Searching over 5,500,000 cases.


searching
Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.

Nikolao v. Lyon

United States Court of Appeals, Sixth Circuit

November 7, 2017

Tara Nikolao, Plaintiff-Appellant,
v.
Nick Lyon, individually and in his official capacity as Director of the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services; Wayne County Department of Health, Veterans, and Community Wellness, Dr. Mouhanad Hammami, individually and in his official capacity as Director of the Wayne County Department of Health, Veterans, and Community Wellness, and Carol Austerberry, individually and in her official capacity as Division Director and Deputy Health Officer of the Wayne County Department of Health, Veterans, and Community Wellness. Defendants-Appellees.

          Argued: October 12, 2017

         Appeal from the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan at Flint. No. 4:16-cv-12545-Linda V. Parker, District Judge.

         ARGUED:

          Kate Oliveri, THOMAS MORE LAW CENTER, Ann Arbor, Michigan, for Appellant.

          Darrin F. Fowler, OFFICE OF THE MICHIGAN ATTORNEY GENERAL, Lansing, Michigan, for Appellee Nick Lyon. Davidde A. Stella, WAYNE COUNTY CORPORATION COUNSEL, Detroit, Michigan, for Appellees Wayne County, Hammami, and Austerberry.

         ON BRIEF:

          Kate Oliveri, Brandon Bolling, THOMAS MORE LAW CENTER, Ann Arbor, Michigan, for Appellant.

          Darrin F. Fowler, Mark A. Gabrielse, OFFICE OF THE MICHIGAN ATTORNEY GENERAL, Lansing, Michigan, for Appellee Nick Lyon. Davidde A. Stella, WAYNE COUNTY CORPORATION COUNSEL, Detroit, Michigan, for Appellees Wayne County, Hammami, and Austerberry.

          Before: SUHRHEINRICH, GRIFFIN, and KETHLEDGE, Circuit Judges.

          SUHRHEINRICH, J., delivered the opinion of the court in which GRIFFIN, J., joined, and KETHLEDGE, J., joined in the result. KETHLEDGE, J. (pg. 12), delivered a separate opinion concurring in the judgment.

          OPINION

          SUHRHEINRICH, Circuit Judge.

         The state of Michigan mandates that school-age children be vaccinated prior to entering the public school system. It also offers exemptions from this requirement for certain medical and nonmedical reasons. However, in order to get an exemption, a parent must first visit a local health department and explain the basis for his or her objection. A devout Catholic, Plaintiff-Appellant Tara Nikolao ("Nikolao") sought a vaccination waiver for her children for religious reasons. At the mandatory meeting, two Wayne County nurses tried to disabuse Nikolao of the notion that her Catholic faith prevented her from vaccinating her children, but Nikolao ultimately received the waiver. Nonetheless, she sued state and county officials for violations of the First Amendment's religion clauses. The district court granted Defendants' motion to dismiss. We affirm in part and vacate and remand in part.

         I. BACKGROUND

         The following facts are taken as true for purposes of Nikolao's appeal from the district court's dismissal under Rule 12(b)(6):

         Michigan state law requires parents and guardians to vaccinate their children prior to entering public school. Mich. Comp. Laws § 333.9205. However, parents may seek exemptions from the mandatory vaccination law if they object "because of religious convictions or other objection to immunization." Id. § 333.9215(2). In December 2014, the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services ("MDHHS") passed a rule requiring parents asking for vaccination exemptions on behalf of their children to visit a county health office to discuss their objections with a local health worker. Mich. Admin. Code r. 325.176(12) ("Certification Rule"). The health worker must certify that the parent has "received education on the risks of not receiving the vaccines being waived and the benefits of vaccination to the individual and the community." Id. Moreover, Michigan has published a series of "Waiver Notes" that contain responses to many common objections to vaccination. Local health workers are instructed to use these Notes and to give them to objecting parents for review. Waiver Notes are also available online to the general public.

         In October 2015, Nikolao went to the Wayne County health department to get an exemption. As a devout Catholic, Nikolao maintains that she cannot use vaccines "'which have moral problems, ' such as those created from aborted fetal cells." R. 1, ID# 36. Further, she believes "the body is a temple and injecting it with chemicals that alter the person permanently violates the will of God." R. 1, ID# 37.

         Nikolao met with two Wayne County nurses, Jane Does 1 and 2.[1] The nurses pressed Nikolao for more information. At one point, Jane Doe 2 issued her an ultimatum, telling Nikolao that she must "declare what religion she practices, explain her religious beliefs, and engage in a back and forth discussion . . . concerning her religious objection." R. 1, ID# 51. She also told Nikolao that "there are no religions that have objections to vaccines." R. 1, ID# 51 (emphasis omitted). Finally, Nikolao was given the state's Religious Waiver Note-a document responding to common religious objections to vaccination-for review. The Religious Waiver Note contained a quote falsely attributed to Pope Benedict XVI stating that parents who chose not to vaccinate their children "would be in 'more proximate cooperation with evil' than those who gave their children the vaccines in question because of the life saving nature of vaccines." R. 1, ID# 28. In reality, Monsignor Jacques Suaudeau, a doctor at the Pontifical Academy for Life, made these statements. R. 1, ID# 30.

         Nikolao did not yield to the nurses' pressure, and she was given her exemption. However, on the form noting her compliance with the Certification Rule, the nurses wrote that Nikolao had objected because she wanted her "child to have natural immunity." R. 11, Ex. 1. ...


Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.