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Religious Exemptions from
Child Abuse Statutes
Position Statement of the
American Academy of Pediatrics, Committee on Bioethics
Pediatrics, January 1988
Excerpt from p. 169 (first page of article,
column two, second paragraph up from bottom)
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ETHICAL AND LEGAL ISSUES
Religion plays an important role in the growth and development of many children and families. However, when parental practices have potentially harmful I consequences for the child, state intervention may be warranted. The boundary between parental freedom in child rearing and the interest - or even basic rights - of the child is unclear. However, the constitutional guarantees of freedom of religion do not sanction harming another person in the practice of one's religion, and they do not allow religion to be a legal defense when one harms another.
The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that all pediatricians, pediatric surgeons, and AAP state chapters vigorously take the lead to (1) increase public awareness of the hazards to children growing out of religious exemptions to child abuse and neglect legislation; (2) support legislation in each state legislature to correct statutes and regulations that permit harm to children under the shield of religious exemption; (3) work with other child advocacy organizations and agencies to develop coordinated and concerted public and professional actions for recision of religious exemptions.
The Academy must unequivocally defend the rights of all children to the protection and benefits of the law and medicine when physical harm - or life itself - is in the balance.
Committee on Bioethics, 1986-1987
Norman C. Fost, MD, Chairman
William G. Bartholome, MD
William Reed Bell, MD
Alan R. Fleischman, MD
Arthur F. Kohrman, MD
William B. Weil, Jr, MD
Kenneth J. Ryan, M D
AAP Section Liaison
Anthony Shaw, MD
See also: Religious Objections to Medical Care Pediatrics, 1997
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