Religious Exemptions for Child Neglect Remain in 34 States

Religious Exemptions for Child Neglect Remain in 34 States

Religious groups who rely on prayer rather than medical treatments for the care of their children continue to have exemptions in 34 states, but Tennessee became the latest state to remove the religious exemption clause for parents. While some states have different language and clauses, the remaining 16 states will prosecute parents for neglect if they withhold medical treatment for children on religious grounds.

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Why this story matters for church leaders:

For church leaders who value the sanctity of life and the protection of children, this is an important limit on religious freedom that all churches must consider.

  • How Many Children Will Die? The grim part of this story is that protections are generally only given to children after a high profile case of parental neglect where parents rely on prayer rather than medical treatments.
  • Liberty vs. Responsibility: How have churches with children protection laws fared in terms of religious liberty? Are these cases primarily isolated or more widespread?
  • A Church’s Role: To what extent should churches aim to influence the medical decisions of parents?

Is this an important topic for your congregation and their personal views?

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