Back in March, the Oregon House of Representatives voted (unanimously, 59-0) to remove “faith healing” exemptions from the law.
That meant if parents decided not to take their sick child to a doctor because they wanted to pray for the child’s health instead — and the child died as a result — the parents could not cite their faith as a reason to escape from jail time. The “We’re not killers! We’re just religious!” defense would no longer hold up in court.
The Senate voted 25-5 to approve the measure. It was drafted largely in response to the 2008 deaths of children among members of the Followers of Christ Church in Oregon City, who rely on spiritual treatments instead of medical care.
Under the measure, prosecutors can seek first-degree manslaughter or murder charges against parents whose children died because they were treated solely with faith.
Minimum penalties for certain cases considered murders would go from 120 to 300 months in prison and cost an additional $21.88 per day for a temporary prison bed, according to the fiscal impact report.
This won’t bring back Neil Beagley, whose parents let him die of “an inflammation of his urethra because they figured a god would cure him,” or Ava Worthington, the 15-month-old whose parents let her die from the flu while they prayed around her and refused to take her to a doctor. This won’t heal the eye of Alayna May Wyland, whose parents prayed instead of treating her hemangioma, possibly causing her to lose her vision.
But at least their suffering won’t have been in vain.
The Senate added one provision to the bill (PDF):
This 2011 Act being necessary for the immediate preservation of the public peace, health and safety, an emergency is declared to exist, and this 2011 Act takes effect on its passage.
In English: The bill will now go back to the House. If the changes are approved, the new law will go into effect immediately.
(Thanks to Sean for the link!)