although hepatitis of all kinds is fairly uncommon and not transmissible through air or touch, many other diseases that are can be easily vaccinated against. You may not like to think of your kids as being part of a “herd” but they are part of a community. That community includes people that they can get sick from, and it includes people that cannot be vaccinated for medical reasons, who can get deathly ill from any diseases your kids pass on. I’m sure you know all this stuff already. But it’s really important that as many people get vaccinated as possible. It saves lives—both the lives of those who did get their shots, and those who don’t or can’t.

  6. The Anti-vaxers b***h and moan about being forced but the simple challenge to them (if they are sure of their position) is to not spend any money on lawyers but to pay for a scientific study that is double blind and follows standard scientific controls that shows the proof of just one of their assertions that vaccines are bad for you. Just prove one to a reasonable standard and I am sure that the world will be amazed. Oh by the way proving that aluminium is in some vaccines is not proof of a plot, it’s meant to be there, it’s a feature not a bug.

    • Dave says:

      I actually wanted to reply to Michael, who said that aluminium is meant to be in the vaccine. I understand that however, it is not a substance that is safe to inject into the body, as it has harmful effects. Vaccination is like life insurance: would you like to take out life insurance? The choice should be yours. It should be the same for vaccination.If you get an infection, that’s your problem. It won’t affect those who have been vaccinated (at least that is the theory. I have heard that many people have caught the disease against which they have been ‘protected’ by vaccination).
      I believe the recent flu injection was something like 5% effective. Yet this must have cost governments millions of pounds.

      • Alison Hudson says:

        Maybe you should actually fact-check that 5% number before repeating it.

        The flu vaccine this year was very effective … *against the flu strains that it contained*. The issue with this year’s flu shot was that a novel variation of the virus surfaced, unfortunately too late to make it into the vaccine. While the existing vaccine offered some protection from it (all flu strains share some characteristics), that strain was the most infectious this year specifically because, technically, no one was vaccinated against it.


    • Essie says:

      There’s a study done in japan that showed administration of multiple vaccines at once produced autism-like symptoms whereas single doses didn’t.

      Why is there a need to assert that vaccines are harmless? You just have to read the insert in the vax package to see listed all the possible side effects and frequency of occurrence noted during study of the vaccine. That vaccines have adverse reactions is known and publicised by the drug companies and anyone who wants to read the drug information sheet in the package.

      • What are Autism like symptoms? How do you explain no change in autism rates in select objecting populations who refuse vaccination. They show no decline in autism, why if vaccine or additives are the cause? How do you answer the evidence that autism is identifiable prior to birth, prior to any vaccines?

  7. Vin (aus) says:

    There is currently an epic Culture Clash ongoing in Australia, this is just a small part of it.

    • Alison Hudson says:

      “Culture Clash” is the name of my 80s cover band. 😉

      In all seriousness, could you offer a little additional insight?

  8. Essie says:

    I’ve definitely spent hundreds of hours researching vaccination for my kids. That article isn’t exaggerating. Especially when one child has a reaction and you need to decide whether or not to vax younger siblings – and the doctors say it’s up to you to decide because even they consider vaxing the siblings risky – it’s your responsibility to do some serious research.

  9. Al says:


  10. Emilienne says:

    In science, just like in commercial products, the claims and the fine print (ingredients) need to be scrutinised. especially when the product is cheap or free, usually the bolder the claim, the more attention must be paid to the fine print. With such censorship so obvious in The West, it is extraordinary to see the Danish mainstream media make a documentary available with English subtitles for the rest of the world to watch. Families and doctors are interviewed, and the tough questions are not censored. Similar to the U.S., and Australia, these vaccine-damaged girls can find no help from their government since the vaccine injuries are vigorously denied by their government, leaving them and their parents feeling “betrayed.” – Do the research before you have anything ingested, applied, or
    injected in your body.
    TV2 Denmark Documentary on HPV Vaccine Shows Lives of Young Women Ruined – See more at: http://healthimpactnews.com/2015/tv2-denmark-documentary-on-hpv-vaccine-shows-lives-of-young-women-ruined/#sthash.UlSvF7HE.dpuf

    • Eric Hall says:

      This “documentary” has been cited by anti-vax websites as fact, it is really getting kind of old. These films generally take what someone says out of context and sins it to their point of view. Another perfect example of this is recently Dr. Krauss being featured in a film “proving” god exists when he said nothing of the sort.

      However, let’s make an assumption for the moment that what the filmmakers said is true. This would mean that from the time the vaccine was approved to the time the film was made, about 5,000-6,000 injuries occurred. We know that most cases of cervical cancer are caused by HPV, so that means in Canada and the US alone, the vaccine will save 20,000-40,000 lives just in women. So in other words, 1,000 injuries or so per year, a minimum of 20,000 lives saved per year. Now if we further assume an 80 year life span, let’s say the vaccine injured lose 70 years of the highest quality life due to injury. Let’s say that women who get cervical cancer die at 50, losing 30 years of life. This means the vaccine causes a loss of 70,000 years per year, but gives us a gain of 600,000 years. So even by the documentary information, the vaccine still has a net benefit of 530,000 years every year.

      The film is nonsense and has no way to connect a majority of cases to the vaccine. The thing is, we know neurological problems sometimes just happen. Even before the vaccine, it happened. It happens to those who don’t get the vaccine. The rates are virtually identical, meaning it is unlikely they are connected.

  11. Judith Word says:

    Are they being Bold, or is it a case for the UFO Alien files, conspiracy theories case for an entire nation will be forced or treated as a criminal, where they’ll be vaccinated, one way or another, with or without their knowledge or cooperation. … just saying, additionally why aren’t these same anti vaxxers concerned with GMO’s, and such…jus curious. ..and commenting

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