Dale Neumann and his wife Leilani were found guilty of reckless homicide for attempting to pray their daughter Madeline’s diabetes away. They are expected to appeal, and it is possible they will win. It is possible, because in 30 States in America, the practice of “faith healing” is protected by law.
According to the Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act of 1974, the federal government does not require a parent or legal guardian to provide a child any medical service or treatment against the religious beliefs of the parent or legal guardian. Madeline paid the ultimate price for her parents religious rights. She died of a treatable illness: diabetic ketoacidosis. Dale Neumann claimed he did not know how sick his daughter was, but the Wausau Daily Herald reported on March 26, 2008 that Madeline had been sick for 30 days. Numerous other sources have cited the child was unable to walk, talk, eat or drink.
The Neumanns were convicted in Wisconsin, as it is one of the 20 states that does not protect parents who use religious practice as a treatment for illness. This does not change the fact that over half of the country and the federal government legally sanctions a methodology that allows negligence that can cause serious, irreversible injury and death to children.
It is protected not because people believe in its efficacy, but because they believe in the right to retain the right to use faith healing. It is ironic considering the movement is fueled by religious persons who often claim moral and medical authority over the future of others and their children (abortion), but are indignant over government interference in “religious matters,” which include the treatment of a dying child.
Most reasonable and at least moderately intelligent persons of faith would take their clearly ill child to the doctor far before they seemed near death. If a person is truly pro-life, how could this action not be condemned? It is not as though using medicine to save the life of a child is frowned upon by almost any church, nor is it seen as a sin against God. Why protect this right? Just so the government does not have jurisdiction in a “matter of faith”?
The question becomes this: what is the higher value? A child’s right to have an illness treated and live a generally normal life, or the right to protect a religious practice that has the potential to endanger the life of a child?
Alabama, Alaska, California, Colorado, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, Ohio, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Vermont, Virginia, and Wyoming have religious exceptions to child abuse and neglect laws.