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Prosecutors And Lawmakers Advocate Ending Protections For Faith Healers February 22, 2011

Posted by FairSentencing in : Current News , trackback

Prosecutors and lawmakers endorsed a bill Monday that would remove special legal protection for parents who treat seriously ill children with faith healing instead of providing medical treatment.

Clackamas County District Attorney John Foote and others told the House Judiciary Committee that House Bill 2721 would help halt needless, avoidable child deaths.

“Oregon’s current laws reward … fanaticism,” said Rita Swan of Children’s Healthcare Is a Legal Duty, a group focused on child abuse and neglect among faith healers. “Repealing these religious exemptions gives … all parents the same duty to provide medical care.”

The bill is a response to the Followers of Christ, an Oregon City church with a long history of children dying from treatable medical conditions. It would remove spiritual treatment as a defense against all homicide charges and subject parents to mandatory sentencing under Oregon’s Measure 11.

Supporters of the bill made two main points. It will eliminate exemptions that give one class of parents — those who exclusively practice faith healing — special rights. And it puts more pressure on the most extreme members of the Followers of Christ church to provide medical care for seriously ill children.

In the past two years, Clackamas County prosecuted two couples for failing to provide medical care for dying children. Two other couples are awaiting trial, accused of criminal mistreatment and second-degree manslaughter.

While many church members have abandoned their strict adherence to faith-healing, there are many rigid believers who refuse to do so, Foote said.

“It’s time to hold all parents to the same standard,” said Rep. Carolyn Tomei, D-Milwaukie, one of the bill’s sponsors.

The Christian Science Church, which previously lobbied for religious exemptions to Oregon’s criminal statutes, supports the legislation.

Tomei said she expects the proposal to receive broad support in the House and Senate, where it has the backing of Sen. Bruce Starr, R-Hillsboro, who also testified in favor of the bill.



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