Christian Teen Can Reject HPV Vaccine, Get Citizenship

A British teen who refused on moral grounds to receive a vaccine that protects against a sexually transmitted virus can now apply for U.S. citizenship without the injection, her lawyer said Monday.

The U.S. Center for Disease Control announced Friday that as of Dec. 14 it will no longer require female immigrants between the ages of 11 and 26 seeking permanent resident status to receive the human papilloma virus (HPV) vaccine Gardasil. The vaccine protects against certain types of HPVs connected to cervical cancer, but is controversial because reports suggest it is linked to 47 deaths since its release in 2006. Other reported side effects include seizures, paralysis, blood clots, brain inflammation, among others.

Due to possible adverse health effects, Simone Davis, who turns 18 in January, had refused to receive Gardasil arguing that she is not sexually active and therefore is not at risk of getting the virus. Davis, a devout Christian who believes the Bible prohibits premarital sex, was in danger of being removed from the country and separated from her grandmother – the only real parent she has ever known – for refusing the vaccine.

Davis also has the option of waiting until she turns 18 next year and reapplying for U.S. citizenship. But that would mean she would have to wait another five years before she is eligible for citizenship. Taking this path would also delay her college plans because Pensacola Christian College in Florida, where she has been accepted, will not let her attend unless she is a U.S. citizen.

"We are pleased that the path has now been cleared for the government to grant Davis citizenship without forcing her to violate her religious beliefs," said Alliance Defense Fund Senior Legal Counsel Joel Oster. "The government should not be forcing applicants for citizenship to violate their sincerely held religious beliefs in order to become a citizen, especially when the same requirement is not placed on natural-born citizens. We are glad that the government has stopped this double-standard."

ADF had filed a brief with U.S. immigration officials on behalf of Davis just weeks before the CDC's announcement. The Christian legal group highlighted that Davis refuses the vaccine because HPV can only be contracted through sexual activity, which she has vowed to not engage in until marriage.

Prior to ADF's legal involvement, Davis and her grandmother had applied for a waiver regarding the vaccine for moral and religious reasons, but they were rejected by the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service.

Davis reportedly started applying for citizenship nearly 10 years ago.