The state of Washington must stop permitting the use of prayer as an alternative to medical care.
We need to urge Judiciary Committee members in the Washington House to pass a bill that repeals the use of prayer as a legal substitute for necessary medical care of children and dependent adults.
If passed, HB 1290 will end the state's religious exception to criminal mistreatment, second degree murder and failure to report. It will legally ensure that members of a church cannot deprive vulnerable dependents of proper medical treatment.
Rita Swan, president of the child protection organization CHILD, Inc., will be giving a testimony tomorrow, Wednesday, Jan. 25, morning before the House Judiciary Committee in support of the bill. Swan was awarded FFRF's Lifetime Achievement Award in 2015 for her work advocating for the protection of children from abuse and neglect as a result of religious beliefs.
"Current law discriminates against parents and, more importantly, against children by depriving one group of protections the state extends to others," says Swan in a written testimony. "It endangers children and violates Washington values."
The American Medical Association, American Academy of Pediatrics, Prevent Child Abuse America, National District Attorneys Association and the National Association of Medical Examiners have all called for rescinding such religious exceptions.
The U.S. Supreme Court ruled in Prince v. Massachusetts more than 70 years ago that our constitutional "right to practice religion freely does not include liberty to expose the community or child to communicable disease, or the latter to ill health or death." A parent should have a legal duty to provide necessary health care to his or her child regardless of the parent's religious beliefs.
Contact Committee Chair Laurie Jinkins by calling (360) 786-7930 or by email.
Click here to call other members of the Washington state House Judiciary Committee.
Feel free to utilize the talking points below, or cut and paste this message:
As a Washington resident and taxpayer, I urge you to support HB 1290, which will revoke a religious exemption for health care of children. This is a very important step toward protecting minors from faith-based practices that could endanger their well-being and lives.
Currently, Washington law allows a religious exception in needed health care for children. This can result — and has resulted — in death and inhumane suffering. HB 1290 is needed to protect dependent children.
Parents are always free to pray for their children, and our First Amendment rights are precious. But that cannot be used as a reason by guardians to deny necessary medical treatment for their young ones, or grievously jeopardize the health of a child.