Maps of the day: Call it legalized child abuse

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From the Pew Research Center:

All states prosecute parents whose children come to severe harm through neglect. But in 34 states (as well as the District of Columbia, Guam and Puerto Rico), there are exemptions in the civil child abuse statutes when medical treatment for a child conflicts with the religious beliefs of parents, according to data collected by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

Additionally, some states have religious exemptions to criminal child abuse and neglect statutes, including at least six that have exemptions to manslaughter laws.

These exemptions recently drew renewed attention in Idaho when, in May, a state task force released a report stating that five children there had died unnecessarily in 2013 because their parents, for religious reasons, had refused medical treatment for them. The report has prompted some of Idaho’s legislators to begin pushing for a repeal of state laws that protected the parents of these children from civil and criminal liability when they refuse to seek medical treatment for religious reasons.

In our book Deadly Blessings: Faith Healing on Trial, we examined three court cases in California where people died or suffered severe health problems because they relied on varieties of religious or mental healing to treat conditions readily amenable to medical treatment.

One of those cases involved a toddler whose devout parents relied on Christian Science for treatment. The child died.

We knew Christian Science well, having belonged to the Church for six years, rising to become president of our local branch church. We left because of a disease, rheumatoid arthritis, which proved readily treatable. Had we stayed with the church we’d have ended up, like our paternal uncle, trapped in a wheelchair.

We understand well that parents who reject medicine honestly believe they are doing what’s best for the children, but just as we accept that the state must intervene when parents violently beat their children, perhaps its time folks took another look at these laws, most of them passed because of the remarkable lobbying power of the First Church of Christ Scientist [as we explain in our book].


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