How religions—and the U.S. government—let children die

I’ve been reading an enlightening but disturbing book:  When Prayer Fails: Faith Healing, Children, and the Law, by Shawn Francis Peters, which details how children of some religious parents are left to suffer and die because the sects of their parents abjure medical care. The parents pray instead of taking their kids to the doctors or the hospital. The book is full of disturbing tales of not only horrible neglect, but of how the law tends to overlook such treatment, letting off religious parents who fail to treat their children with regular medical care, or giving them lenient treatment like short probation. This has led me to read more widely about this situation, and I’ll use it in my book.

Take the paper by Asser and Swan (references below), for example.  Here is the authors’ short precis:

Design. Cases of child fatality in faith-healing sects were reviewed. Probability of survival for each was then estimated based on expected survival rates for children with similar disorders who receive medical care.

Participants. One hundred seventy-two children who died between 1975 and 1995 and were identified by referral or record search. Criteria for inclusion were evidence that parents withheld medical care because of reliance on religious rituals and documentation sufficient to determine the cause of death.

Results. One hundred forty fatalities were from conditions for which survival rates with medical care would have exceeded 90%. Eighteen more had expected survival rates of >50%. All but 3 of the remainder would likely have had some benefit from clinical help.

Conclusions. When faith healing is used to the exclusion of medical treatment, the number of preventable child fatalities and the associated suffering are substantial and warrant public concern. Existing laws may be inadequate to protect children from this form of medical neglect.

Some of the kids who could have been saved had appendicitis, diabetes, diphtheria, meningitis, and measles.  There are also many babies and mothers who die in childbirth because they refuse to consult a doctor during a difficult birth.

A few case studies:

For example, a 2-year-old child aspirated a bite of banana. Her parents frantically called other members of her religious circle for prayer during nearly an hour in which some signsof life were still present. In another case, a 6-week old infant, weighing a pound less than at birth, died from pneumonia. The mother admitted giving the infant cardiopulmonary resuscitation several times during the 2 days before the infant’s death. In one family 5 children died of pneumonia before the age of 20 months, 3 before the study period. Although this raises the possibility of genetic disorders such as cystic fibrosis, immune deficiency, or asthma, many such conditions have a good prognosis with treatment. Their mother was a nurse before joining a church with doctrinal objections to medical care.

A 12-year-old girl [Ashley King] was kept out of school for 7 months while the primary osteogenic sarcoma on her leg grew to a circumference of 41 inches and her parents relied solely on prayer. A timely diagnosis would have allowed at least a modest chance for survival. [JAC: Peters’s book says that the smell of the rotting flesh from the girl’s tumor could be detected on the entire floor of the hospital when the law finally required, too late, that King be removed from her home and given medical care. You can read about her on this site.]

One teenager asked teachers for help getting medical care for fainting spells, which she had been refused at home. She ran away from home, but law enforcement returned her to the custody of her father. She died 3 days later from a ruptured appendix.

This was all abetted by the federal government. In 1974 the U.S. government’s Department of Health, Education, and Welfare required that states adopt policies about religious exemption from child abuse before they could receive federal funding for programs protecting abused children. This requirement was rescinded in 1983, but most states still have religious exemptions for child abuse.

A document from the National District Attorney Association (reference below, free download) shows that over 70% of U.S. states still have exemptions from prosecution or accusations of abuse for parents who medically neglect their children on religious grounds.   Here is their summary:

37 states, the District of Columbia and Guam have laws providing that parents or caretakers who fail to provide medical assistance to a child because of their religious beliefs are not criminally liable for harm to the child. At the time Congress passed the Child Abuse Prevention & Treatment Act in 1974 to create a uniform approach to child abuse, it deferred to the Department of Health, Education and Welfare (now Health and Human Services) to determine the religious exemption policies of the act.1 HEW mandated that the states adopt religious exemptions to child neglect before they could receive federal funding for state child-protection programs.2 Although the department adopted new regulations in 1983 striking down this requirement,3 few states have repealed these religious exemption laws. Most of these statutes require that religion be a recognized church or a religious denomination. The Supreme Court had not addressed whether or not neglect exemptions for religious purposes violate the Establishment Clause.

