The "Kid Killer Loophole"
Dear Sen. Risser and Rep. Subeck:
Perhaps you recall the sad 2008 case of 11-year-old Kara Neumann of Weston, Wisconsin. She suffered from diabetes, a disease eminently treatable with insulin, but her hyper-religious parents chose to use prayer instead of medicine to “treat” it, as a result of which she suffered, lost her voice beause a month’s worth of vomiting had scalded her vocal cords, withered away from malnutrition because she couldn’t eat, slipped into a coma, and died before their eyes. Incredibly, her mother continued to believe for days afterward that little Kara would return to life if her parents just prayed even harder.
In theory, the Neumanns should’ve been able to get away with this horrific and egregious case of child neglect, because of the “Kid Killer Loophole” in Wisconsin law. S. 48.981(3)(c)4 provides that "A determination that abuse or neglect has occurred may not be based solely on the fact that the child's parent, guardian, or legal custodian in good faith selects and relies on prayer or other religious means for treatment of disease or for remedial care of the child.” And s. 948.03, dealing with “Physical abuse of a child”, contains this exception under sub. (6): "A person is not guilty of an offense under this section solely because he or she provides a child with treatment by spiritual means through prayer alone for healing in accordance with the religious method of healing permitted under s. 48.981 (3) (c) 4. or 448.03 (6) in lieu of medical or surgical treatment.”
Fortunately, a sensible Wisconsin jury had the good sense to ignore the specific wording of the law to find Dale and Leilani Neumann guilty of basically killing their own child. Sadly, the penalty imposed was for them to serve staggered prison terms, so that only one of them was behind bars at a time, while the other was free to “care for” their remaining children.
But this stupid, cruel, torture-enabling, death-promoting “kid killer loophole” is still on the books, giving free license to any religious fanatics who are only slightly less appalling than the Neumanns, or only slightly better at covering up their criminal neglect.
Similar laws are on the books in other states, but some of them are finally coming to their senses. The most recent of them is Idaho.
When will Wisconsin join the ranks of civilized jurisdictions and repeal this astonishing pandering to religious fanaticism? Aren’t we supposed to have separation of church and state in this country? Why are parents allowed to kill their kids in the name of religion? Didn’t we do away with this gross irrationality and its concomitant miscarriage of justice after the atrocities of the Salem witch trials?
If we are all God’s children, then God should be arrested for child abuse.
— Harold Kahm