The Michigan Supreme Court announced on Thursday that “it’s not child neglect to withhold medical care if parents are doing so because of their legitimate religious beliefs,” the Lansing State Journal reported.
The court upheld a Michigan law stating that a parent or guardian should not be considered negligent if they choose not to provide medical treatment for a child, as long as they legitimately are practicing their religious beliefs.
Joshua and Rachel Piland’s 3-day-old daughter died of conditions related to jaundice in 2017. The Piland's two older sons were removed from their custody, and the case was brought before the Michigan courts.
“This was a gravely ill child who was in need of emergency medical treatment,” Prosecuting Attorney Kahla Crino argued. “[The parents] did nothing, and she died. This is child abuse in the first degree. This is not mere negligence.”
The Pilands’ appellate attorney, Vivek Sankaran said that the case would be determined by the choices legislators make. California, among other states, has exemptions for cases of withholding medical care in which the child is harmed or dies.
The Lansing couple told investigators that a midwife told them to seek medical attention, but they ignored the advice because “‘God makes no mistakes’ and because they believe in the power of prayer” in 2017.