Former New Mexico Governor and Libertarian nominee for president Gary Johnson said yesterday that his position on vaccines has changed. Since he is a Libertarian, one would assume that his position would be that deciding whether to be vaccinated or to vaccinate one’s children should be left to the individual.

That assumption would be correct -- until an interview yesterday when Johnson continued his shift on issues in an effort seemingly aimed at appealing to more moderate voters. As someone who has degrees in biological sciences, I know vaccines are one of the most life-saving inventions of modern medicine. However, it seems people like me value liberty, and specifically religious liberty, more than Johnson.

But how do mandatory vaccines hurt religious liberty? While it does seem like a ridiculous stretch at first glance, there are serious implications to a government mandate such as this. Many prominent religions in America prohibit or call into question scientific developments like vaccines. For example, within adherents of Jehovah’s Witnesses, Mormons, and Christians there are people who view vaccines as sinful for various reasons (i.e. cannot ingest the blood of animals, vaccines alter God-given immunity, etc.). Some Catholics oppose vaccines because they can cause terminations of pregnancy, and they view this an unacceptable risk. As a Christian, I see vaccines as use of our God-given abilities to better protect ourselves, but that doesn’t mean I think everyone should be forced to believe the same. What Johnson is advocating for would set a dangerous precedent, likely forcing people to choose between following United States law or following their religious convictions.

The government is entrusted to promote the general welfare, but the Constitution does not say it must ensure it. A compromise that allows for personal choice is surely available, but Johnson appears to be more interested in big government requirements than he is on finding a more conservative approach. What if we just made vaccines mandatory for people who send their children to public school or work for the government? While that seems like a simple plan, it at least would preserve choices for those who cling fast to their religious convictions. If I can come up with a potential plan to preserve religious liberty, surely a seasoned politician like Gary Johnson can -- if he cares about the First Amendment.

This is not the first time Johnson has advocated for infringing on the religious liberties of American citizens. In a debate earlier this year, he said he would force a Jewish baker to bake a cake for a Nazi couple who wanted a swastika on it. The Libertarian Party usually adheres to its limited government platform with (pardon the pun) religious conviction, but Johnson (who switches parties or positions for convenience) seems to just be wielding said conviction when it's politically expedient. I hope that Gov. Johnson flip-flops back to his original position and recognizes that some of us do not believe the federal government is our god.