As Peters’s book notes, one reason states have not gotten rid of the religious exemptions is that they’re lobbied heavily by religious organizations—particularly the Christian Scientists, who of course formally reject Western medicine since disease and injury can be cured by “right thoughts”.  (Of course many Christian Scientists aren’t dumb and do use medicine and go to doctors.)

You can see each state’s exemption in the document, and it’s a horrible thing to read.  I’ve pulled at random two examples: laws from Indiana and Michigan (emphasis is mine):

INDIANA

IND. CODE ANN. § 35-46-1-4 (2013). Neglect of a dependent; child selling

(a) A person having the care of a dependent, whether assumed voluntarily or because of a legal obligation, who knowingly or intentionally:

(1) places the dependent in a situation that endangers the dependent’s life or health;

(2) abandons or cruelly confines the dependent;

(3) deprives the dependent of necessary support; or

(4) deprives the dependent of education as required by law; commits neglect of a dependent, a Class D felony.

(c) It is a defense to a prosecution based on an alleged act under this section that:

(1) the accused person left a dependent child who was, at the time the alleged act occurred, not

more than thirty (30) days of age with an emergency medical provider who took custody of the child under IC 31-34-2.5 when:

(A) the prosecution is based solely on the alleged act of leaving the child with the emergency medical services provider; and

(B) the alleged act did not result in bodily injury or serious bodily injury to the child; or

(2) the accused person, in the legitimate practice of the accused person’s religious belief, provided treatment by spiritual means through prayer, in lieu of medical care, to the accused person’s dependent.

MICHIGAN

MICH. COMP. LAWS § 722.634 (2013). Religious beliefs; medical treatment

Sec. 14. A parent or guardian legitimately practicing his religious beliefs who thereby does not provide specified medical treatment for a child, for that reason alone shall not be considered a negligent parent or guardian. This section shall not preclude a court from ordering the provision of medical services or nonmedical remedial services recognized by state law to a child where the child’s health requires it nor does it abrogate the responsibility of a person required to report child abuse or neglect.

Most statues, like Michigan’s, allow the courts to intervene and have the children treated medically, but there is little or no penalty for parents letting their kids die by praying for them instead of getting them to a doctor. It’s a dreadful situation, and privileges religion—for if you neglect medical care on non-religious grounds, you’re liable.

This has to be fixed: there should be ABSOLUTELY NO RELIGIOUS EXEMPTIONS for withholding medical care from children, and parents who do so should be punished in exactly the same way as a parent who is negligent for non-religious reasons.

This is one situation, by the way, where there’s a clear battle between science and faith, and one in which children, who in some of Peters’s cases suffer unspeakable torments, are the losers.

Remember, 37 out of 50 states, and the District of Columbia, have statues that exempt from criminal liability parents who let their children die by using prayer instead of medicine. Now that is a crime. It makes me ill to read statue after statute giving religion a pass when it allows parents to abuse their kids.

If you have the stomach for it, have a look at Peters’s book, and see what the laws are in your state.

_____________

Asser, S. M., and R. Swan. 1998. Child fatalities from religion-motivated medical neglect. Pediatrics 101:625-9.

National Distric Attorney Association. 2013. Religious exemptions to child neglect.

58 Comments

  1. francis
    Posted October 30, 2013 at 10:38 am | Permalink

    //

    • Jesper Both Pedersen
      Posted October 30, 2013 at 11:33 am | Permalink

      ///

  2. Diane G.
    Posted October 30, 2013 at 10:46 am | Permalink

    Letting one’s child suffer and die…could be the one exception I could find to my otherwise total opposition to the death penalty. And could we torture them first, please?

    • still learning
      Posted October 30, 2013 at 11:01 am | Permalink

      Torture, yes! *rubs hands and smiles gleefully*

      • gravelinspector-Aidan
        Posted November 2, 2013 at 6:03 am | Permalink

        I’ll pass you my carefully blunted flensing knife (in it’s storage bucket of not-very-fresh pigshit) and let you get on with it. But I’d be more vicious.
        Rubber band (for the gentlemen of the group) and applicator. Boxing gloves (to prevent rubber band being removed). Time.
        Then a new career in obstetrics, once the rubber band has taken several weeks about doing consigning the ball to the bin.
        Female anatomy poses more challenges ; if you want to use the flensing knife, I certainly won’t stop you. But I’m pretty sure that I can cause more suffering to them using their minds. For longer. Decades longer.
        This post was composed with malice aforethought.

