Oregon Bill Would Repeal Immunity for Faith-Healing Parents When Children Die

January 22, 1999 12:00 am

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ACLU News Wire: 1-22-99 — Oregon Bill Would Repeal Immunity for Faith-Healing Parents When Children Die

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PORTLAND, OR — A new law introduced to the Oregon House of Representatives would hold parents criminally liable for relying solely on prayer when attempting to heal their sick children, the Oregonian reports.

Current Oregon law permits parents to treat their sick children with prayers instead of medical care and protects them from charges of homicide and child abuse under the tenets of their religion, the paper said.

The proposed bill arose out of a controversy last year when the District Attorney refused to prosecute the parents of an 11-year old boy who died of treatable diabetes.

The American Civil Liberties Union is considering whether to take a position on the issue, David Fidanque, Executive Director of the ACLU of Oregon told the paper.

The Oregonian noted that the ACLU has historically favored a state’s right to intervene when children are in danger but has opposed prosecuting parents after a child dies.

“We’re sympathetic to the concerns of people like the Christian Scientists whose religious beliefs prohibit them from seeking medical care,” Fidanque told the paper. “Prosecuting them later is not going to change their beliefs.”

Oregon is one of only six states which allows immunity for faith-healing parents whose children die without treatment, although more than 40 states employ religious shields in their criminal, juvenile and civil codes.

Source: The Oregonian, January 22, 1999

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