Compulsory vaccination against nine pediatric infectious diseases. Religious and secular conscientious objection to compulsory vaccination.
Art. 2 Const.
Art. 15 Const.
Art. 16 Const.
1. The refusal of compulsory vaccination on the grounds of religion and belief, i.e. religious conscientious objection, which cannot be completely ruled out depending on the specific circumstances, must remain a restrictively perceived exception, for which the Constitutional Court has already opened some space on account of strong reasons, but not a dispensation granted automatically to a specific religion or a group of persons professing a specific belief.
2. As regards the relation between the two types of conscientious objections, both religious and secular, the Constitutional Court concludes that in a secular there is no reason to treat them differently. There are four requirements regarding the justifiability of the secular objection of conscience, which must be satisfied cumulatively: (1) the constitutional relevance of the claims contained in the objection of conscience, (2) the urgency of the reasons that the holder of the fundamental freedom cites in support of his objection, (3) the consistency and persuasiveness of that person’s claims, and (4) the social impact that the acceptance of a secular objection of conscience may have in the specific case.
3. The claims underlying the secular conscientious objection to compulsory vaccination acquire a constitutional dimension due to the collision between the protection of public health and the health of the person in whose favour the objection of conscience is applied. In addition, the Court must consider the parents’ claim of an interference with their right of parental care. Finally, the argument that vaccination is an interference with bodily integrity cannot be ignored. This case involves fundamental rights that can be weighed against each other (with a view to finding an optimal balance).
4. The social impact of the secular objection of conscience, if it is to be accepted, must not exceed the sphere of the legitimate aims relevant for the given field of law to an excessive degree. In this specific case this means that the desirable level of vaccination coverage must be considered. The exception granted must not be associated with conclusions that would allow such exceptions to become the rule.
Cf. para 93 of Vavřička and Others v. Czech Republic, Nos. 47621/13 and 5 others (Grand Chamber), 8 April 2021 in this databse