When Prayer Fails: Faith Healing, Children, and the Law

Hardcover | November 14, 2007

byShawn Francis Peters

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Relying on religious traditions that are as old as their faith itself, many devout Christians turn to prayer rather than medicine when their children fall victim to illness or injury. Faith healers claim that their practices are effective in restoring health - more effective, they say, thanmodern medicine. But, over the past century, hundreds of children have died after being denied the basic medical treatments furnished by physicians because of their parents' intense religious beliefs. The tragic deaths of these youngsters have received intense scrutiny from both the news media andpublic authorities seeking to protect the health and welfare of children. When Prayer Fails: Faith Healing, Children, and the Law is the first book to fully examine the complex web of legal and ethical questions that arise when criminal prosecutions are mounted against parents whose children die as a result of the phenomenon known by experts as religion-based medicalneglect. Do constitutional protections for religious liberty shield parents who fail to provide adequate medical treatment for their sick children? Are parents likewise shielded by state child-neglect faith laws that seem to include exemptions for healing practices? What purpose do prosecutionsreally serve when it's clear that many deeply religious parents harbor no fear of temporal punishment? Peters offers a review of important legal cases in both England and America from the 19th century to the present day. He devotes special attention to cases involving Christian Science, the sourceof many religion-based medical neglect deaths, but also considers cases arising from the refusal of Jehovah's witnesses to allow blood transfusions or inoculations. Individual cases dating back to the mid-19th century illuminate not only the legal issues at stake but also the profound human drama ofreligion-based medical neglect of children. Based on a wide array of primary and secondary source materials - among them judicial opinions, trial transcripts, police and medical examiner reports, news accounts, personal interviews, and scholarly studies - this book explores efforts by the legal system to balance judicial protections for thereligious liberty of faith-healers against the state's obligation to safeguard the rights of children.

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Relying on religious traditions that are as old as their faith itself, many devout Christians turn to prayer rather than medicine when their children fall victim to illness or injury. Faith healers claim that their practices are effective in restoring health - more effective, they say, thanmodern medicine. But, over the past century,...

Shawn Francis Peters teaches writing and U.S. history at the University of Wisconsin-Madison

other books by Shawn Francis Peters

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Kobo ebook|Jun 29 2012

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Format:HardcoverDimensions:304 pages, 6.3 × 9.29 × 0.79 inPublished:November 14, 2007Publisher:Oxford University PressLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:019530635X

ISBN - 13:9780195306354

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"As Shawn Peters demonstrates with vivid and disturbing detail, the relationship between religion and child welfare in America is hardly straightforward. Examining the history of how judges and juries have decided between parents' rights to religious freedom and their responsibility formedical neglect of their dead children, Peters argues that such extreme cases may be only the tip of the iceberg of religiously based rejection of medicine in the U.S. Historians of American culture will welcome this carefully balanced and well-researched history, and its portrayal of the enormousrespect for religion that pervades the American judicial system." --Amanda Porterfield, author of Healing in the History of Christianity