Praying Parents Face Criminal Charges

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A Wisconsin couple who chose prayer over medical treatment for their daughter could face up to 25 years each in jail.

Dale and Leilani Neumann were charged Monday with second-degree reckless homicide for not seeking a doctor's opinion for their 11-year-old daughter's illness.

Madeline "Kara" Neumann died March 23 of what examiners say was an undiagnosed, but treatable, diabetic condition.

"She really was very vulnerable and helpless. And it seemed apparent that everybody knew that," Marathon County District Attorney Jill Falstad said. "It just is very, very surprising (and) shocking that she wasn't allowed medical prevention."

Falstad made the final decision in how to charge the parents.  She believes the case is likely to set precedent in the state.

"There has been a great deal of discussion regarding the availability of a 'religious defense' in this case," Falstad said in a statement. "In our nation, we have a constitutional guarantee of freedom of religion. We also give parents leeway in matters of child rearing. However, neither is absolute."

The Neumanns will make their first court appearance Wednesday in Marathon County Circuit Court.

Prayer vs. Medical Treatment

Before police began their investigation, the parents acknowledged that they have nothing against doctors, but believe in the Bible and that healing comes from God.

Leilani Neumann said Kara was in good health until about two weeks before she died on Easter Sunday.

When her health began to get worse, the family "stayed fast in prayer. We believed that she would recover," Leilani said.

The police report taken in the case also states that Dale Neumann "said his family never gets sick and if they would, prayer and God would heal them."

Last month, an Oregon couple was charged with manslaughter and criminal mistreatment in the death of their 15-month-old daughter.

Their toddler died March 2 of bronchial pneumonia and a blood infection officials said could have been treated with antibiotics.

Wisconsin state law exempts parents from child abuse charges if they, in good intent, choose prayer over medical treatment.  Prosecutors, however, say that exemption does not extend to homicide cases.

The Neumanns have three other children, ages 13 to 16.

Sources: CBN News, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. The Associated Press

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