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Prayer-Healing Parents’ Conviction Upheld

The Wisconsin Supreme Court ruled yesterday that a couple who used prayer, not medicine, to treat their gravely ill daughter was rightfully found guilty of homicide. The move, authorities say, will drastically curtail legal protections for families who rely on faith healing for their underage members.

Eleven-year-old Madeline Kara Neumann died at on Easter Sunday in March 2008 at her home in Weston, Wisconsin. Authorities say the cause was diabetes. Though her illness had gone undiagnosed, she had been ailing for weeks before her demise, ultimately becoming unable to walk, speak, eat, or drink. Her mother and father, Dale and Leilani Neumann, say they are Pentecostal Christians and believe that visiting a doctor amounts to idolatry, according to Supreme Court papers.

As the girl’s condition deteriorated, her parents rebuffed suggestions from Kara’s grandparents to seek medical assistance or at least give the child Pedialyte, a supplement that can help ease dehydration. Leilani Neumann argued that doing the latter would rob God of his glory. At the time, her husband Dale later testified, they never considered the possibility that Kara might die. After their daughter did indeed pass, Leilani told police that Kara would be raised from the dead through an act of God.

The Supreme Court’s decision is the first time a Wisconsin court has addressed criminal blame in a prayer treatment case involving a child, reports The Huffington Post. The decision states that parents who rely on faith healing are shielded from child-abuse charges but nothing else, leaving them eligible for many other counts.

In 2009, separate juries found the Neumanns guilty of second-degree reckless homicide. They were each ordered to serve a month in jail every year for six years.

According to Rita Swan, director of the Iowa-based advocacy group Children's Healthcare is a Legal Duty, at least 303 children have died since 1975 after medical care was withheld on religious grounds.


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