Mary Jo Beig, an attorney with the Idaho Attorney General’s office who has dealt with child protection matters since 1991, is now briefing lawmakers about Idaho’s child protection laws and religious exemptions. “The religious exemption is the only place in the child protective act that places the parent’s right before the child,” she told the Legislature’s interim working group on faith healing and children at risk.
Data prepared by the Legislative Services Office for today’s legislative panel meeting on faith healing and children at risk shows that Idaho is one of just seven states with a faith-healing exemption from its manslaughter laws. Many more states have exemptions from civil liability for abuse, neglect or failure to report; smaller numbers have exemptions from misdemeanor or felony criminal charges for non-support, neglect or injury to a child. Idaho has exemptions in all four areas. Only one other state, Virginia, has all four exemptions.
Seven states, including Oregon, don’t have faith-healing exemptions in any of the four areas. Utah has an exemption only from felony neglect charges. Montana has an exemption only from civil liability for neglect. Washington has exemptions from both civil liability and felony charges of child neglect, but not misdemeanor neglect charges or manslaughter. Besides Idaho, the other six states with faith-healing exemptions from manslaughter charges are Arkansas, Iowa, Louisiana, Ohio, Virginia, and West Virginia.
Beig said since 1925, the U.S. Supreme Court has weighed the various rights, and has held “that neither the right to religion nor the right to parenthood are limitless. While parents have a fundamental liberty interest in protecting the bringing up of their children … the state’s interest in the protection of the welfare of children is allowed to infringe on this interest.” States have widely ranging statutes and powers on that issue, she said.
Via Eye On Boise