2151.03 Neglected child defined – failure to provide medical or surgical care for religious reasons.
(A) As used in this chapter, “neglected child” includes any child:
(1) Who is abandoned by the child’s parents, guardian, or custodian;
(2) Who lacks adequate parental care because of the faults or habits of the child’s parents, guardian, or custodian;
(3) Whose parents, guardian, or custodian neglects the child or refuses to provide proper or necessary subsistence, education, medical or surgical care or treatment, or other care necessary for the child’s health, morals, or well being;
(4) Whose parents, guardian, or custodian neglects the child or refuses to provide the special care made necessary by the child’s mental condition;
(6) Who, because of the omission of the child’s parents, guardian, or custodian, suffers physical or mental injury that harms or threatens to harm the child’s health or welfare;
42 U.S.C. 1396f. Similarly, although Congress granted HHS authority to conduct research, experiments, and demonstrations related to occupational illnesses in the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970, such authority did not include the power to require “medical examination, immunization, or treatment for those who object thereto on religious grounds, except where such is necessary for the protection of the health or safety of others.” 29 U.S.C. 669(a)(5).
Summary of Content
39 states, the District of Columbia and Guam have laws providing that parents or caretakers who fail to provide medical assistance to a child because of their religious beliefs are not criminally liable for harm to the child. There is also no Federal requirement that a parent or legal guardian provide a child any medical treatment that is against the religious beliefs of the parent or legal guardian.1
At the time Congress passed the Child Abuse Prevention & Treatment Act in 1974 to create a uniform approach to child abuse, it deferred to the Department of Health, Education and Welfare (now Health and Human Services) to determine the religious exemption policies of the act.2 HEW mandated that the states adopt religious exemptions to child neglect before they could receive federal funding for state child-protection programs.3 Although the department adopted new regulations in 1983 striking down this requirement,4 few states have repealed these religious exemption laws. Most of these statutes require that in order for religious beliefs to be a valid reason for denying a child medical care, the religion must be a recognized church or a religious denomination. The Supreme Court had not addressed whether or not neglect exemptions for religious purposes violate the Establishment Clause.5
VLA COMMENT: Then why have judges forced medical treatments such as chemotherapy on underaged children such as those in the Amish community?