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Senator John Milkovich speaks during the Senate Chamber meeting in Baton Rouge on Sunday, June 3, 2018.

We live in an age of skepticism, but there is more and more danger from people who believe misinformation on social media, particularly when it comes to vaccinations.

Is everybody’s opinion worthwhile? Not when it there is no evidence for it whatsoever, as with the myth that vaccines for common childhood diseases cause autism.

Is everybody’s religious conviction sacrosanct in civil society? Not when it endangers children, and not a few adults, as with a “religious” exemption from getting vaccinations before school starts.

A tall earnest young physician named Alex Billioux is the state’s chief public health officer. The poor guy had to stand before the Press Club of Baton Rouge to address the can of publicity worms opened by state Sen. John Milkovich, D-Shreveport, who spouted off in the Senate about the evils of vaccinations.

The evidence is all against Milkovich and all for Billioux.

Vaccines are safe. Given the high rate of vaccinations in Louisiana — with few exceptions, students are required to have them before going to school — our state is protected even as more than 20 states that now have reports of measles. If anything, children should be vaccinated earlier than when they start school, Billioux said.

The measles outbreaks nationally are the biggest in years. Fortunately, Billioux said, only two cases were reported in Louisiana in 2018, both from people coming from abroad.

But with measles cases growing internationally, Louisiana children still need vaccinations; the young are vulnerable to life-threatening consequences. The old and those with impaired immune systems, such as chemotherapy patients, are also particularly vulnerable.

Billioux and the Louisiana Department of Health are doing a good job of combating the myths, though always with careful respect for the opinions of parents. But the vaccine hysteria is only one part of a damaging and disturbing trend in American society: special rights based on beliefs, including statements of religious faith, that endanger others in society.

Louisiana does allow parents to seek exemptions from vaccinations, either for health reasons or religious belief. What’s wrong with that? The number of unvaccinated children is growing, albeit slowly, and the virulently contagious measles virus is thus a growing threat — if not from local sources, from travelers from abroad.

What ought to be of concern to the law-abiding is a broad notion pushed by Milkovich and his ilk that religious belief — untested, unapproved, undetectable by another soul — is a blanket exemption from the laws and ordinary morality of people living together in a society.

No stranger to pandering, President Donald Trump has abandoned his earlier embrace of the anti-vaccination fringe. He urges parents to get children vaccinated.

Should public school children be exposed to entirely avoidable risks because of a vague religious exemption?

In many cases, as in discrimination laws, business owners must establish to somebody — either a court or civil authority of some other kind — that their violation of the law is based on a sincere and deeply held religious belief, applied in specific circumstances. Stretching the U.S. Constitution’s protection of freedom of religion into a blanket exemption that threatens children’s health does not make a lot of sense.

The good news is that measles and other childhood diseases can be beaten by science. The bad news is that the viruses may be resurrected by ignorance.

Email Lanny Keller at