    • Matt D
      Posted October 31, 2013 at 9:55 am | Permalink

      Uh, I think we should make more of an effort to come up with solutions not based on a medieval justice system.

      It’s perfectly understandable that you’d be horrified over this, but your solution creates new horror, it does not diminish it.

      • Diane G.
        Posted October 31, 2013 at 11:10 pm | Permalink

        It was not meant to be a serious proposition Matt. Just an obvious emotional reaction; thought that would be clear.

  3. Erik Verbruggen
    Posted October 30, 2013 at 10:58 am | Permalink

    Not from the u.s. so can’t comment on my “state”, but I am very afraid that in my country, then Netherlands, regulation is exactly as bad.

  4. still learning
    Posted October 30, 2013 at 10:59 am | Permalink

    Christians…ye shall know them by their love… Absolutely nauseating.

    • darrelle
      Posted October 30, 2013 at 11:59 am | Permalink

      For themselves. Children are minor assets, less valuable than woman even, let alone goats. There will always be losses, that’s why you have as many as you can, so you don’t get caught short come harvest time.

      • Don
        Posted October 30, 2013 at 6:16 pm | Permalink

        “Less valuable than women,” right–unless they’re fetuses.

  5. Diana MacPherson
    Posted October 30, 2013 at 11:36 am | Permalink

    Happily, children were removed from this Manitoba Mennonite community recently after they were punished with things like cattle prods! Don’t those things require electricity? I guess it’s okay if it involves farming or punishment.

    Religion should receive no free pass when it comes to harm like this.

    • David Duncan
      Posted October 30, 2013 at 8:04 pm | Permalink

      You might be thinking of the Amish, who eschew that sort of stuff, but Mennonites can use telephones – or at least according to the film Witness. Come to think of it, I’ve seen Amish buggies with electrically powered tail lights.

      • Diana MacPherson
        Posted October 31, 2013 at 5:50 am | Permalink

        It depends on the type of Mennonite. The ones with the buggies and horses typically eschew electricity. I’m not sure what the order the ones in Manitoba belong to. I’m used to the Old Order in Ontario though you see plenty of the conservative and progressive ones as well.

  6. uglicoyote
    Posted October 30, 2013 at 11:37 am | Permalink

    Reblogged this on The Road.

  7. FiveGreenLeafs
    Posted October 30, 2013 at 11:39 am | Permalink

    I read about several such instances (where parents withheld acute medical care) in Paul Offits book, “Deadly Choices”, and it literally gave me a sleepless night.

    It is completely beyond me how anyone can do such a thing.

  8. darrelle
    Posted October 30, 2013 at 11:54 am | Permalink

    “This is one situation, by the way, where there’s a clear battle between science and faith, and one in which children, who in some of Peters’s cases suffer unspeakable torments, are the losers.

    That christian god does so love suffering and torment, doesn’t it? This demonstrates how little our society has progressed in some important respects. Children are still considered unimportant.

    How in the fuck could anybody expect respect for the view that an adult’s right to follow their religious beliefs is important enough to accept the misery and death of children as a cost of protecting it. That is disgusting.

    Incidentally I had my first, and hopefully last, serious choking experience just a few weeks ago. It was not at all as I had imagined it might be like. The physical and mental pain and distress was surprisingly acute. After struggling to stay alive for ten or so minutes I really thought it was over and was nearly resigned to what seemed inevitable. To allow a child to suffer like that without doing everything possible to aid them, like immediately calling 911, is about as evil a thing as I can think of. In this context willful ignorance is a serious crime.

    • JBlilie
      Posted October 30, 2013 at 12:52 pm | Permalink

      I have saved both my wife and my mother from choking. In both cases in just a few seconds. We have made sure all around us know the signal for choking (put your hands around your throat).

