Courts cannot order parochial schools to admit children who haven't been immunized, a three-judge panel of the First District Court of Appeal ruled Tuesday.
The judges unanimously rejected an appeal by Patrick Flynn, who wanted his youngest child to continue to attend Holy Spirit School without getting the immunizations the Catholic Diocese of St. Augustine began requiring for the 2015-16 school year.
Flynn said a religious exemption to the state's mandatory immunization law should also apply to the parochial school, but the diocese said that would violate its own First Amendment rights.
Judge Scott Makar, writing for himself and Judge Ross Bilbrey, said courts have traditionally found that arguments about religious doctrine should be resolved within the church.
"The Diocese has a religiously based immunization policy with which one of its members disagrees; Mr. Flynn seeks the power of the State to compel the Diocese to depart from its point-of-view and admit his non-immunized son," Makar wrote. "But doing so would further his own religious views at the expense of the Diocese's on the topic of immunizations. We are convinced that a secular court should not be making the judgment as to which side's religious view of immunization is to be respected." Judge Susan Kelsey agreed only with the result, writing in a separate opinion that the issue "can be resolved easily and expeditiously under well-settled precedent."