Oregon House Votes to Limit Faith Healing Defense

Today, the Oregon House of Representatives voted unanimously to remove from the books laws which previously protected parents who refused to seek medical help for sick or dying children in favor of relying exclusively on prayer or other forms of "faith healing. The text of the Bill can be found here.

The bill, if passed into law, would still allow adults, or their guardians, to elect to forego medical treatment in favor of prayer. Parents would no longer, however, be given a recognized legal defense, or reduced sentence, in cases where they made such choices for their children or dependents under the age of 18.

The bill specifically removes the "faith healing" defense from Murder and Manslaughter in the First Degree prosecutions. It also removes "faith healing" as a basis for a judge to impose a reduced (non Measure 11) sentence when a parent or Guardian is convicted of Manslaughter in the Second Degree in the death of a child under the age of 18.

The bill must now pass the Oregon Senate before being referred to the Governor for signature into law. Should it be signed into law, as most expect it will, the defense of those who rely on faith healing in the case of a family illness becomes that much more difficult. In the future in such cases, the religious beliefs of the parents might be kept from the jury as "irrelevant." Or worse, those beliefs might be used against them in that their prayers were an acknowledgment of guilt.

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