For years now, we’ve heard horrific stories of sick children whose parents refuse to take them to a doctor because they’re convinced God will take care of everything. These Christian Science practitioners have killed several kids in Idaho and Washington (where churches promote this cruelty). What makes matters worse is that the deaths are not considered homicides. The parents aren’t punished because the law includes a faith-based exemption for parents whose religious beliefs lead to their kids’ deaths.
A couple of years ago, a bipartisan State House bill that would have repealed that exemption didn’t even make it out of committee.
But now Washington legislators are trying again.
SB 5749 (sponsored by three Democrats) and HB 1376 (sponsored by members of both parties) would change the law to remove the exemption for Christian Scientists when it comes to “criminal mistreatment of children and vulnerable adults.”
Here’s the part of the law that would be repealed. It comes in a section that talks about how “criminal penalties” must be imposed on “those guilty of such abuse or neglect.”
It is the intent of the legislature that a person who, in good faith, is furnished Christian Science treatment by a duly accredited Christian Science practitioner in lieu of medical care is not considered deprived of medically necessary health care or abandoned.
That whole section would be erased if this bill passes. It would remove the exemption for one specific religion and treat all cases of child abuse/neglect as a criminal offense regardless of belief, which is wise since it’s not just the one religion that puts kids in harm’s way through prayer.
The bills would also throw in these lines effectively saying the government doesn’t care if you apply Christian Science “treatment” to kids as long as their health isn’t in jeopardy.
Under this chapter, health care decisions made in reliance on faith-based practices do not in and of themselves constitute negligent treatment or maltreatment unless any such decision poses a clear and present danger to the health, welfare, or safety of the child.
Makes sense. No one wants the government getting in the way of religious practice… unless it stands to harm somebody. It’s about time these religious murderers stopped getting away with their crimes.
Incidentally, there were public hearings about these bills earlier today in both the Senate Committee on Human Services, Reentry & Rehabilitation and the House Committee on Civil Rights & Judiciary. With a Democratic majority in both chambers and a Democratic governor, there’s no excuse for these bills to stall in committee any longer than they need to.
Interestingly enough, the three openly non-theistic legislators in Washington are not co-sponsors of these bills. But if it gets out of committee, I would have to assume they’d vote in favor of it. If you live in the state, call your legislators and urge them to support these bills.
They need to be passed — for the sake of the children.
(Image via Shutterstock. Thanks to Kasondra for the link)