Thank You For Submiting Feedback!
Cultural and religious child-rearing practices and beliefs which differ from general community standards shall not in themselves create a need for child welfare services unless the practices present a specific danger to the physical or emotional safety of the child. Cal. Welf. & Inst. Code § 16509. It is fundamental that the language of a particular code section must be construed in light of and with reference to the language of other sections accompanying it and related to it with a view to harmonizing the several provisions and giving effect to all of them.
Petitioner mother had a child who died of meningitis. In keeping with her chosen faith, petitioner treated her ill child through prayer rather than through medical treatment. After several days without conventional medical intervention, the child died. The State charged petitioner with involuntary manslaughter and felony child endangerment. The counsel's motion to dismiss, alleging petitioner's conduct was protected by law and asserting that she was not given fair notice that her conduct was criminal, was denied. The court of appeals denied her motion for w writ of prohibition and a stay. Petitioner mother sought review of the decision.
Under the circumstances, could the prosecution for the charges against petitioner stand?
The state supreme court granted petitioner's application for review after the motion to dismiss was denied. Upon review, the court found that under Cal. Penal Code § 270, parents had to furnish medical attendance or other remedial care to their children. Further, the section exempted parents who utilized prayer treatment from the requirement to furnish medical care. However, felony liability for failure to seek medical care for a seriously ill child was justified by a compelling state interest. As such, the prosecution for the charges against petitioner could stand.