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Manslaughter Convictions for Parents Who Relied on Prayer to Heal Child

Parents may not endanger their children to follow religious beliefs.

Washington
State:

• A Washington state appeals court upheld the first degree manslaughter conviction of a parent who unsuccessfully relied on prayer for the healing of his minor child. The victim's parents were members of a religious group known as the "No Name Fellowship." Members were encouraged to use spanking as a means of "getting right with God." All physical illnesses were thought to be caused by sin. Members were taught that the medical establishment was "wicked" and that members should rely exclusively upon prayer for healing the sick. A 10-year-old boy whose parents were members of the group began losing weight and exhibiting other abnormal symptoms. A church "elder" determined that the boy's illness was a result of sin, and he ordered the boy to be severely spanked. Following an hour-long session of "ministering" (which consisted of intense interrogation and spanking), the boy's condition ...

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Richard R. Hammar is an attorney, CPA and author specializing in legal and tax issues for churches and clergy.

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Posted:
  • May 1, 1992

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