Lawmaker seeks to remove Christian Scientists’ religious exemption

When it comes to issues of child abuse or neglect, followers of Christian Science should be held to the same standards as members of other groups, says Washington state Sen. Mark Mullet, D-Issaquah.

The Bellingham Herald reports that he has introduced a bill that would eliminate an exemption in Washington state law that allows Christian Scientists –but not members of other religious groups — to treat their children with prayer or faith-healing methods instead of traditional medicine.

“A child has no say in it,” Mullet told the newspaper. “If you’re ill, prayer doesn’t count as medical treatment. You can do that and medical treatment, but it has to be both.”

Mullet said his bill is mostly inspired by incidents that have taken place in Washington’s neighboring states of Oregon and Idaho.

The State of Oregon in 2011 passed a law that removed legal protection for parents who choose faith healing over medical intervention when treating their children.

It was a response to numerous preventable deaths among children of parents who belong to the Followers of Christ Church, a religious sect with extremist teachings regarding faith verses medical aid.


A lawmaker in Idaho has also drafted a bill that addresses how his state deals with the issue of faith healing when minors are involved.

Democratic Rep. John Gannon’s bill was inspired by countless preventable deaths within a splinter group of the church in Oregon.

Mullet — whose bill is co-sponsored by Senate Majority Leader Rodney Tom, D-Medina, as well as Democratic Sen. Jeannie Darneille of Tacoma — says the situation in Washington isn’t as dire as it was in Oregon during the 1990s, or as it currently is in Idaho.

“It’s kind of one of those questions where do you wait for a bad incident, or do you do something before it happens?”

Children’s Health Care Is a Legal Duty

The Bellingham Herald says

The bill also has backing from a national group known as Children’s Health Care is a Legal Duty (CHILD), which has fought to pass laws against religious-based abuse and neglect in more than a dozen states.

The group is led by Rita Swan, a former Christian Scientist who left the church after her 16-month-old son, Matthew, died from meningitis in 1977. He received faith healing, but no medical care, she said.

Swan said Washington’s law “is narrow in that it only applies to Christian Scientists, but it is certainly pretty blatant in calling prayer medical treatment.”

“I don’t see why Christian Scientists should have a right to let their kids die,” Swan said. “I don’t see why they should have a law that lets them do this, even if they don’t mean to do this.”

Christian Science

Despite its name, Christian Science is neither Christian nor scientific in nature.

Christians consider Christian Science to be, theologically, a cult of Christianity. This religious movement denies the essential doctrines of the Christian faith, and reinterprets the Bible

Christian Science’s un-biblical teachings on faith healing have resulted in many unnecessary deaths.

Oddly, Christian Science has nevertheless been able to negotiate various exemptions to health care bills.

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This post was last updated: Dec. 16, 2016