Brian Tashman of Right Wing Watch caught the following anti-vaccination plank in the Texas Republican Party’s draft platform alongside denial of evolution and climate change.
Immunizations: All adult citizens should have the legal right to conscientiously choose which vaccines are administered to themselves, or their minor children, without penalty for refusing a vaccine. We oppose any effort by any authority to mandate such vaccines or any medical database that would contain personal records of citizens without their consent.
Texas already allows religious and medical exemptions from its public school immunization requirements, but in opposing vaccine “mandates” the party seems to be directly opposed to the requirements themselves now. What explains this sudden arrival of vaccine denialism in conservative Texas politics?
It’s worth noting that the issue tracks very closely with other forms of anti-science denial in one key aspect. Studies show that climate change deniers and advocates of ‘intelligent design’ only become more determined when confronted with new scientific evidence of climate change or the fossil record. Likewise, even though Andrew Wakefield’s study that first linked vaccines to autism was revealed as a fraud years ago, and even though various studies have since shown absolutely no link between vaccines and autism, anti-vaxxers have only become more determined to resist vaccination.
Measles was declared eliminated in the U.S. more than a decade ago. But in recent years, the highly infectious disease has cropped up in communities with low vaccination rates, most recently in North Texas.
There, 21 people — the majority of whom have not been immunized — have gotten the disease, which began at a vaccine-skeptical megachurch.
The outbreak began when a man who contracted the virus on a recent trip to Indonesia visited the Eagle Mountain International Church in Newark, about an hour and a half northwest of Dallas.
Earlier this week, crowds flooded in for regular services. Rose Mwangi had her Bible in hand and said she’s not worried “because I know Jesus is a healer, so I know he’s covered us with the blood…There’s no place for fear.”
Immunologists say that compromised herd immunity will inevitably result in outbreaks of preventable illnesses, and of course they have vast amounts of data to prove they are right. But the Texas Republican Party has a different, non-data explanation for disease outbreaks: a faith-based denial of germ theory in which pestilence is the natural and just punishment for sin. This abiotic theory holds that moral contamination, not viral exposure, causes disease, and that spiritual purity is the only effective barrier against infection.
This unscientific view underlies a host of right wing views on culture war issues. See Texas’s experiments in abstinence-only “education,” for instance, in which the failure rate of condoms is always emphasized while prayer is considered an effective germicide. Or look at Rick Perry’s infamous U-turn on Gardasil, the cervical cancer vaccine, just a few years ago.
The evangelical politics of sexual shame and anti-science denialism have been ascendant in the Texas GOP for a long time; this is just their latest victory.