Nation of Islam Western Regional Minister Tony Muhammad warns members of the California Legislative Black Caucus of a political backlash from their community if they support a bill that would mandate childhood vaccinations, according to the Los Angeles Times.
Voting in favor of the bill, which may come up in the Assembly on Thursday, would be “a traitorous act,” Muhammad said, according to the Times. He added, “They [the black lawmakers] will not be welcome in the black community if they vote like that.”
As the San Jose Mercury explains, Senate Bill 277 would repeal current personal-belief exemptions and religious exemptions to vaccinating children attending public and private schools. It would permit exemptions only for medical reasons. Lawmakers introduced the bill after a measles outbreak in California last December.
Muhammad told the Times that some vaccines may harm black boys and compared the vaccine mandate to the government’s Tuskegee syphilis study, in which federal researchers withheld treatment from black men.
“This happened to us in Tuskegee, and we refuse to allow this thing to happen to us again under the name of health. Because they came in the name of health in 1932 … and watched men die when they had a cure,” he told the Times.
Meanwhile, a coalition of black organizations is urging the state’s black lawmakers to support S.B. 277.
“Unfortunately, recent attacks on the measure have been vicious, unfounded, and distort the science and history of childhood immunization within our community,” a statement from the groups says, according to the Times. “Our organizations denounce assertions that vaccination of black children would be another Tuskegee experiment.”
The groups disputing Muhammad’s comments include the California State Conference of the NAACP, the National Coalition of 100 Black Women, the Charles Drew Medical Society, the California Black Health Network and the Network of Ethnic Physician Organizations, the Times reports.