Oregon set to remove faith healing defense for parents

Bad Astronomy
The entire universe in blog form
May 26 2011 10:30 AM

Oregon set to remove faith healing defense for parents

[Note: I expect to hear some disagreement over my statements in this post. If you are going to comment, PLEASE read the whole post first, and then read my post "When belief kills" before leaving your comment. That should minimize misunderstanding about where I stand on this. Thank you.]

In February, I wrote that in Oregon a bill was being proposed to the state legislature that would remove the defense of religious belief in the case of homicide. Specifically, if the bill passes, parents who use faith healing instead of real medicine for their children can face murder or manslaughter charges if the child dies due to lack of medical care.

Phil Plait Phil Plait

Phil Plait writes Slate’s Bad Astronomy blog and is an astronomer, public speaker, science evangelizer, and author of Death From the Skies!  


In March, the Oregon State House unanimously approved the bill. On Monday, the Senate approved it 25 - 5. It will now go back to the House for any changes to reconcile the versions. After that, it will be sent to the governor where he will sign it, and it will become state law.

This law would apply to anyone who does not seek medical care for their child, but the situation has become urgent of late because a fringe group called Followers of Christ advocates faith healing instead of real medicine, and several children have died or been seriously injured because of it.

I stated my opinion on this in my earlier post:

Stories like this always leave me conflicted. As a parent myself I always want the best possible medical treatment for my child, and I don't want other groups interfering with that decision. However, the State has a right to protect the best interests of that child in case the parent cannot. Decades worth of evidence has shown that faith healing does not work, and in many cases the children in the Followers of Christ church had easily treatable illnesses and needn't have died.

In the end, the right thing to do is save that sick child. If the parent cannot, then the greater society has the responsibility to do that.

I still think this is true. One of the very reasons we have a society in the first place is to be able to help people who cannot help themselves. Children fall squarely into that category. And we know faith healing is not a legitimate medical practice. For a serious illness, it is essentially a death sentence.

I support the Oregon legislature on this difficult decision. In these times of such stiff religious influence on government, this is a welcome sign of resistance.

Tip o' the gavel to The Secular Coalition of America, via Liz Gaston and Ashley Miller on Facebook.

Related posts:



Smash and Grab

Will competitive Senate contests in Kansas and South Dakota lead to more late-breaking races in future elections?

Stop Panicking. America Is Now in Very Good Shape to Respond to the Ebola Crisis.

The 2014 Kansas City Royals Show the Value of Building a Mediocre Baseball Team

The GOP Won’t Win Any Black Votes With Its New “Willie Horton” Ad

Sleater-Kinney Was Once America’s Best Rock Band

Can it be again?


Forget Oculus Rift

This $25 cardboard box turns your phone into an incredibly fun virtual reality experience.

One of Putin’s Favorite Oligarchs Wants to Start an Orthodox Christian Fox News

These Companies in Japan Are More Than 1,000 Years Old

Trending News Channel
Oct. 20 2014 6:17 PM Watch Flashes of Lightning Created in a Lab  
  News & Politics
Oct. 20 2014 8:14 PM You Should Be Optimistic About Ebola Don’t panic. Here are all the signs that the U.S. is containing the disease.
Oct. 20 2014 7:23 PM Chipotle’s Magical Burrito Empire Keeps Growing, Might Be Slowing
Oct. 20 2014 3:16 PM The Catholic Church Is Changing, and Celibate Gays Are Leading the Way
  Double X
The XX Factor
Oct. 20 2014 6:17 PM I Am 25. I Don't Work at Facebook. My Doctors Want Me to Freeze My Eggs.
  Slate Plus
Tv Club
Oct. 20 2014 7:15 AM The Slate Doctor Who Podcast: Episode 9 A spoiler-filled discussion of "Flatline."
Brow Beat
Oct. 20 2014 9:13 PM The Smart, Talented, and Utterly Hilarious Leslie Jones Is SNL’s Newest Cast Member
Oct. 20 2014 11:36 PM Forget Oculus Rift This $25 cardboard box turns your phone into an incredibly fun virtual reality experience.
  Health & Science
Medical Examiner
Oct. 20 2014 11:46 AM Is Anybody Watching My Do-Gooding? The difference between being a hero and being an altruist.
Sports Nut
Oct. 20 2014 5:09 PM Keepaway, on Three. Ready—Break! On his record-breaking touchdown pass, Peyton Manning couldn’t even leave the celebration to chance.