In God We Trust?: The Fight between Medical and Christian Science Treatment for Children

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Title: In God We Trust?: The Fight between Medical and Christian Science Treatment for Children
Author: Pickering, Stephanie
Advisor: Johnson, Terrence L.
Department: Haverford College. Dept. of Religion
Type: Thesis (B.A.)
Issue Date: 2009
Abstract: Does a parent’s right to his or her exercise of religion outweigh a child’s right to protection from abuse and neglect? In a pluralistic society where dominant culture reveres medical science, but where a religious minority shun and fear that same medical science, can we protect individual traditions and find a solution that respects the rights of the state to children and the rights of parents to freedom of religion? The following chapters are an exploration of the conflict between religious rights and equal protection of the law, specifically the rights of Christian Science parents to choose faith healing for their children and the obligation of the state to protect its most vulnerable citizens. First, I will introduce an overview of the Christian Science church and will investigate the contested relationship between Christian Science and medicine throughout history. Next, I will explore the law’s response, both for and against faith healing practices and the stalemate that has resulted from contradictory and unclear laws and exemptions. Giving voice to both sides of the conflict, I will outline the arguments of Christian Science against medical science, and vice-versa. To ground the issue at hand in the larger context of religious identity in a pluralistic society, I will engage four experts of the American political liberalism tradition: Stephen Carter, John Rawls, Martha Minow, and Amy Gutmann. Finally, I will analyze some of the solutions that have been proposed to ease the tension between the state and Christian Science’s faith healing practices for children. The fact that many questions are left unanswered after sixty-four pages of exploration and over 100 years of debate speaks to the essence of the conflict: no one has figured out to what extent religion should flood the public realm and how much the state should regulate religion to protect children. However, I am convinced that the right of children to equal protection under the law is not negotiable, even if this right infringes upon Christian Scientists’ beliefs in faith healing over orthodox medicine. Laws cannot support religious diversity at the expense of vulnerable children.
Subject: Child health services -- Religious aspects
Subject: Medicine -- Religious aspects -- Christian Science
Subject: Christian Science -- Doctrines
Subject: Spiritual healing
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Pickering, Stephanie. "In God We Trust?: The Fight between Medical and Christian Science Treatment for Children". 2009. Available electronically from

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