And a blurb, from Chris Beneke (author of Beyond Toleration: The Religious Origins of American Pluralism): "Original scholarship on an original topic that challenges religious exemptions to generally applicable laws. The research is thorough and the writing reflects Rogers’s impressive mining of newspaper reports and judicial records."
Through close analysis of these seven cases, legal historian Alan Rogers explores the conflict between religious principles and secular laws that seek to protect children from abuse and neglect. Christian Scientists argued—often with the support of mainline religious groups—that the First Amendment’s “free exercise” clause protected religious belief and behavior. Insisting that their spiritual care was at least as effective as medical treatment, they thus maintained that parents of seriously ill children had a constitutional right to reject medical care.
Congress and state legislatures confirmed this interpretation by inserting religious exemption provisos into child abuse laws. Yet when parental prayer failed and a child died, prosecutors were able to win manslaughter convictions by arguing—as the U.S. Supreme Court had held for more than a century—that religious belief could not trump a neutral, generally applicable law. Children’s advocates then carried this message to state legislatures, eventually winning repeal of religious exemption provisions in a handful of states.
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