Senate Panel Backs Faith-Healing Ban When Kids At Risk

Denver Rocky Mountain News/March 16, 2001

Colorado parents who rely solely on faith healing to cure their critically ill youngsters could wind up in court on felony child- abuse charges. After hearing horror stories about youngsters such as 13-year-old Amanda Bates, who died last month in Mesa County when her parents used only prayer to treat her childhood diabetes, a Senate committee voted unanimously to support HB 1286.

"There are children whose lives and health are at risk today in Colorado," warned Sen. Bob Hagedorn, D-Aurora, the Senate sponsor of the legislation which now goes to the full Senate.

The bill would eliminate a section of the child-abuse law that currently provides an exemption from prosecution for parents or guardians who practice faith healing. Most of the attack on the bill came from members of the Christian Science Church, who agreed the exemption should be eliminated from existing law, but who warned that the legislation goes too far and interferes with religious freedom.

Marian English, a Christian Scientist from Colorado Springs, told the Senate Health, Environment, Children and Families Committee she had seen "remarkable results" in using prayer to cure injuries in her own family.

"It's hard work - it takes devotion," she said. "It (the bill) is not prevention. It's punitive. It's not a safeguard. It's a slam dunk after the fact." But Colorado's district attorneys support the bill, including Mesa County District Attorney Frank Daniels who argued that existing law made it difficult to prosecute cases like those of Amanda Bates who he said died a terrible and painful death.

Bates' family belonged to the General Assembly Church of the First Born, which believes that prayer rather than medicine and doctors are the best way to cure the sick.

Three children whose families are members of that church have died in the past three years, Daniels said, noting that Bates suffered from gangrene and swelling of the brain that caused a slow and excruciatingly painful death that Mesa County Coroner Dr. Rob Kurtzman ruled a homicide.

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