Faith-Healing Case Goes to State Supreme Court
In 2008, Wisconsin 11-year-old Madeline “Kara” Neumann died after her parents prayed for her recovery but did not take her to see a doctor. Before her death, Kara’s father saw that she looked dehydrated and so he recommended using Pedialyte. However, her mother said that would “take glory from God.” The autopsy found that Kara had a treatable form of diabetes.
In the original court case, Judge Vincent Howard of Marathon County Circuit Court said
that “The free exercise clause of the First Amendment protects religious belief but not necessarily conduct.” That is, a family has freedom to believe whatever they wish, but First Amendment privileges do not excuse the harming of another person.
In their arguments, the Neumanns claim that the Wisconsin law which allows parents to use faith healing as a defense in abuse and neglect cases should also be allowed in negligent homicide cases. The appellate court statement says that “people who wish to follow the law must be able to discern the boundary between what is legal and illegal.”
This state Supreme Court case may well set a precedent for how judges rule in future faith-healing cases which involve the death of a minor.