MADISON (WKOW) - A controversial faith-healing bill gets a hearing in front of the Assembly's Children and Families Committee.
The subject of faith healing gained national attention after the March 2008 death of Madeline Kara Neumann, 11, of Weston, from untreated diabetes. Her parents, Dale and Leilani Neumann, were each found guilty of second-degree reckless homicide. They were sentenced in October 2009 to spend 30 days in jail each year for six years.
Now a bill introduced by Rep. Terese Berceau (D-Madison) would eliminate a provision in state law allowing parents to withhold medical treatment if they believe that prayer is sufficient to heal their children. In testimony before the committee on children and families, Berceau references Madeline Kara's death.
"Her parents referred to her illness as a spiritual attack," she said.
Berceau says her bill would not limit the practice of religion... Just protect children.
"Do we allow the belief system of the parent to cause the death of a child?"
But Joseph Farkas, legislative liaison for the Christian Science Church, says the bill would not help kids at all
"(This bill) could uproot a child's life based on someone's intolerance," he said. "It does not accommodate people who responsibly and effectively use spiritual care with their children."
He noted that the Neumanns were not Christian Scientists and agreed that children should never be harmed or allowed to die because of an adult's belief. But he says Berceau's law is too vague, and some authorities might use the change to intervene even when the child is not seriously ill.
"We should focus on what action people take and their effect on children and not what group they supposedly belong to," he said.
A competing bill, meanwhile, is working its way through the Senate. Sponsored by Sen. Lena Taylor (D-Milwaukee), that measure would make faith healing a permissible defense in a criminal trial.