Oregon House Removes ‘Faith-Healing’ Exemption from Law

Good news out of Oregon: The loophole that gave religious parents a “Get Out of Jail Free” card when they killed their sick children by praying for them in lieu of taking them to a real doctor has been nixed.

The bill passed unanimously, though two Republican representatives raised concerns that the legislation was taking the issue away from juries and sending the state down a slippery slope.

The legislation comes in response to an Oregon City church, the Followers of Christ, that has a long history of child deaths even though the conditions from which the children died were medically treatable.

Leave it to a state Republican to misconstrue what the bill is all about:

Rep. Jim Weidner, R-Yamhill, said he worried “we might be heading down a slippery slope.” He said he prayed earlier in the day about his son’s severe tonsillitis. His wife took his son to the doctor Thursday morning, he added, but “am I going to go to prison because I took the time to pray with my child?”

Of course not. Weidner is welcome to waste his time as he pleases. His son is getting the care he needs and he’s not in a life-threatening situation. This isn’t about people like him.

It’s about the parents of Neil Beagley, who let their son die of “an inflammation of his urethra because they figured a god would cure him.”

It’s about the parents of Ava Worthington, who let their 15-month-old daughter suffer and die while they prayed around her, refusing to take her to a doctor.

It’s about the parents of Alayna May Wyland, who let Alayna’s eye deteriorate when medical help would have fixed the problem. They said no to a doctor and yes to a god.

The new legislation, House Bill 2721, “eliminates reliance on spiritual treatment as defense to certain crimes in which victim is under 18 years of age.”

It’s a smart move. It may not directly save the lives of children born to these reckless parents, but it will make sure the parents are punished for their negligence.

  • http://ohmatron.wordpress.com Custador

    There was an unfortunate case in Britain last year in which a teenaged Jehova’s Witness was hit by a car and suffered severe internal bleeding. He refused point-blank to have a blood transfusion (which would have saved him), even though it was a choice between a transfusion and death. There was no third option. His parents backed his choice, and he died. In my opinion, that boy’s parents and the elders of his cult church should have been held legally responsible for his death. He was brainwashed or intimidated into letting himself die. Either way, the people responsible should be held to account.

  • http://mamamara.wordpress.com Mara

    The picture of that baby gets me in my gut every time. I look at my kids and I try to imagine a world in which I wouldn’t try everything to get them healthy.

    I suppose if I believed in a deity, I’d try praying also, but that would only be in addition to doing every medical procedure possible.

    This is why I’m much more sympathetic to parents who do things like chelation for autism. They’re still wrong, but I can understand the impulse to make everything better and the way they can be convinced by an unscrupulous medical “professional.”

  • OregoniAn

    That’s a heartbreaking photo. It’s good to see some intelligent legislation being passed in my home state. We may be home to the “Followers of Christ” congregation, but overall Oregon is more godless than most states, and we’re better off for it.

    Rep. Weidner does come off sounding like an idiot, but I wouldn’t be surprised if his remarks were calculated to placate the religio-conservatives that voted him into office. Not that politicians “ever” do tricky stuff like that!

  • Matt

    I think the argument against this is valid.

    The way I read it, any child that encounters a critical condition MUST be given “medical” help.

    Who am I (or the state) to tell somebody who they can or can’t see for treatment?

    What if the cost of that treatment is more than I can bare or the treatment itself has risks I don’t agree to take?

    As sickening as the examples in the story are, I believe that is Darwinism in a free society.

    I’ll put freedom ahead of legislating against stupidity any day of the week.

  • Bleak_Infinitive

    Rep. Jim Weidner, R-Yamhill, said he worried “we might be heading down a slippery slope.”

    If you’re going to use a fallacious argument, it doesn’t help to tell us that it is…

  • JB Tait

    If they believe praying will provide medical care, then they are practicing medicine without a licence, and likely also guilty of negligence and malpractice. If they don’t think it will provide medical assistance, then it is neglect.

  • TRex

    Wonderful news. I’m all out of respect and tolerance for these religious nutters.

  • http://ohmatron.wordpress.com Custador

    @ Matt:

    “Who am I (or the state) to tell somebody who they can or can’t see for treatment?”

    The point is that children can’t make the choice and parents should absolutely NOT be allowed to choose for them if that choice involves invoking the woo and letting them die.

  • Joel Wheeler

    For the record, the law ISN’T “nixed” yet. It passed the House and must still pass the Senate.

  • Brian

    They really oughtta travel to http://www.whydoesgodhateamputees.com

  • roy

    People who “just pray” to God and think he will make it right……..ARE IDIOTS!
    God gave us medicines and people who know how to use them. He gave us people who know how to go into the body and fix it. He also gave us people that look to extend beyond these present day boundries to make us better. If God had ment for us to “just pray” to him he would have not given us doctors or scientists.

