Gov. Bill Owens on Monday signed into law a bill aimed at protecting seriously ill children from parents who withhold medical treatment on religious grounds.
House Bill 1286 would make faith healing a crime under the state's child abuse law when used in place of medicine for a child in danger of dying.
"This will give all children in Colorado the same rights," said Peter Weir, executive director of the District Attorneys' Council. "Hopefully, it will act as a deterrent ... and save some kids' lives."
The law was prompted by the illness of Amanda Bates, a 13-year-old Clifton girl who died Feb. 5 of complications stemming from untreated diabetes, days after the bill was introduced. Her parents, members of General Assembly Church of the First Born, did not believe in medical treatment for their daughter.
A medical examiner testified during legislative hearings that the girl suffered from massive infections and died a slow, painful death. Since 1974, 13 children of parents who belong to religious sects have died in Colorado from lack of medical care.
"This is so important for the protection of children of Colorado," Rep. Kay Alexander, R-Montrose, the chief sponsor of the bill, said at a bill-signing ceremony outside the governor's office.
The bill was strongly opposed by religious conservatives on grounds that it violated the First Amendment's right to freedom of religion.