The Crime of Refusing Vaccination
Listen now
Description
In 1902, a Swedish American pastor named Henning Jacobson refused to get the smallpox vaccine. This launched a chain of events that landed the Massachusetts pastor in a landmark 1905 Supreme Court case in which the Court considered the delicate balancing act between individual liberty over our bodies and our duty to one another. "We can be grateful for his work here [while] at the same time also saying the dude was terribly mistaken about this one thing for which, unfortunately, he's most famous now,” says Pastor Robin Lutjohann, who today leads the church that Jacobson founded, originally a haven for Swedish immigrants. The Jacobson v. Massachusetts decision made clear that the government could mandate vaccination, arguing that collective good sometimes outweighs individual rights. But the line between the two is blurry. More than two decades after Jacobson’s case, the Court used the same logic in another decision, one the historian Michael Willrich says is among the “scariest U.S. Supreme Court decisions of all time.” Be part of The Experiment. Use the hashtag #TheExperimentPodcast, or write to us at [email protected] This episode was produced by Julia Longoria and Gabrielle Berbey, with editing by Katherine Wells. Fact-check by Will Gordon. Sound design by David Herman.
More Episodes
Last week, Justice Sonia Sotomayor announced that the Supreme Court had broken with tradition and changed its rules for oral argument. This came after a study revealed that women are disproportionately interrupted by men in the highest court in America. This week, we’re re-airing a More Perfect...
Published 10/21/21
The satire site The Babylon Bee, a conservative Christian answer to The Onion, stirred controversy when some readers mistook its headlines for misinformation. In this episode, The Atlantic’s religion reporter Emma Green sits down with the editor in chief, Kyle Mann, to talk about where he draws...
Published 10/14/21
Ashley C. Ford was just a baby when her father was sentenced to 30 years behind bars. Prison phone calls—a $1.4 billion industry in the United States—were often prohibitively expensive for her family, so Ford maintained a fragmentary relationship with him through handwritten letters and short...
Published 10/07/21