  • martha

    Matt, we legislate based on values. It is wrong for parents to let their children die for stupid reasons. That isn’t the kind of freedom we value. The kids have no choice. The law is about eliminating an unsupportable excuse for ignoring medical care for children. A perfectly good reason to legislate. Protecting those who cannot protect themselves.

    Oh, and this has nothing to do with “Darwinism.”

  • Rosita

    People who “just pray” to God and think he will make it right……..ARE IDIOTS!- – - If God had ment for us to “just pray” to him he would have not given us doctors or scientists.

    Roy, these people are following what is written in the Bible. They are not idiots, just people who are indoctrinated into the delusional thinking that these writings are “god’s word” and their interpretation of them is infallibly “led by the Spirit”.

    Every other modern day Christian has managed to either ignore these passages or reinterpret them in such a way that they become “irrelevant” to this society. It is the only way to keep believing in “the power of god” when every reality check tells you that the power of medicine is far greater.

    Both sets of Christians are acting on delusions. The first is acting on the delusion that the bible is not the words of people who are ignorant of anything beyond the cultural beliefs of their time. The second is acting on the delusion that they can correctly determine what biblical text is not “god’s word” for the purposes of modern life.

    At least the second set of people act relatively humanely, at least until they start interpreting other verses as “relevant”, such as those which support slavery, discrimination against those born with a sexual preference for their gender or any manner of other anti-social beliefs dreamed up by the religious throughout history.

  • DG

    Matt, I agree with you completely.

    As an atheist, religions are shit. On the other hand, so are the effects of a lot of med stuff. Not everything, but some things, and if ‘religion’ as a social entity is the only thing standing in the way of government directing every aspect of your life, that’s a problem.

    For example, having parents have the right over where their child goes, whether backed by religion or not, is a great thing.

    I wish I had the link, but one family in Kentucky ran into the problem of their kid had cancer, they took her to the doctor, he ran her through a bunch of chemo, she got better, the first doctor said she was in remission. Another doctor got ahold of it, said she wasn’t, and got the kid taken away from the parents’ home because they agreed with the first doctor. It’s stuff like that that having a parent’s decide law covers. Yeah, religion is shit, but people die. It’s what happens.

    If the Jehovah’s Witness kid had died on contact, there wouldn’t have been a controversy over him dying. He’d just be dead.

  • Rosita

    DG, I think the tale about the child being removed from her parents is either an urban myth or you haven’t got the full story. Even in the U.S. that story sounds unlikely without a lot more cause. Check and investigate your sources better.

    Remember that U.S.-style corporate and religious owned government is not typical of governments in other parts of the world. Scandinavian countries have governments that direct and control a whole range of things, and yet the people are among the most physically well, socially healthy and best educated in the world.

  • Vystrix Nexoth

    This reminds me of the anecdote: A priest is caught in a flood, and stranded on the roof of his house. He prays that he will be saved. A rescue team comes by in a boat and wants to bring him along, but he refuses: “God will save me.” He prays harder. A rescue team comes by in a helicopter, and they see him, and lower a rope to him, but he refuses: “God will save me.”

    He dies there, and meets God, and says: “I prayed and prayed to you. Why didn’t you save me?” To which God replies: “I sent you those rescue teams!”

    Then there is the parent whose child is sick, and prays that the child will be cured. And a doctor comes by…

  • Rosita

    “Then there is the parent whose child is sick, and prays that the child will be cured. And a doctor comes by…”

    But the doctor is an atheist scientist who does not listen to the parents’ god and can therefore not comply with any divine direction that interferes with his freewill. As every Fundie Christian knows, atheists are evil and have no moral foundation so they could not be trusted to heal their child as well as their god would – if they could just find enough faith to get this god to perform one of those miracles that happened all the time in the good old biblical days.

    • spraga

      Atheist are evil? Have you ever visited a prisons to ask the inmates if they are atheist or not. Surely, based on your comment, Atheist are they only ones in jail.

  • http://alternativereason.com Eric Hackenberger

    Just want to put it out there that 30 Republicans voted for this bill, 29 Democrats also voted and 1 Democrat did not vote (I don’t know why, perhaps he was simply absent).

    So, yeah, Republican majority passed this very bi-partisan bill. Just wanted to through that out there for you guys to chew on.

    • Spraga

      Well, you can “through” it out there all you want—try “threw” next time. And please stop misrepresenting the word “Majority” in the context of your post.

  • Mel

    Yes, and about the person who said they might not be able to financially afford it, in Oregon that’s not an issue. If a child is not insured through a parent, they are eligible to receive insurance for free or very very low cost through the state, ESPECIALLY for emergency procedures.


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