Senate Bill 93: Attacks Parents' Religious Beliefs about Child's Medical Needs

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Last Updated: January 25. 2017
Senate Bill 93: Attacks Parents' Religious Beliefs about Child's Medical Needs
Sponsors:
Sen. Jason Smalley (R)
Summary:

Senate Bill 93 would allow a judge to examine the religious beliefs and practices of the parent, legal guardian or custodian when determining the appropriate conditions for the release of a child in Department of Human Services (DHS) custody. We are concerned that if a judge did not approve of the religious beliefs of the parent, he could set conditions on the return of the children that would violate the family’s convictions.

If the bill passes, it will be the first time in Oklahoma history that judges would be granted this level of authority to rule over a parent’s religious beliefs.

Senate Bill 93 would also impose a new requirement when a child was removed by DHS and was in need of medical treatment. If the parent, legal guardian, or custodian in such a case “depends upon spiritual means alone, in accordance with the tenets and practices of a recognized church or religious denomination, for the treatment, cure of disease or remedial care of such child,” then the court would be required by law to appoint a guardian for the child.

Oklahoma Children’s Code currently protects families by declaring that a child cannot be considered to be abused or neglected “for the sole reason that the parent…, in good faith, selects and depends upon spiritual means alone through prayer, in accordance with the tenants and practice of a recognized church of religious denomination, for the treatment or cure of disease or remedial care of such child.” SB 93 would weaken that protection and add a requirement for the parents’ good faith practice of their religious belief in the treatment, cure of disease or remedial care of their child not to be considered abusive or neglectful.

HSLDA is concerned that SB 93 will prompt DHS investigators to increase their scrutiny of religious families whenever there is a question regarding a child’s health.

HSLDA's Position:
Oppose.
Action Requested:

1) Please contact the sponsor, Senator Jason Smalley and give him this message in your own words:

I am very concerned about Senate Bill 93. I believe that this bill weakens the right of parents who have sincerely held religious beliefs to make decisions about the medical care and treatment of their children. It also appears to be unconstitutionally discriminatory against parents with religious beliefs. Please withdraw this bill immediately.

You can reach Senator Smalley by phone at (405) 521-5547 or by email at smalley@oksenate.gov.

2) We believe this bill will be assigned to the Senate Health and Human Services Committee. Please contact as many of the committee members as possible about Senate Bill 93. Please give them this message in your own words:

"I am very concerned about Senate Bill 93. I believe that this bill creates a negative impression in the law of parents who have sincerely held religious beliefs about the medical care and treatment of their children. It also appears to be unconstitutionally discriminatory against parents with religious beliefs. I believe it goes too far. Please oppose this bill."

The contact information for the Senate Health and Human Services Committee members can be found here (http://www.oksenate.gov/Committees/standingcommittees.aspx)

3) Please contact your own state Senator and give him or her this message in your own words:

"I am very concerned about Senate Bill 93, which has been introduced by Senator Smalley. I believe that this bill creates a negative impression in the law of parents who have sincerely held religious beliefs regarding the medical care and treatment of their children. It also appears to be unconstitutionally discriminatory against parents with religious beliefs. I believe it goes too far. Please oppose this bill."

You can find the contact information for your state Senator here (http://www.oksenate.gov/FindMyLegislature.aspx)

Status:

Introduced     01/05/2017
First Reading     02/06/2017

Background:

HSLDA is concerned about a bill recently introduced by Senator Jason Smalley. While Senate Bill 93 doesn’t deal with homeschool freedom, it does deal with religious freedom and parental rights. We believe this bill goes too far and could cause significant difficulties for any parents who have religious beliefs regarding the care and treatment of their child’s medical needs.

This bill was introduced in Oklahoma on January 5. It is currently scheduled to have its first reading on February 6. It will likely be assigned to the Senate Health and Human Services Committee.

 Other Resources

Bill Text

Bill History