Faith-Killing children (Washington Post Column)


Pangloss
#1
This is from the Washington Post:




Abusing Children in the Name of God

By Shawn F. Peters

A hemophilic boy in Pennsylvania bleeds to death over a period of two days from a small cut on his foot. An Indiana girl dies after a malignant tumor sprouts from her skull and grows so enormous that it’s nearly the size of her head. A boy in Massachusetts succumbs to a bowel obstruction. (His cries of pain are so loud that neighbors are forced to shut their windows to block out the sound.)

None of these children benefit from the readily-available medical treatments that might save their lives, or at least mitigate their suffering. Because the tenets of their parents’ religious faiths mandate it, their ailments are treated by prayer rather than medical science. The results are tragic.

It is difficult to determine precisely how many children in the United States lose their lives every year as the result of the phenomenon that has come to be known as religion-based medical neglect. A landmark study published in the journal Pediatrics uncovered more than 150 reported fatalities over a 10-year period – a tally that one of the study’s authors later said represented only “the tip of the iceberg” of a surprisingly pervasive problem. Assessing whether forms of religion-related child abuse pose a greater risk to children than more widely publicized threats, such as ritual satanic abuse, a wide-ranging study funded by the National Center on Child Abuse and Neglect concluded that “there are more children actually being abused in the name of God than in the name of Satan.”

Since the late nineteenth century, hundreds of such instances of abuse have resulted in tangled criminal litigation. The parents charged in these cases – many of them Christian Scientists or members of small Christian churches that ground their doctrines in narrowly literal interpretations of the Bible – often have argued that the First Amendment safeguards their decision to adhere to their faiths’ religious traditions and treat their ailing children solely by spiritual means.

Prosecutors, meanwhile, have balked at the notion that constitutional protections for religious liberty provide an absolute bar to state regulation of religious conduct, particularly when that behavior puts the safety of children at risk. Their task often has been complicated, however, by murky state manslaughter and abuse statutes that appear to provide exemptions for religious healing practices.

Arguing that they were “Christians first, citizens afterward,” a prominent Christian spiritual healer once urged his followers to disregard secular laws that might compel them to forsake their religious beliefs regarding healing. Such is the dilemma that confronts parents who choose to treat their sick or injured children with prayer instead of medicine.

Not only must they safeguard the health of their sons and daughters; they also must try to reconcile their devotion to God with their duties as citizens in a society that boasts a long and sometimes checkered history of regulating uncommon religious conduct.

Defining these obligations through the enforcement of secular laws – especially ones that are constitutionally fuzzy – can be a complicated business. Moreover, there is no guarantee that it will deter devout and stubborn parents from engaging in religious practices that endanger the health of their children. But the alternative – simply ignoring the suffering of the youngest and most vulnerable members of our nation’s churches – seems unconscionable.

Shawn Francis Peters’ latest book, "When Prayer Fails: Faith Healing, Children, and the Law," was published in October by Oxford University Press. He teaches at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.


Posted by Shawn F. Peters on January 2, 2008 1:58 PM


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Pangloss
Last edited by Pangloss; Jan 3rd, 2008 at 05:46 PM..Reason: Formatting
 
Zan
Green
#2
My gawd Pangloss

- yesterday we were gnashing our teeth over parents being denied adoption rights for their non-religious beliefs - seems tragically ironic to read this today eh? People need to give their heads a good shake. I'll help them.
 
karrie
No Party Affiliation
#3
While I agree with the premise of much of the article, I feel the title and certain areas of the article takes some definite liberties with their language. There's a difference between faith-neglecting children and faith-killing or faith-abusing them. The author uses the term 'abuse' but then refers to religiously based medical neglect, making it unclear what exactly the 'hundreds of cases' he refers to are really about. Actual religious abuse occurs... it is active, it is wrought upon children at the hands of their parents. It is intentional and thought out. And it doesn't fit in the same category as religious based medical neglect. I find muddied waters most annoying to try to wade through.
 
Pangloss
#4
Why don't we just say that until people reach an age when they can decide for themselves we'll just give them the health care they need?

