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in     by Connie Reguli 04/16/2016
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Connie Reguli – April 16, 2016

 Here is my question….how do the same lawmakers do this in the same session? –

First, Senator Steve Southerland, an ordained minister and Republican from Morristown, Tennessee sponsored a bill which would make the BIBLE the official book of the State of Tennessee.  Well, why not, retorted Senator Kerry Roberts of Springfield, Tennessee, after all George Washington used the Bible to be sworn in as the very first President of the United States.  It’s historical, not religious, Southerland opined, after all the Supreme Court has upheld the right to put the Ten Commandments on display in government facilities in 2005, argued Southerland.  And so it goes, even though the bill had been tabled in 2015, it passed both houses in 2016. 

It moved on to Tennessee Governor Bill Haslam who vetoed the law preventing the Bible from becoming the “state book” of Tennessee.  His apparent reasoning was that, “if we believe that the Bible is the work of God, then we shouldn’t be recognizing it only as a book of historical and economic significance.”  Hmmmm…?

Now pause for a minute and juxtapose the “Bible” bill against the same set of lawmakers repealing the “spiritual treatment” exemption for parents found under T.C.A. § 39-15-402(c).

This section of the statute comes under the Tennessee “Haley’s Law” or Aggravated Child Abuse Law which originated in 1989.  This section reads, “Nothing in this part shall be construed to mean a child is abused, neglected, or endangered, or abused, neglected or endangered in an aggravated manner, for the sole reason the child is being provided treatment by spiritual means through prayer alone, in accordance with the tenets or practices of a recognized church or religious denomination by a duly accredited practitioner of the recognized church or religious denomination, in lieu of medical treatment or surgical treatment.”   In layman’s terms, it sounds like this, “if you your Southern Baptist preacher prays for your child and you don’t take the child to the doctor, it is not abuse or neglect.”  This law, so poorly written in the first place, left much of its interpretation up to the particular law enforcement agency that wanted to prosecute the parent.  So now, thanks to State Senator Republican Richard Briggs, from Knoxville, this section has been entirely deleted from the code under the auspices that it is a “significant advancement toward giving children equal protection under the law.” 

It is notable that this bill was backed by an organization called Children’s Healthcare is Legal Duty (C.H.I.L.D.) based out of Kentucky.  The President of this organization, Rita Swan supported this bill with the mantra that, “courts have never ruled that parents have a constitutional right to abuse or neglect children in the name of religion, and Tennessee should not give them a statutory right to do so.”  

Rita and Douglas Swan tragically lost their son in 1977, when he contracted bacterial meningitis.  Since they were practicing Christian Scientists at the time, they were prohibited from getting medical treatment.  They ultimately did take their child to the hospital, but it was too late to save his life.  After this tragedy, the Swans filed a lawsuit against the Christian Science Church and later filed a lawsuit against the United State Department of Health and Human Services.  All litigation was ended on legal grounds before it ever got to trial. 

The Swans have successfully convinced at least six other states, Colorado, Massachusetts, Maryland, South Dakota, Hawaii, and Oregon, to remove any “spiritual treatment” exception in their laws.

The 1996 Federal legislation that spearheaded the development of child abuse investigation agencies on a state level, CAPTA (Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act), states specifically that nothing in the act can “be construed as establishing a Federal requirement that a parent .. provide any medical service or treatment that is against the religious beliefs of the parent…”

So is the mentality of our legislators on the “Bible” bill and repealing the “spiritual treatment” exception at odds.  I think so.  I call this mentality the “You can swear on the Bible but don’t pray for your kids” mentality. 

Think about the circular reasoning here….it was the parental decision of Rita and Douglas Swan to not get medical treatment for their child and because that decision ended tragically, they believe that NO PARENT in the future should have that choice and should be prosecuted criminally if they choose prayer over conventional medicine. They want to put parents in jail for doing exactly what they did in the name of their religious beliefs.  

C.H.I.L.D. which holds itself out as an IRS 501(c)3 non profit is prohibited from promoting legislation or lobbying for their beliefs.  Their website links to “Atheists for Human Rights.”  And, of course, they have supporting statements and relations from the American Pediatrics Association and the American Medical Association that “spiritual treatment” should be prohibited. 

FINALLY, the bigger problem in this legislation is the state’s interference in the fundamental right to parent their children which is protected under the 14th Amendment of the United States Constitution.   Our SUPREME COURT of this country has made it clear and the state cannot interfere in the parental care of their children unless the child is at substantial risk of harm by the parent. The more the State creeps into the nuances of parenting, the more we are at risk of having our children completely controlled by the government. 

I would never want a child to die, but the range of actions that a parent may choose to take for their child under medical emergencies should be first, the decision of the parent.

In 2015, a young Cassandra in Connecticut was diagnosed with life threatening Hodgkin lymphoma.  Her chance of survival was 80% with chemotherapy.  Her death was “certain” to the medical community without it.  She fought against doctors in court and lost.  Because she was only 17 years old, she was not allowed to refuse toxic medical treatment.  Although Cassandra’s case is not a “spiritual treatment” case, it is a “choice of treatment” case. 

Slowly, but surely, parents are losing the right to parent their children.  For as many who believe that “spiritual treatment” does not work, there are many who believe it does.  I am not here as a proponent of either. Children are being medically kidnapped everyday in the United States by medical professionals who believe that the parent’s choice should be stripped or that their professional medical decisions should trump those of the parent.  Removing the right to pray for your children merely arms the culture of allopathic medicine, who is financially motivated to treat your children by the means most financially rewarding to themselves.

Parents unite and stand up for your liberties. 

www.tennfamillaw.com 

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