Can Faith Healers Face Criminal Charges?
Faith healing involves individuals praying to God to fix their actual medical ailments. Sometimes this prayer is led, or administered, by a faith healer. Surprisingly, there are whole religious sects that actually believe faith healing is possible. While this sort of thing seems alright for television, in the real world, it's actually dangerous. People, and often children, die or face serious medical complications as a result of following the advice of faith healers.
Faith healing is minimally a violation of civil laws and government regulations. When it comes to children, there's even more likelihood of criminality. However, depending on the harm caused, it could also lead to injuries, death, and serious criminal charges. Not only can a practitioner face legal consequences, but parents can as well. The most common issue is that faith healers and believers will refuse necessary medical care, not just for themselves, but for their children and even adult dependents.
Mandatory Reporting Laws
In every state, the law requires certain individuals to report abuse of children. In some states, this extends to church leaders, teachers, and day care providers. Additionally, in most states, it can be considered child abuse, or neglect, to fail to get necessary medical treatment for your child.
Although faith healers might find prayer to be acceptable medical treatment, the court, which listens to the medical community, does not. As such, when it comes to faith healing for children, parents and practitioners can be held criminally and civilly responsible. If a child dies, manslaughter or murder charges can even be brought, depending on the facts.
Let's face it, if faith healing actually worked there'd be faith healing centers on every corner. In many cases, it's likely a scam, or way to induce people to donate money. Of the legitimate studies conducted, all show that faith healing does not work.
Basically, as a result of this, there's potential that a person offering faith healing services could very well be committing fraud. If there's evidence that a self-proclaimed healer hasn't actually healed anyone, their word of God might not be strong enough to avoid the legal liability of man. Fraud can be punished criminally, and can also be the basis for civil lawsuits as well. If a person dies due to a faith healer's actions, manslaughter or murder charges can even be brought, depending on the facts.
What About Freedom of Religion?
Just like the freedom of speech not encompassing "fighting words," freedom of religion does not extend to human sacrifice or experimentation, nor does it confer the right to physically harm others.
While freedom of religion is one of the founding tenets of our country, a line must be drawn when it comes to individuals, and children, being harmed, injured, and killed. Traditionally, the line is drawn between the freedom to believe and the freedom to act (the belief/conduct distinction). Basically, faith healers are attempting to use freedom of religion to allow them to practice medicine, which is a highly regulated industry (for the sake of consumer safety).
- Find Criminal Defense Lawyers Near You (FindLaw's Lawyer Directory)
- The Matter of Daniel Hauser: Parents' Right to Refuse Medical Treatment for their Kids (FindLaw's Law and Daily Life)
- Feds Indict 11 Polygamous Church Leaders for Food Stamp Fraud (FindLaw Blotter)
- Are Church Fires Hate Crimes? (FindLaw Blotter)
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