No two-year old even has a world view other than their parents are gods. No five year old can understand enough of philosophy or metaphysics to say they are a christian or hindu or secular humanist - so let's just keep them alive until they can decide.

Pangloss
 
karrie
No Party Affiliation
#5
Quote: Originally Posted by Pangloss View Post

Why don't we just say that until people reach an age when they can decide for themselves we'll just give them the health care they need?

No two-year old even has a world view other than their parents are gods. No five year old can understand enough of philosophy or metaphysics to say they are a christian or hindu or secular humanist - so let's just keep them alive until they can decide.

Pangloss

From what I've read on the issue before Pangloss, most instances like this simply result in a court protection order overruling the parents' rights, getting the kid the treatment they need, and returning them once they were through. Based, essentially on what you said, that the child hasn't been able to freely choose a religion yet, thus shouldn't have to die for one.
 
jimshort19
#6
Civil liberties in the U.S. are sometimes silly liberties.

I'd be suprised if a Canadian Supreme court judge would turn a blind eye to negligent homicide or whatever such needless deaths may be called. Not in the 21st century. Not in the 20th? I don't know.

The first amendment seperates nothing but forbids acts of the state in matters of religion. The existing laws in the U.S. comply. Murder, child abuse, and other laws are on the books to be enforced for no-one is above the law. They are first amendment compliant laws. No matter of religion need be proved to convict. Their is not any religious or political conflict involved that was not extant and has not remained since the first day the law was passed, and surely no judge in Canada would would make a retrograde precedent standing down in the face of child hmmm... maryrdom. The arguement that God willed it all would not last a second.
 
RomSpaceKnight
#7
IMO, anyone who denies their child a chance to live because of religious beliefs is a murdering fool. I don't find it acceptable in third world shyte holes let alone in one of the world's most developed nations. Backward arsed ignoarnt fools. Their children should be removed from those homes and the parent's charged with abuse. This is the 21st century. We don't call on local witch doctor or priest to cure illness anymore. This may be acceptable in darkest Africa or the US but I sure hope our authorities have more concern over the pain and suffering of a child than they do over the beliefs of adults.
 
CDNBear
#8
Quote: Originally Posted by Pangloss View Post

Why don't we just say that until people reach an age when they can decide for themselves we'll just give them the health care they need?

Most definetly agreed!!!
Quote:

No two-year old even has a world view other than their parents are gods. No five year old can understand enough of philosophy or metaphysics to say they are a christian or hindu or secular humanist - so let's just keep them alive until they can decide.

Pangloss

Why is that just not common sense? Why must it be forced?

Why must a young woman just coming into herself be snuffed out over a cultural/religous manipulation, for that matter?
 
jimshort19
#9
Ronspaceknight, "I sure hope our authorities have more concern over the pain and suffering of a child than they do over the beliefs of adults."

Fine and correct sentiment. When a child dies or is injured by the willing hand or mind of the parent, the parent is the unwitting tool of Satan at best, and is guilty of effect, as evil as cause, in any event.
 
MikeyDB
#10
I don't see a problem...

If your beliefs lead you to sacrifice your children...that's more than likely one less congregational member that you've contributed to your flock...

Kind of like homosexuality....if you can't reproduce then....
 
Pangloss
#11
MikeyDB:

Umm. . .no.

You're assuming that parents have inexhaustible rights to do whatever they want with their children. That isn't the case, nor ought it be the case.

Pangloss
 
tracy
#12
Quote: Originally Posted by karrie View Post

From what I've read on the issue before Pangloss, most instances like this simply result in a court protection order overruling the parents' rights, getting the kid the treatment they need, and returning them once they were through. Based, essentially on what you said, that the child hasn't been able to freely choose a religion yet, thus shouldn't have to die for one.

We do it fairly routinely when it comes to blood transfusions and JW families. I've seen it done in both Canada and the US. I think the real problem comes when authorities don't even know that the kids are sick or being neglected. If no one in the community comes forward, then no one can help.
 

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