In re Deng, Docket No. 328826.

CourtCourt of Appeal of Michigan (US)
Citation887 N.W.2d 445,314 Mich.App. 615
Docket NumberDocket No. 328826.
Parties In re DENG.
Decision Date22 March 2016

314 Mich.App. 615
887 N.W.2d 445

In re DENG.

Docket No. 328826.

Court of Appeals of Michigan.

Submitted March 2, 2016, at Detroit.
Decided March 22, 2016, at 9:05 a.m.

887 N.W.2d 447

Speaker Law Firm, PLLC, Lansing (by Liisa R. Speaker), William A. Forsyth, Prosecuting Attorney, and James K. Benison, Chief Appellate Attorney, for the Department of Health and Human Services.

Terese A. Paletta for Jasmine K. Thuc.

Before: SAAD, P.J., and SAWYER and HOEKSTRA, JJ.


314 Mich.App. 618

In these child protective proceedings under the juvenile code, MCL 712A.1 et seq., respondent appeals by leave granted a dispositional order requiring that respondent's children receive physician-recommended vaccinations. Because the trial court has the authority to make medical decisions over a respondent's objections to vaccination for children under its jurisdiction and the court did not clearly err by determining that vaccination was appropriate for the welfare of respondent's children and society, we affirm.


Respondent and her husband have four children together, all under the age of six. Following a hearing on December 23, 2014, respondent and her husband were both adjudicated as unfit parents. The facts leading to this adjudication included periods of homelessness and unstable housing, failure to provide financial support and food for the children, improper supervision of the children, and respondent's mental-health and substance-abuse issues, including suicidal ideation prompting respondent's hospitalization. Given these circumstances, the trial court found by a preponderance of the evidence that statutory grounds existed to exercise jurisdiction over the children pursuant to MCL 712A.2(b)(1) and (2). The children were made temporary wards of the court and placed in out-of-

314 Mich.App. 619

home foster care. Respondent and her husband both received a case service plan, with the aim of reuniting the family.

At a permanency planning hearing on June 3, 2015, the foster care worker assigned to the case requested an order from the trial court requiring the children to be vaccinated. Respondent objected to vaccination on religious grounds.1 The trial

887 N.W.2d 448

court granted petitioner's request for vaccination, but afforded respondent an opportunity to file written objections and to present evidence at a hearing. At the evidentiary hearing, respondent testified regarding her religious objections to vaccination, and the trial court also heard medical testimony from the children's pediatrician, who testified regarding the benefits of immunization, both to protect the children from disease and to protect society by preventing of the spread of disease. The pediatrician opined that the benefits of vaccination outweighed the risks, and she specified that vaccinations were recommended by the American Academy of Pediatrics and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Following the hearing, the trial court issued a written opinion and order, requiring the physician-recommended vaccinations over respondent's religious objections. The trial court indicated that it would “assume” that respondent's religious objections were sincere. But despite the sincerity of her objections, the trial court nonetheless concluded that respondent could not prevent the inoculation of her children on religious grounds because she had been adjudicated as unfit and had thus “forfeited the right” to make vaccination decisions for her children. In particular, the

314 Mich.App. 620

trial court noted that MCL 712A.18(1)(f) and MCL 722.124a afford the court authority to direct the medical care of a child within the court's jurisdiction, so that it fell to the court, and not respondent, to make medical decisions, including immunization decisions. In this context, although parents generally enjoy the right to prevent vaccinations on religious grounds under MCL 333.9215(2) and MCL 722.127, the trial court reasoned that these provisions did not apply to parents who had been adjudicated as “unfit.” Apart from these specific statutory provisions, the trial court determined that, more generally, respondent could not a raise constitutional challenge to vaccination because Free Exercise Clause challenges to vaccinations have been routinely rejected by the courts and, in any event, after being adjudicated as unfit, respondent did not have “the same level of constitutional rights of child-rearing decisions for her children in care as a fit parent would....” Ultimately, the trial court concluded that it had authority to order vaccination over respondent's objections. Because it concluded that the giving of vaccines would benefit the children and society, the trial court entered an order for the children to receive the physician-recommended vaccinations.

Respondent filed an application for leave to appeal and a motion for immediate consideration, both of which we granted.2 Pending the outcome of this appeal, the trial court has stayed enforcement of its inoculation order.

On appeal, respondent argues that she has the right to object to the vaccination of her children on religious grounds and that the trial court therefore erred by entering an order requiring the vaccination of her

314 Mich.App. 621

children. Relying on MCL 722.127 and briefly citing provisions in the Public Health Code, MCL 333.1101 et seq., respondent primarily claims a statutory right to object to the vaccination of her children. Interwoven with this statutory argument, respondent also emphasizes that that she has a protected liberty interest in religious freedom and the determination of the care,

887 N.W.2d 449

custody, and nurturance of her children. According to respondent, under the principles set forth in Hunter v. Hunter, 484 Mich. 247, 771 N.W.2d 694 (2009), her rights survived even after she had been adjudicated unfit. Consequently, respondent contends that she has an ongoing right under MCL 722.127 to object to the vaccination of her children on the basis of her sincerely held religious beliefs.


