In McCarthy v. Boozman, a federal court in Arkansas considered a parent’s challenge to a state statute requiring the vaccination of all school-age children. The law provided a religious exemption, but only to parents who showed that their religious objection to vaccination was mandated by the tenets of a religion recognized by the state. In this case, a parent applied for an exemption on religious grounds, but the state denied it because he was not a member of a recognized religious sect. The parent sued alleging that the religious exemption scheme unconstitutionally infringed on his First Amendment rights. The court agreed and struck the religious exemption program provided by the statute. The court recognized that the Supreme Court has held that a law which on its face grants a denominational preference may only be justified by a compelling state interest. As the state could not point to any compelling interest behind discriminating against individuals who did not subscribe to an officially recognized religion, the court struck down the religious exemption scheme.
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