Oregon Senate Votes to End Faith-Healing Defense for Parents

Following the tragic and preventable deaths of children whose parents believed faith rather than medical care would cure their ailments, the Oregon Senate voted earlier this week to eliminate "faith-healing" as a legal defense and allow prosecutors to seek murder charges against parents who deny their children medical care for religious purposes.

The 25-5 vote comes the same week that a couple from Oregon City stand trial on charges of first-degree criminal mistreatment for refusing to seek appropriate medical care for their 18-month-old daughter who had a serious eye problem and nearly went blind until her vision was saved by court-ordered treatment. The parents belong to the Followers of Christ church, whose adherents "embrace faith-healing and the power of God to treat disease and medical conditions," with predictably horrific results:

Two other couples from the church have gone to trial [since 2008]. In both cases, the sick children weren’t taken to a doctor but instead were anointed with oil while the family prayed.

Jeff and Marci Beagley were convicted last year of criminally negligent homicide in the 2008 death of their teenage son and sentenced to 16 months in prison.

Raylene and Carl Brent Worthington were found not guilty of second-­degree manslaughter in the death of their 15-month-old daughter. Carl Brent Worthington was convicted on a lesser charge of criminal mistreatment and served two months in jail. [...] The church’s small cemetery, not far from the end of the Oregon Trail, has row after row of headstones marking children’s graves.

Under the measure passed by the Senate, the state would soon be able to charge such parents with first-degree manslaughter or murder. The Oregon House unanimously approved a similar measure in March and is expected to pass the Senate version very soon. Once the bill is signed by the governor, it will immediately become law.

Oregon's removal of "faith-healing" exemptions would (obviously) be a step in the right direction, but the proposal concerns only the penalties faced by adults after they have committed child abuse for unjustifiable religious reasons. The Secular Coalition for America supports the removal of "faith-healing" loopholes from criminal statutes, but we also advocate protective laws that would allow local governments to intervene and provide medical care before children are harmed by their parents' dangerous religious beliefs.

In order to protect children as best we can, SCA has been working to remove a similar "faith-healing" loophole from the Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act (CAPTA), which provides federal funding for state child protection services, but still includes several religious exemptions. You can read more about CAPTA on our issues page here.


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im from alabama and i went to a church (a holiness church) with a friend and while i was at sermon, 000-037
im from alabama and i went to a church (a holiness church) with a friend and while i was at sermon, all of the older women in the congregation went to the front of the church and began babbling like idiots and saying "oooh i feel the hand touching me. i can feel jesus in my bones" while the pastor threw water on them. all of the older women had to wear dresses and hair was supposed to be long and in a bun. i thought it was bizarre. that and there was a young boy there who had leukemia and everyone in the church prayed over him and spoke in tongue and i found out that the parents refused bone marrow transfusions and said "God will heal our son. and if he doesn't, then it is God's wish not to do so." OMG PEOPLE! ARE YOU SERIOUS?
As a student at Oregon City High School, I know some members of the church. They are exceedingly odd and it makes me beyind happy that this passed the senate! About time!
I went through this with my mom when I was in school many years ago. She's a Jehovah's Witless and was refusing to sign a waiver for blood transfusions when I was going out for football. It was the absolute ugliest knockdown, drag-out fight I've ever had with anyone. My dad finally signed it with my mom crying and begging him not to, it was a tense couple of weeks in the house. As a result I didn't try out for the team because I never felt I could trust my mom not to refuse a transfusion if I really needed one. If the school called and she was home she would have had the final say, release or no. The rest of the JW kids I knew at school were a miserable lot and I always thanked my lucky stars I found the courage to stand up for myself and not get sucked in to that madness.
The five nutbars that voted against the legislation should be prohibited from any access to medical care offered in the State. Their vote against the passing of the legislation is tantamount to depraved indifference in respect of the welfare of children, and 'depraved indifference' is an indictable offense under the law. These five nutbars should be hauled over the coals for their disregard for the welfare of children. they should be pilloried.
It is unbelievable to me that someone in a supposedly advanced country can get to an adult age and not understand that "anointing with oil and praying" are practices from a cultural passed of ignorance and superstition. All the comforts of the west come from humans' endevour and enlightenment. Not only should the parents be charged with murder, but the Church should be put on trial for insighting infanticide .... and be taxed.
I never knew people could get away with that in the first place. It bothers me that there are still people that stupid in this day and age.
So refreshing to see some good news like this come out of the USA, we see so many stories of religious extremists passing horrendous laws (ie the rape insurance law in Kansas) that it is sometimes hard to remember that not all Americans are stuck in the dark ages.

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