End The Defense is an independent, non-profit, and non-partisan coalition of citizens seeking to strengthen New York State's child abuse and neglect law.
New York Penal Law Section provides criminal penalties for "endangering the welfare of a child" but also provides an affirmative defense to endangerment in the case of medical neglect (at Section 260.15) available to members or adherents of an “organized church or religious group the tenets of which prescribe prayer as the principal treatment for illness.”
This religious defense is dangerous, unnecessary, unconstitutional, and unjust. While parents enjoy constitutional guarantees of parental authority and free exercise of religion, these liberty interests should not trump the government’s interest in protecting the welfare of children.
Furthermore, the defense violates children’s rights under the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment by denying to one class of children substantial benefits that are extended to others.
Arguably, it violates the constitutional proscription of government endorsement of religion as well.
End The Defense is led by Children's Healthcare is a Legal Duty
(CHILD) and the Secular Coalition of New York. We will work with elected representatives and other stakeholders to remove the defense to child endangerment by medical neglect and ensure equal protection to all New York children.