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Kolbeck v. Kramer

Decided: July 23, 1964.


Civil action in lieu of prerogative writ.

Martino, J.s.c.


[84 NJSuper Page 570] This is an action in lieu of prerogative writ brought by Wayne Bruce Kolbeck, through his father, Walter A. Kolbeck, as guardian ad litem. Plaintiff applied to and was accepted by Rutgers, the State University, for the September 1962 term. While in the process of registration the Student Health Department of Rutgers sought to make certain medical tests. Plaintiff refused to submit to such tests alleging that such practices were violative of his religious principles and beliefs. The university supplied the plaintiff with a printed form which allows a claim for exemption on the basis of religious belief which included a certification that the person seeking the exemption was a member of the Christian Science faith. Plaintiff contends that while his refusal is based on religious belief, he is not a member of any recognized sect or religion. Those charged with admission have refused his right to matriculate since they have concluded that his reason for refusal to submit to the medical tests is not based on a bona fide claim of religious belief. This suit seeks relief by an order on defendant university to admit the plaintiff.

It is conceded that the defendant university is a political subdivision of the State of New Jersey. N.J.S.A. 18:22-15.1. The defendant university is subject to the rulings and regulations as promulgated by the State Board of Education. N.J.S.A. 18:22-15.57. Since Rutgers University is bound by the regulations and rules of the State Board of Education, any requirement or ruling formulated by the university as to exemptions must be examined in the context of their compliance with those regulations.

The powers of the State Board of Education are provided for by statute. The board is generally charged with the duty to enforce the school laws of the State and generally make such regulations as are necessary to implement the statutes. N.J.S.A. 18:2-4(b). This duty is carried out generally through the principal education officer of the State, the Commissioner of Education, whose powers in this respect are governed by N.J.S.A. 18:3-7.1. Since neither plaintiff nor defendant has cited any specific regulation or regulations of the Board of Education, the instant case is to be governed by the applicable statutes. Generally the statutes require that pupils undergo: physical examination, N.J.S.A. 18:14-57; general vaccination, N.J.S.A. 18:14-52; diphtheria immunization, N.J.S.A. 18:14-64.2; polio immunization, N.J.S.A. 18:14-64.10, and tuberculosis tests, N.J.S.A. 18:14-64.5.

It is beyond dispute that the State, through the Board of Education, could make the above requirements mandatory as to all pupils without exemptions based on religious beliefs or principles and such would be valid by constitutional standards as a reasonable exercise of the police power. Jacobson v. Massachusetts , 197 U.S. 11, 25 S. Ct. 358, 49 L. Ed. 643 (1904); Prince v. Massachusetts , 321 U.S. 158, 64 S. Ct. 438, 88 L. Ed. 645 (1943); Cleveland v. United States , 329 U.S. 14, 67 S. Ct. 13, 91 L. Ed. 12 (1946); Mountain Lakes Board of Education v. Maas , 56 N.J. Super. 245 (App. Div. 1959), affirmed per curiam 31 N.J. 537 (1960), certiorari denied 363 U.S. 843, 80 S. Ct. 1613, 4 L. Ed. 2 d 1727

(1960); Sadlock v. Board of Education of Borough of Carlstadt , 137 N.J.L. 85 (Sup. Ct. 1948).

The only statutory obligation the defendant university desires plaintiff to comply with is the statute which requires a vaccination. N.J.S.A. 18:14-52. The plaintiff's objection to this test, according to his testimony which was corroborated by his parents and an older brother, is based on his religious belief that such practice violates the religious teachings which he has practiced for many years. The testimony of the plaintiff and his family indicates that they believe that it was God's Word or belief in God that would keep them healthy. The plaintiff testified that his parents brought him up in the belief that God was the ultimate healer and that "God made man in His own form and that God would protect him and, if any illness came, the only way he could be healed would be to communicate with Him and ask Him to heal."

Neither the plaintiff nor any members of his family have ever consulted a medical doctor and on two occasions the plaintiff has refused vaccinations required by other school authorities. In the elementary school at Hainesport, the mother testified that she refused to have her son vaccinated and she was forced to take him out of school, but after a few days the school authorities advised her that he could return. Upon his entrance into Moorestown High School, which he attended for four years, the mother had received a notice that her son should be inoculated for polio, smallpox and tetanus and when she notified the high school authorities that it was against her religious beliefs to permit such inoculations she was forced to have the plaintiff taken from school, but after a short period the authorities relented and permitted him to complete his high school education without inoculations. It, therefore, appears that the authorities controlling admissions in the elementary and high school systems accepted the plaintiff's faith and waived the requirements of the statutes.

The defendant university would be standing on proper legal grounds to refuse his entrance, but their conduct in the case of students who profess to be members of the Christian Science

faith requires a further examination of their attitude and the laws which control this ...

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