Faith-Based Healing Exemptions: Illegal and Immoral

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Members of the National Atheist Party have noticed a trend in the string of faith-based healing child neglect cases spanning the past 30 years that disturbs them deeply. Though federal law has determined that, “The right to practice religion freely does not include liberty to expose the community or the child [321 U.S. 158, 167] to communicable disease or the latter to ill health or death,” as delivered by Justice Rutledge in the Supreme Court case Prince v. Massachusetts, 321 U.S. 158 (1944); {1} many states still include laws that provide some partial immunity and/or consideration when ruling based upon clauses established under the guise of religious freedom. It is the opinion of the National Atheist Party that child neglect, fatal or not, should never be tolerated under any circumstances, and that the act is exponentially more abhorrent when any form of freedom of religious expression defense is used – it is not a matter of religious freedom, it is unadulterated child abuse.

The Hickmans knew the baby was born early but believed he would survive. When he turned blue, gasped for breath and lost consciousness, the Hickmans prayed but did not attempt to get medical help.

Conspicuously absent from these cases have been conspiracy and accessory charges. An individual may be held as liable as the perpetrator of any crime when they have encouraged, aided, or planned the crime with the individual that carries it out; it is the opinion of all rational human beings that this should hold especially true when the crime involves child neglect/abuse. However, the leaders of faith healing churches who encouraged the parents that committed these crimes have escaped unscathed; as have other members of their congregations that prayed over the severely ill child, and were aware that medical treatment had not and would not be sought. The National Atheist Party considers this to be an atrocity, considering how quickly an accessory to even misdemeanor crimes is charged by our current legal system.

Parents who choose prayer in lieu of desperately needed medical attention are regrettably prevalent even in our modern society. In 1998, a research study by Seth M. Asser, MD, and Rita Swan, PhD was published in Pediatrics that reached the conclusion: “One hundred forty fatalities were from conditions for which survival rates with medical care would have exceeded 90%. Eighteen more had expected survival rates of >50%. All but 3 of the remainder would likely have had some benefit from clinical help” from the years 1975-1995 {2}. There is no accurate statistic currently available for the amount of children who have suffered extreme mental and physical anguish due to this practice, though it is reasonable to assume that it is many more than the one hundred forty documented fatalities.

It is the firm belief of the National Atheist Party that no law should allow any individual to use religion as an excuse for a deed that claimed the lives of seven children per year on average for twenty consecutive years, we also believe that an individual shall be deemed to be complicit in the death of such a child should they fail to report an instance of such illegal neglect and could face charges of conspiracy to murder, manslaughter and child abuse.

Charles Knoll
Public Relations Staff Writer


{1}- Legal Information Institute. Cornell University Law School. Web.

{2}- Seth M. Asser, MD, Rita Swan, PhD. Pediatrics. American Academy of Pediatrics. 1998. Web.


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