By Steve Mayes
Religion News Service
PORTLAND, Ore. -- Oregon prosecutors and lawmakers endorsed a bill Monday (Feb. 21) that would remove special legal protection for parents who treat seriously ill children with faith healing instead of providing medical treatment.
Clackamas County District Attorney John Foote and others told the House Judiciary Committee that House Bill 2721 would help halt needless, avoidable child deaths.
The bill is a response to the Followers of Christ, an Oregon City church with a history of children dying from treatable medical conditions. It would remove spiritual treatment as a defense against all homicide charges and subject parents to mandatory sentencing under Oregon's Measure 11.
Supporters of the bill made two main points. It will eliminate exemptions that give one class of parents -- those who exclusively practice faith healing -- special rights. And it puts more pressure on the most extreme members of the Followers of Christ church to provide medical care for seriously ill children.
In the past two years, Clackamas County prosecuted two couples for failing to provide medical care for dying children. Two other couples are awaiting trial, accused of criminal mistreatment and second-degree manslaughter.