48 states have religious exemptions from immunizations. Mississippi and West Virginia are the only states that require all children to be immunized without exception for religious belief.

The majority of states have religious exemptions from metabolic testing of newborns. Such tests detect disorders that will cause mental retardation and other handicaps unless they are treated.

Colorado, Delaware, Florida, Idaho, Iowa, Maine, Michigan, Minnesota, Nevada, and Pennsylvania have religious exemptions from prophylactic eyedrops for newborns. The eyedrops prevent blindness of infants who have been infected with venereal diseases carried by their mothers.

Delaware, Illinois, Kansas, Maine, Massachusetts, New Jersey, and Rhode Island have religious exemptions from testing children for lead-levels in their blood.

California allows public school teachers to refuse testing for tuberculosis on religious grounds. Ohio has a religious exemption from testing and treatment for tuberculosis. It lets parents use “a recognized method of religious healing” instead of medical care for a child sick with tuberculosis.

California, Colorado, Michigan, Minnesota, Ohio and some other states offer religious exemptions from physical examinations of school children.

Connecticut, New Jersey, Oregon, West Virginia, and some other states have religious exemptions from hearing tests for newborns.

Oregon and Pennsylvania have religious exemptions from bicycle helmets.

Oregon has a religious exemption from Vitamin K that is given to newborns to prevent spontaneous hemorrhage.

California, Colorado, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, and Ohio have statutes excusing students with religious objections from studying about disease in school.

Delaware, Wyoming, and other states have laws with religious exemptions for both children and adults from medical examination, testing, treatment, and vaccination during public health emergencies.

Exemptions from providing medical care for sick children

Thirty-eight states and the District of Columbia have religious exemptions in their civil codes on child abuse or neglect, largely because of a federal government policy from 1974 to 1983 requiring states to pass such exemptions in order to get federal funding for child protection work. The states are Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Utah, Vermont, Virginia, Washington, Wisconsin, and Wyoming. Additionally, Tennessee exempts caretakers who withhold medical care from being adjudicated as negligent if they rely instead on non-medical “remedial treatment” that is “legally recognized or legally permitted.”

Seventeen states have religious defenses to felony crimes against children: Arkansas, Idaho, Indiana, Iowa, Louisiana, Minnesota, New Jersey, Ohio, Oklahoma, Rhode Island, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Virginia, Washington, West Virginia, and Wisconsin
Fifteen states have religious defenses to misdemeanors: Alabama, Alaska, California, Colorado, Delaware, Georgia, Kansas, Maine, Mississippi, Missouri, Nevada, New Hampshire, New York, South Carolina, and South Dakota.
Florida has a religious exemption only in the civil code, but the Florida Supreme Court nevertheless held that it caused confusion about criminal liability and required overturning a felony conviction of Christian Scientists for letting their daughter die of untreated diabetes. Hermanson v. State, 604 So.2d 775 (Fla. 1992)

States with a religious defense to the most serious crimes against children include:

Idaho, Iowa, and Ohio with religious defenses to manslaughter
West Virginia with religious defenses to murder of a child and child neglect resulting in death
Arkansas with a religious defense to capital murder

Educational & Advocacy Activities – Publications

“House amendment nullifies impact of childhood vaccine bill,” Tacoma News-Tribune, 8 Apr. 2011.
“Prayer-fee mandates removed from federal health care bills,” ICSA Today 1 (2010):18-21
(ICSA is the International Cultic Studies Association).
“Religion and Child Neglect” in Child Abuse and Neglect: Diagnosis, Treatment and Evidence,
Carole Jenny, editor (Philadelphia: Elsevier/Saunders, 2010).
The Last Strawberry (Dublin: Hag’s Head Press, 2010).
“Matthew, you cannot be sick,” Dublin Review 37 (winter 2009-10)43-69.
“Does one bizarre health care policy merit another?,” Cedar Rapids Gazette, 19 Oct. 2009.
“Medical Neglect Related to Religion and Culture,” Encyclopedia of Domestic Violence, NY:
Routledge, 2007:475-483.
“Religious Attitudes Toward Corporal Punishment,” Encyclopedia of Domestic Violence, NY:
Routledge, 2007:205-208.
“When faith fails children—religion-based medical neglect: pervasive, deadly. . . and legal?”
The Humanist (November/December 2000):11-16.
“Oregon’s great leap forward,” Seattle Post-Intelligencer, 27 Aug. 1999.
“On statutes depriving a class of children of rights to medical care: can this discrimination be litigated?,”
Quinnipiac Health Law Journal v. II, issue 1 (1998):73-95.
“Child fatalities from religion-motivated medical neglect,” Pediatrics 101(April 1998):625-9
(Seth Asser is senior author).
“Letting children die for the faith,” Free Inquiry 19 (winter 1998).
“The children we abandon: medical neglect on religious grounds,”
American Atheist (autumn 1998):22-26).
“Perspectives: Religion-based medical neglect and corporal punishment must not be tolerated,”
The APSAC Advisor 11(spring 1998):2-3.
“Children, medicine, religion, and the law,” Advances in Pediatrics 44 (1997): 491-543.
“Discrimination de jure: religious exemptions for medical neglect.”
The APSAC Advisor 7 (winter 1994): 35-8.
“Public policy: religious exemptions.” Brown University Child and Adolescent Behavior Letter
January 1993: 2-3.
The Law’s Response when Religious Beliefs against Medical Care Impact on Children.
Sioux City: CHILD Inc., 1990.
“First Amendment does not give the right to injure children.” The Los Angeles Times 14 July 1990: F16.
“Fragile life: religious beliefs that kill children.” Kentucky Hospitals (winter 1989): 8-12.
“Barriers to medical care of children: how you can help.” The Exchangite (Jan.-Feb. 1989): 6-7.
“Review of The Health and Wealth Gospel by Bruce Barron.” Cultic Studies Journal 5.1 (1988): 136-9.
“Spiritual healing claims wither on the vine of investigation.” New York City Tribune 28 January 1988: 8.
“The law should protect all children.” Journal of Christian Nursing (spring 1987): 40.
“Christian Science, faith healing, and the law.” Free Inquiry (spring 1984): 4-9.
“Faith healing, Christian Science, and the medical care of children.”
New England Journal of Medicine 309 (29 December 1983): 1639-41.
“Laws protect parents who let children die.” USA Today 17 August 1983: 8A.
“Faith healing sects and children’s rights to medical care.” Proceedings of the Fifth National Conference on
Child Abuse and Neglect. Milwaukee: Region V Child Abuse and Neglect Resource Center, 1982.
“Christian Science: Threat to Children?” A. D. (July-Aug. 1980): 25-6.

Source: Children's Healthcare

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