Faith Healing Results in Death of Another Child, Exemptions Must End

Protecting the lives of children, even from their own parents, is the duty of the state. In most cases, the state does its best to step in when children are being abused and neglected.

But when religion is involved the lines become blurred. In Wisconsin, for example, the state protects children from a parent who would intentionally deny a child necessary medical care-unless they are doing it because of their religion. Wisconsin's prayer treatment exception doesn't shield parents from homicide prosecutions, only prosecutions for child abuse and neglect.

But in the case of the Neummans, whose child slowly died of diabetes while they prayed for her, the parents now argue that Wisconsin's law did not give them clear notice of when medical care became necessary under the law. The Neummans' defense is that the faith healing exemption is ambiguous and they weren't sure at what point it applied.

Today the Neummans will attempt to persuade the state Supreme Court to overturn their homicide convictions, because they believe the state law protects them from prosecution. "The case presents charged questions for the court about where religious freedom ends. The justices for the first time will have to weigh whether the state's faith-healing exemptions protect parents from criminal liability if their choices lead to a child's death," said one Associated Press article.

The obvious solution to future problems like this is to remove faith healing exemptions completely. If an adult rejects medical treatment, that is his or her choice. But children's medical decisions are not their own and they should not lose their lives due to another's religious beliefs-even their parents'.

Today 31 states have child-abuse religious exemptions. When a child is being abused or neglected, the justifications for it shouldn't matter-abuse is abuse. Neglect is neglect. Especially when it comes to life and death, the state must put the welfare of children above the religious beliefs of the parents.

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