A trial court's dispositional orders, entered after the court assumes jurisdiction over the child, “are afforded considerable deference on appellate review[.]” In re Sanders, 495 Mich. 394, 406, 852 N.W.2d 524 (2014). While dispositional orders must be “ ‘appropriate for the welfare of the juvenile and society in view of the facts proven and ascertained,’ ” they will not be set aside unless clearly erroneous. Id., quoting MCL 712A.18(1) ; see also In re Macomber, 436 Mich. 386, 399, 461 N.W.2d 671 (1990). Likewise, any factual findings underlying the trial court's decision are reviewed for clear error. In re Morris, 300 Mich.App. 95, 104, 832 N.W.2d 419 (2013). To the extent the trial court's order in this case implicates questions of statutory interpretation and constitutional law, our review of these questions of law is de novo. In re AMAC, 269 Mich.App. 533, 536, 711 N.W.2d 426 (2006).

314 Mich.App. 622

The goal of statutory interpretation is to give effect to the Legislature's intent. In re AJR, 496 Mich. 346, 352, 852 N.W.2d 760 (2014). To ascertain the Legislature's intent, we begin with the language of the statute, giving words their plain and ordinary meaning. In re LE, 278 Mich.App. 1, 22, 747 N.W.2d 883 (2008). “The Legislature is presumed to have intended the meaning it plainly expressed, and when the statutory language is clear and unambiguous, judicial construction is neither required nor permitted.” In re RFF, 242 Mich.App. 188, 198, 617 N.W.2d 745 (2000).


Religious freedom and the right to “bring up children” are among those fundamental rights “long recognized ... as essential to the orderly pursuit of happiness by free men.” Meyer v. Nebraska, 262 U.S. 390, 399, 43 S.Ct. 625, 67 L.Ed. 1042 (1923). “Generally, the state has no interest in the care, custody, and control of the child and has no business interfering in the parent-child relationship.” In re AP, 283 Mich.App. 574, 591, 770 N.W.2d 403 (2009). Instead, “the custody, care and nurture of the child reside first in the parents....” Prince v. Massachusetts, 321 U.S. 158, 166, 64 S.Ct. 438, 88 L.Ed. 645 (1944). Indeed, “[i]t is undisputed that parents have a fundamental liberty interest in the companionship, care, custody, and management of their children.” In re B & J, 279 Mich.App. 12, 23, 756 N.W.2d 234 (2008). Moreover, parents and their children enjoy the right to the free exercise of religion, and parents have the right to give their children “religious training and to encourage them in the practice of religious belief, as against preponderant sentiment and assertion of state power voicing it....”

314 Mich.App. 623

Prince, 321 U.S. at 165, 64 S.Ct. 438. See also Wisconsin v. Yoder, 406 U.S. 205,...

To continue reading

Request your trial
12 cases
  • In re Smith
    • United States
    • Court of Appeal of Michigan (US)
    • January 28, 2021
    ...authority to make vaccination decisions involving the child has already been answered by this Court in 335 Mich.App. 520 In re Deng , 314 Mich. App. 615, 887 N.W.2d 445 (2016). Alternatively, when neither parent is adjudicated and the parents share legal custody, the trial court can resolve......
  • In re Pederson
    • United States
    • Court of Appeal of Michigan (US)
    • February 13, 2020
    ...exercises jurisdiction, then the parent will be unable to control the care and custody of his or her child, 951 N.W.2d 717 In re Deng , 314 Mich. App. 615, 626, 887 N.W.2d 445 (2016), and will be subjected to "the dispositional authority of the court," MCR 3.903(A)(27). See In re Sanders , ......
  • In re Elianah T.-T., SC 19902
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of Connecticut
    • August 15, 2017
    ...treatment for a child remains with the child's parents until the parents' rights are permanently terminated"); but see In re Deng, 314 Mich.App. 615, 626–27, 887 N.W.2d 445 (because determination of unfitness "so breaks the mutual due process liberty interests as to justify interference wit......
  • In re P.C.
    • United States
    • United States Court of Appeals (Ohio)
    • April 12, 2021
    ...interest in protecting the health of the child outweighs mother's belief that vaccination contravenes her faith); In re Deng , 314 Mich.App. 615, 618, 887 N.W.2d 445, 447 (Mich. App. 2016) (holding, "[b]ecause the trial court has the authority to make medical decisions over a respondent's o......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

VLEX uses login cookies to provide you with a better browsing experience. If you click on 'Accept' or continue browsing this site we consider that you accept our cookie policy. ACCEPT