Mandatory / Compulsory Vaccination?
With COVID-19, there is a renewed call for compulsory or mandatory vaccination. Should vaccines be compelled?
I do not believe that the government should force parents to vaccinate their children against their will. In the Bible, parental authority over children is so vast that parents could even bring rebellious children to trial and, if found guilty of consistent, persistent, and willful rebellion and wickedness, have their children executed (Deuteronomy 21:18-21; note that there is no record of parents actually following through on this with their children, as very, very few parents would want to do it, but it still shows the Biblical position on parental authority in relationship to the State). Similarly, children who cursed their parents or hit their parents would "surely be put to death" (Exodus 21:15-17) if there were multiple witnesses who were willing to testify to the fact (no Biblical indication specifies that the parents were required to testify against their children or, for that matter, that anyone at any time was compelled to testify against anyone else).
When Romans 13 outlines the role of the government, Biblically speaking, it is a "night watchman" sort of system with very limited authority. The government is to punish evil but is not even supposed to actively do good--that is the realm of individuals and groups in society such as churches--but only to "praise" the good without financial support (Romans 13:3-4). Biblical government is, in many ways, very libertarian on the spectrum of political ideology (learn more about the role of the government according to God's Word here). Therefore, based on God's revelation, a strong support for parental authority and a strong view on a very limited role for government leads me to oppose mandatory / compulsory vaccination. Furthermore, requiring parents who have religious objections to vaccinate is a very dangerous restriction of religious freedom.
Furthermore, in American history compulsory vaccination has led to many other restrictions on civil liberties. A 1902 mandatory vaccination law passed in Massachusetts in response to a smallpox epidemic was appealed all the way to the Supreme Court, which concluded that compulsory vaccination was constitutional in Jacobson v. Massachusetts (1905) by a 7 to 2 margin. For the benefit of the collective or group, individual liberty could be repressed. The precedent set by this decision allowed for the promotion of eugenics; for example, in 1927 the case Buck v. Bell upheld the mandatory sterilization of a person considered "feeble-minded," arguing that “The principle that sustains compulsory vaccination is broad enough to cover cutting the Fallopian tubes.” The only precedent cited in case law was Jacobson v. Massachusetts. The (alleged) collective good from forcibly sterilizing undesirable people overrode the individual liberty not to be--to describe it Biblically--eunuchized. The expanded state powers that justified compulsory vaccination were used to uphold eugenic sterilization (learn more in the article here). The power given to the State over parents that is involved in allowing compulsory vaccination also justifies the elimination of many other civil liberties.
Thus, I am against compulsory vaccination, and I believe you should be against it as well.
What is not a reason I oppose compulsory vaccination
I am against mandatory vaccination because of parental rights. I am not against mandatory vaccination because vaccines do not work, are dangerous, or are ineffective. Vaccines are safe, are effective, and are a great blessing to mankind in this fallen world that God has allowed scientists to discover utilizing the Biblically-based scientific method. Thanks to vaccines, diseases such as polio, typhoid, smallpox, yellow fever, and rabies no longer kill, cripple, and cause terrible suffering to millions and millions of people. Anti-vax propaganda simply does not reflect scientific reality in the world God has made. Common ideas, such as the lie that vaccines cause autism, was spread in order to make its author a lot of money. If you do not vaccinate your children, you are increasing the likelihood that they will die or suffer because you believed scientifically inaccurate propaganda. You are also not loving your neighbor as yourself, for you are increasing the likelihood that other children or adults will get sick or die. Furthermore, you endanger the children of responsible parents who vaccinate their children, as their children, when too young to get vaccinated, may still be infected and get sick or die because you have refused to protect your own children from disease. (Learn more about vaccine safety here.) You may say that you don't need to vaccinate because others do, and so there is herd immunity--but you had better keep your kids away from the airport, then, and had better not teach them to evangelize in an area that has a lot of immigrants. You definitely would want to keep them away from the mission field.
In other words, I believe that the government should allow parents to make foolish decisions, because allowing them to make foolish decisions--like not getting vaccinated themselves or having their children vaccinated, which is very foolish--is not as bad as the consequences are of the increased governmental power involved in compulsory vaccination. In Israel drunkenness was a sin, but it was not illegal. Failing to help the poor was wicked, but it was not illegal. God hated divorce, but it was legal. Failure to love one's neighbor as oneself was a horrible crime, but it was legal. It should be legal for people to make all kinds of bad, foolish decisions, because increased government power is even worse than the bad, foolish decisions.
The only way to stop mandatory vaccination
While I believe that the position above is Biblically and practically correct, it is also one that is a loser politically. If enough people believe anti-vax propaganda and stop vaccinating, it is certain that there will be more outbreaks in the United States of easily preventable diseases, and children will die for no good reason. Enough angry parents showing pictures of happy babies and healthy children that are now dead or handicapped from diseases because of anti-vaccination lies will create an unstoppable wave of public support for mandatory vaccination.
Without mandatory vaccination, more children will get sick, suffer life-long hurt, and die. I believe that the less-easy-to-see consequences of mandatory vaccination are worse than this awful and very visible consequence of not mandating vaccines. But is that going to win in a room full of angry parents holding pictures of their now dead children and demanding their congressman support mandatory vaccination? Nope. Not a chance. Vaccines will become compulsory if enough people stop vaccinating.
So how can mandatory vaccination be stopped? The only way to stop it is by vaccinating voluntarily. If only a small enough percentage of the population doesn't vaccinate, the people who are putting their children's lives and the lives of other children at risk can fly under the radar, believe their misinformation, and not cause too much damage. But as their number grows big enough to compromise or eliminate herd immunity, public pressure from the death, disease, and carnage caused by their irresponsible actions will lead to mandatory vaccination.
So do you want to stop mandatory vaccination? Have your children vaccinated, encourage others to vaccinate, and fight inaccurate and unscientific anti-vaccination propaganda.
There is no other long-term way to stop mandatory vaccination.