Wisconsin, incidentally, is the state in which Madeline Kara Neumann died.
Currently, Wisconsin law (948.03(6)) allows an exemption for parents who kill their child because of failed faith healing:
A person is not guilty of an offense under this section solely because he or she provides a child with treatment by spiritual means through prayer alone for healing in accordance with the religious method of healing permitted under s. 48.981 (3) (c) 4. or 448.03 (6) in lieu of medical or surgical treatment.
It has a lot to do with Christian Scientists, who pushed for the exemption decades ago.
Two lawmakers have proposed different changes to that law.
Sen. Lena Taylor (D-Milwaukee) has proposed a measure that would allow Prayer Parents to essentially present a criminal defense — their actions could be considered reasonable depending on “whether the parent should have known the condition was life-threatening, the risks and side effects of medical treatment and the family’s prior experiences with spiritual healing.”
It’s better than the current law, but it would be *really* tough to prosecute Prayer Parents with this measure.
Rep. Terese Berceau (D-Madison) has proposed a measure that would omit the current exemption I mentioned above. Child welfare workers could cite faith healing as an example of abuse/neglect. The court could intervene in cases like Daniel Hauser and require medical treatment in certain situations.
Berceau’s bill (LRB-2190) is stronger and allows for necessary intervention.
“The bottom line to me is that no child should ever die because a parent didn’t take them to a doctor when a reasonable parent would have known it was a life-threatening condition,” [Berceau] said. “No child should have to die because of a parent’s religion.”
Matthew Pickard is a Wisconsin resident who has looked into both proposed bills. He agrees that Berceau’s bill is clearly superior:
I contacted both Taylor’s and Berceau’s office, attempting to secure a draft of each others competing legislation respectively. Only Berceau office has responded so far, and frankly, I strongly approve of the language of Berceau’s bill.
In short, LRB-2190 aims to repeal state statue 948.03 (6). Presently, if a parent or legal guardian treats a minor only through prayer (or other spiritual means) and bodily harm, or death should result, there are no penalties or liabilities. With its repeal, this exception will be eliminated. The bill will also amend 448.03 (6) defining that only an adult who practices Christian Science may treat themselves with faith healing or prayer, and not just a “person.” Furthermore, the bill will eliminate two other exceptions, by amending 48.981 (3) and 938.505 (2) (a) thereby ending these privileges altogether.
Pickard urges Wisconsin residents to contact their legislators and ask them to support LRB-2190.
It’s an important issue and I hope you’ll consider doing it. It’s in the best interest of children who are dying at the hands of their misguided parents.
(via The Hypatian Shore)