The Alabama Certificate of Religious Exemption from Immunization

After a series of lengthy discussions on the topic of immunizations, Bear and I finally came to the conclusion that we didn’t want to have to be on Ursa’s school’s agenda. Unfortunately, the only way to be exempt from the required list of vax’s and the schedule is to receive an Alabama Certificate of Religious Exemption. It requires that your organized religion prohibit vaccinations. Herein lies the predicament.

Since Bear is an agnostic, and I’m some unnamed brand of Christian that can only be described as too liberal for most denominations and too liturgical for others, it presented a little bit of a moral dilemma. His non-religion and my nebulous grouping of beliefs, ideals, traditions, and convictions may not technically qualify us, but I decided to bite the bullet and head down to the JeffCo Health Department. So, today we are happily vaccine exempt :)

Incidentally, several states allow “philosophical exemptions”. It seems strange that in a state where everyone professes to not want the government telling its citizens how to parent, we would allow such an arcane policy to tie parents hands. According to an article I came across once, the numbers of religious exemptions have doubled in Alabama and Georgia which seems to match the number of people receiving philosophical exemptions in the states that allow them. I’m pretty sure there are not that many new converts to Scientology, Jehovah’s Witness, or the Church of Illumination. I’m just sayin’.

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12 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by Patty Cosby on October 6, 2010 at 1:41 am

    I, too, plan on getting the religious exemption for my children who have been homeschooled up to this point. My 3 kids have been vaccinated *some*, but I was wondering if you had any trouble when you went to the health department — did they ask any questions you felt were inappropriate? Any help would be appreciated. I’m easily intimidated sometimes! Thanks.


    • Hi Patty! I was terrified walking in, but actually, the lady at the Health Department was very respectful. Of course I had to sign a statement saying that it was against my religion (not my personal beliefs) for my child to receive vaccinations, but the woman who handled it was very kind. She *is* required to show you graphic photos of people suffering from the worst possible cases of each of the diseases, which was unpleasant. However, even when she was showing them she said, “I realize you already understand this and have your beliefs, but I’m required to show you these” in a very apologetic sort of way. I don’t know if all of the people who work there are as nice, but she was wonderful. Good luck! Please let me know how it goes.


  2. Posted by Katrina on June 10, 2011 at 4:48 am

    We are moving (back) to Alabama in a few months, and I’ve been trying to find the forms for vaccine exemption online. The health department website doesn’t seem to even acknowledge that exemption is an option! Did you have to claim scientology or another religion? I read somewhere that they aren’t allowed to ask you what religion you are, or “quiz” you on the specifics of your beliefs. But I’m nervous about going in and saying the wrong thing. I just might take some pictures of horribly vaccine-injured children with me, just in case they show pictures of the diseases in Dale County also! lol Any extra info would be much appreciated. Thanks for sharing your experience, I have hope! :)


  3. Hi Katrina,
    I made some phone calls first, but ultimately, they just told me to go down to the Health Department. You don’t have to tell them what your exact religion is, and I don’t think they are allowed to ask. The most important thing to remember is that you cannon use the phrase “philosophically opposed” because Alabama unlike some other states doesn’t have a provision that allows for people to exempt their children based off of philosophical differences. It has to be participation in a specific religion.

    The lady was actually really nice. I just had to sit down and look at a bunch of pictures that are related to the various diseases that I’m not vaccinating the kids for (or am delaying), and then I signed something. Not judgmental at all :)

    Good luck, and welcome back!


  4. did you have to take any paperwork with you ie, birth certs?


    • It’s been a few years now, but if I recall correctly, I didn’t need any documents. You should probably call ahead to the health department and check before heading down. They were actually pretty helpful. The main thing to remember is the wording. While Alabama does allow for “religious exemptions” the state does not allow for exemptions based off of your values or personal beliefs. You do have to specifically use the word “religious”.


  5. Posted by Rick B. on October 19, 2012 at 1:52 pm

    Are you still accepting questions/comments on this “Board”?


  6. I am curious to find out what blog system you’re using? I’m experiencing
    some small security issues with my latest site and I’d like to find something more safe. Do you have any solutions?


  7. I have already reluctantly had my son vaccinated. Once at birth, once at 2 months, and once at 8 months, I skipped 4 and 6 months because I am totally against it and did not know that I could find a way to be exempt from it all together. When I go to fill out the exemption form will they deny me because my son has already received vaccinations? Can I claim that this being my first child that I did not know of the exemptions available and that be a relevant reason?


    • We had previously started vaxing before choosing to stop, and it was not an issue. They didn’t delve at all, no questions about prior medical history or even what our specific religion was.


  8. Posted by Lisa Wright on July 8, 2013 at 9:46 pm

    I recently moved from Colorado back to Alabama and was stressing this whole situation. These comments and article have set my mind at ease.


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