Gov. Chris Christie

Christie’s Vaccine Statements Aside, N.J. Already Allows Parents to Refuse on Religious Grounds

Photo courtesy of REUTERS / Brian Snyder / RNS

Jayden Mercado gets an influenza vaccine at Boston Children’s Hospital in Boston. Photo courtesy of REUTERS / Brian Snyder / RNS

Gov. Chris Christie created a stir during a trade trip to London this week when he defended parents’ right to decide whether their children should get mandated vaccines — remarks that a spokesman quickly clarified by saying the governor “believes vaccines are an important public health protection.”

Back home in New Jersey, where Christie’s health commissioner has been a vocal advocate for vaccinations, parents already have the right to make those decisions if they put in writing that accepting vaccines violates their religious beliefs.  

In the 2013-14 school year, nearly 9,000 New Jersey children used a religious exemption to decline immunizations that under state law children must receive in order to attend school. The largest number of exemptions were sought in Hunterdon, Monmouth, Warren, and Sussex counties, according to state education department data.  

A parent need only submit a signed statement indicating “immunization interferes with the free exercise of the pupil’s religious rights,” according to the health department website.

Parents do not need to produce a letter from a clergy member or cite religious doctrine.

Why Chris Christie and Jeb Bush Were Snubbed by Social Conservative Leaders

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, photo courtesy Bob Jagendorf/RNS.

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie and former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush were not invited to a major gathering of social conservatives in Washington last weekend in what was viewed as a serious snub of two men considered prominent Republican presidential contenders for 2016.

“They were not invited this year because they just weren’t on the top of the list in terms of what they are doing right now and whether or not it was relevant to the values voters and who they want to hear from,” said Tony Perkins, head of the Family Research Council and chief organizer of the Values Voter Summit, which opened on Friday and ended Sept. 28.

“They shouldn’t take it the wrong way,” Perkins told David Brody of the Christian Broadcasting Network in an interview taped on Friday.

But in his report, Brody said the two men had been “snubbed” and that’s not good news for any presidential aspirations they may harbor.

The Values Voter Summit is the pre-eminent venue for GOP candidates who hope to showcase their bona fides to the crucial conservative Christian bloc, and Christie and Bush — the elder brother of former President George W. Bush — are seen as Republicans who could appeal to the center of the electorate but who have not won the hearts of social conservatives.

Muslim Superhero Kamala Khan No Match for Real-life Islamophobia

This coming January, Marvel Comics will launch the new monthly, Ms. Marvel. Photo:RNS / courtesy of Sara Pichelli, Marvel Comics

When Marvel Comics announced the debut of its latest superhero — a 16-year-old Pakistani-American Muslim from Jersey City, N.J. — it was correctly seen as a positive development. Created and written by two American Muslim women, Kamala Khan (aka Ms. Marvel) holds promise.

But while Khan is a comic book character, she should not become a caricature.

“Her brother is extremely conservative,” the editor, Sana Amanat, told The New York Times. “Her mom is paranoid that she’s going to touch a boy and get pregnant. Her father wants her to concentrate on her studies and become a doctor.”

American literature is replete with tales of assimilation, from “My Antonia” to “The Joy Luck Club.” The overprotective mother and the demanding father are staples of the genre. But with Khan, there is an additional twist: The “conservative” brother.

Judge in N.J. Same-Sex Marriage Case has Deep Catholic Roots

Judge Mary Jacobson in her Mercer County courtroom. Photo by Frank Jacobs III / courtesy The Star-Ledger. Via RNS.

The judge who declared same-sex marriage legal in New Jersey was raised a Catholic in Bayonne, a place where the locals still use their church — not their neighborhood — to define where they’re from.

Judge Mary Jacobson graduated in 1971 from Holy Family Academy, a since-shuttered all-girls Catholic high school near her home.

“In Bayonne, you identified yourself by your parish,” said Thomas Olivieri, a retired Superior Court judge in Hudson County and a Bayonne native. “Mary’s family was from St. Mary’s parish. Ours was from St. Vinny’s. We’re both very proud of where we came from.”

Gov. Chris Christie, a Catholic, Tiptoes on Gay Marriage

Photo courtesy RNS/Shutterstock.com.

NJ Gov. Chris Christie – red gov in a blue state – is walking a fine line on gay marriage. Photo courtesy RNS/Shutterstock.com.

As activists push states to recognize gay marriages, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie — conservative Republican governor in a blue state and a 2016 presidential possibility — is walking a fine line between two electorates and two elections.

Christie vetoed same-sex marriage legislation last year and severely criticized the Supreme Court’s decision striking down a ban on federal rights for same-sex married couples. At the same time, he is “adamant” that same-sex couples deserve equal legal protection, wants a referendum on gay marriage, and vows to abide by a same-sex marriage law if New Jersey voters approve it.

He’s tiptoeing between constituencies. First are the voters of New Jersey: polls show they favor same-sex marriage, and Christie wants them to re-elect him in November by a big margin.

N.J. Lawmakers Approve Gay Marriage, But Veto Looms

TRENTON, N.J. — Even as Gov. Chris Christie's threat of a "swift" veto looms, gay rights activists are celebrating after the state Assembly voted last week (Feb. 16) on a bill to legalize same-sex marriage in New Jersey.

With supporters imploring lawmakers to make history, the lower house passed the bill after hours of debate on a day that began with protests and prayer vigils under gloomy skies outside the Statehouse.

"Without question, this is a historic day in the state of New Jersey," said Assembly Speaker Sheila Oliver, who, along with Senate President Stephen Sweeney, a fellow Democrat, made the measure a top priority.

The Senate, which failed to pass a gay marriage bill two years ago, easily approved it Monday. The governor's office would not say when Christie would respond.

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