By Faith Alone: When Religious Beliefs and Child Welfare Collide
Chapter in: The Contested Place of Religion in Family Law, May 2018, Cambridge University Press
39 Pages Posted: 29 Nov 2018
Date Written: November 13, 2018
How to discipline one’s child, like decisions to treat “by faith alone,” run deep in religious and cultural belief systems. State regulation of child rearing not only impacts parents’ liberty but a community’s ability to maintain identity and transmit norms. Often, state solicitude for parental autonomy dictates children’s fate. This Chapter explores the limits of parental autonomy, showing that constitutional cases grant autonomy when no harm would result. Risks to children from corporal punishment are not as great as once feared, unlike the profound risks from faith healing.
A kaleidoscope of exemptions insulate religious parents’ child-rearing practices, as we show with 50 state surveys. Using Idaho as a case study, we illustrate how laws about child abuse, medical neglect, and involuntary manslaughter confer immunity on parents acting “by faith alone.” Because religious communities are insular, designating mandatory reporters and authorizing judges to consent to needed treatment provide inadequate safeguards. The Chapter concludes that increasing linkages to insular communities may hold the greatest promise for protecting children from harm at the hands of their parents.
Keywords: : Faith healing, medical neglect, corporal punishment, ethnic identity, religious belief, cultural identity, group rights, prosecution, child protection, Adrian Peterson
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