Q&A: Faith Healing and the Law

Source Organization: Pew Research Center

Speaker: Robert W. Tuttle

David R. and Sherry Kirschner Berz Research Professor of Law and Religion, The George Washington University Law School

Venue: Pew Research Center's Forum on Religion & Public Life


08/31/2009 - Two of government's obligations - enforcing child welfare laws and protecting the constitutional right to freedom of religious expression and practice - can clash when a parent chooses to rely on prayer and other spiritual healing practices instead of standard medical care to treat a child's illness.

When such a decision results in harm to the child, courts often are called on to decide the appropriate balance between these two government obligations. Indeed, courts in Wisconsin and Oregon recently decided two cases involving faith healing that resulted in the death of a child. In Wisconsin, parents who had relied on spiritual healing to treat their diabetic 11-year-old daughter were found guilty of second-degree reckless homicide. In Oregon, parents were acquitted of manslaughter charges in the death of their 15-month-old daughter, but the girl's father ultimately was convicted of a lesser charge of criminal mistreatment.

To explore the legal issues that courts must consider in cases involving parents' use of faith healing, the Pew Research Center's Forum on Religion & Public Life turns to church-state scholar Robert W. Tuttle.

Featuring:
Robert W. Tuttle, David R. and Sherry Kirschner Berz Research Professor of Law and Religion, The George Washington University Law School

Interviewer:
Jesse Merriam, Research Associate, Pew Research Center's Forum on Religion & Public Life

Read the full Q&A Faith Healing and the Law on the Pew Research Center's Forum on Religion & Public Life Web site.

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