Religion is a contentious and highly sensitive issue, and most who are tolerant of beliefs that differ from their own attempt not to interfere with others' spiritual preferences. As freedom of religion is enumerated and protected by the First Amendment, provided that one's religious practices harm no one else, a person's religious preferences should ordinarily not be put into question.
However, the same principle does not hold true across all states when it comes to cases of faith healing, a religious practice that is at the center of two dozen child deaths connected to two Philadelphia faith healing churches.
Individuals who practice faith healing believe that a person's disease or ailment can be cured by the help of prayer and an intervening divine spirit. Although Pennsylvania law currently protects religiously-protected cases of negligence and abuse, the state has finally taken a stand against this irrational and contemptible practice by arresting and charging a couple with third-degree murder. Though this belief in itself is not problematic, it becomes dangerous when paired with the refusal of medical attention, an action that sets those practicing faith healing apart from other religious or spiritual individuals. The idea that people are allowed to claim that negligence and irresponsible parenting is part of their religion is shameful, and it should under no circumstances be an issue left up to states to decide upon.
Herbert and Catherine Schaible, the couple being charged, are among several of the members of the Faith Tabernacle Congregation and First Century Gospel Church in Philadelphia that have senselessly lost children to faith healing since 1970. It is sufficiently preposterous that it took a second child's negligent death for the authorities to arrest the Schaibles. Nonetheless, what is more troubling is that cases of faith healing-related deaths have occurred in areas other than Pennsylvania, the result of legal immunity from the consequences of faith healing in select states.
Due to the passing of the 1974 Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act, states have since had the right to grant religious exemptions for cases of child neglect and abuse. A shocking 31 states currently have this religious exemption in place. If the state governments cannot recognize that allowing child neglect and abuse is backwards, Americans have much to fear as a nation.
Citizens should, without a question, hold governments to a high standard as they are responsible for protecting the people. States with exemptions on religious negligence and abuse have failed to protect the children who died as victims of faith healing and it is time for either the states to eliminate this exemption or allow the federal government to intervene.
To be clear, no one has the right to stop a person from believing in a higher power or in miracles. However, those who believe that prayer alone will help save a person from death must recognize that behind every human body and illness there are scientifically-backed principles of medicine that are ensuring their continuity and survival. If most people who practice religion have no qualms about stepping foot into or taking their loved ones to a medical facility, faith healing believers surely should be able to grant themselves and their children a better chance at life. Most importantly, the government must once and for all put a stop to this destructive ideology by eliminating this religious exemption.