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

University of Illinois College of Law Legal Studies Research Paper No. 19-06

39 Pages Posted: 29 Nov 2018

See all articles by Robin Fretwell Wilson

Robin Fretwell Wilson

University of Illinois College of Law

Shaakirrah Sanders

University of Idaho - College of Law

Date Written: November 13, 2018

Abstract

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

Suggested Citation

Wilson, Robin Fretwell and Sanders, Shaakirrah, By Faith Alone: When Religious Beliefs and Child Welfare Collide (November 13, 2018). Chapter in: The Contested Place of Religion in Family Law, May 2018, Cambridge University Press; University of Illinois College of Law Legal Studies Research Paper No. 19-06. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3283926 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3283926

Robin Fretwell Wilson (Contact Author)

University of Illinois College of Law ( email )

504 E. Pennsylvania Avenue
Champaign, IL 61820
United States
217.244.7582 (Phone)

HOME PAGE: http://www.robinfretwellwilson.org

Shaakirrah Sanders

University of Idaho - College of Law ( email )

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