      I had a choking incident myself when I was about 19 or 20. I was completely alone and had to save myself. It was very disconcerting. I gave myself a self-Heimlich, using the back of a chair. Basically threw myself against it, just below the rib cage. Did the trick! I recommend that to anyone in a similar fix.

      • darrelle
        Posted October 30, 2013 at 1:14 pm | Permalink

        Two different people administered the Heimlich many times, and similar to what you described I tried myself with my fist in the proper place and ramming a counter, but it didn’t work. Or rather, all those attempts may have contributed to clearing the blockage, but were not immediately successful. A weird totally involuntary spasm, a bit similar but at the same time quite different from vomiting, unlike anything I have experienced, finally cleared the blockage.

        • gluonspring
          Posted October 30, 2013 at 1:39 pm | Permalink

          Yikes! Glad you made it. The perfection of the human body on display! Too bad your esophagus/trachea weren’t intelligently designed to make death-by-swallowing less likely.

          • darrelle
            Posted October 30, 2013 at 2:05 pm | Permalink

            Thanks. Me too. I’m considered fairly robust, but that was a humbling experience. Kind of reminded me of that scene in The Fifth Element where Zorg chokes on a cherry. The mighty Zorg, brought down by a mere cherry.

            The design could definitely use some improvement!

      • gravelinspector-Aidan
        Posted November 2, 2013 at 6:21 am | Permalink

        I was reading the first case cited :

        For example, a 2-year-old child aspirated a bite of banana. Her parents frantically called other members of her religious circle for prayer during nearly an hour in which some signsof life were still present.

        I could only conclude that these parents killed their child because (1) the BuyBull doesn’t mention bananas, therefore the child was a spawn of Satan (or possessed by one, by ingestion ; same thing) and “thou shalt not permit a witch to live”. Or
        (2) The Heimlich manoeuvre (and it’s alternatives) was invented by heathens, Jews, Buddhists, atheists or some other such undesirables (I don’t know how true this is, but the allegation is probably good enough evidence for the hard-of-thinking), and so good Christians can’t even think about using it.
        That’s an inclusive OR, of course.
        How did Marvin put it? “It gives me a headache to think down to that level.”

  9. Divalent
    Posted October 30, 2013 at 11:55 am | Permalink

    Although I have no doubt at all that the failure to withhold medical treatment for religious reasons causes many unnecessary deaths, it appears from the summary you provided that Asser and Swan didn’t compare the group of kids that died to the right group. They compared them to a hypothetical group of kids that get standard medical treatment (presumably for the year they died). That comparison would overstate the # of deaths caused by withholding treatment. Better would be to also compare with the survival rate of all kids that were untreated.

    Since their “Participants” group consisted only of those that had in fact died (not kids that didn’t get treatment, survival or not), they had 100% fatalities for all causes. Yet, I doubt that the untreated fatality rate of, say, measles is anywhere near 100% (it was a common childhood disease when I was a kid: I know of no one who died from it when I was growing up).

    I’ll also note that religious restrictions on medical practice typically date back to an era where medicine really was not all that good; often no better than prayer alone (and for some diseases, worse). I doubt a new religion birthed today would restrict the use of modern medical technology, but there was a time when the value of the medical treatment of the day was not so clearly better than what the priests and shaman could provide by invoking their gods.

    • Sastra
      Posted October 30, 2013 at 12:06 pm | Permalink

      What about Scientology? My understanding is that it originated in the 20th century but rejects much of modern medicine (especially psychology) and substitutes its own pseudoscience.

      • JBlilie
        Posted October 30, 2013 at 12:56 pm | Permalink

        Definitely 20th century:

        Scientology is a body of beliefs and related practices created by science fiction writer L. Ron Hubbard (1911–1986), beginning in 1952 as a successor to his earlier self-help system, Dianetics.[6] Hubbard characterized Scientology as a religion, and in 1953 incorporated the Church of Scientology in Camden, New Jersey.

        (From the great oracle of Wikiness.)

        • Divalent
          Posted October 30, 2013 at 6:23 pm | Permalink

          Scientology is kind of the exception that proves the rule. They have no problem with virtually all of modern medicine except for psychiatry. In the 1950 and 60’s (and some would say even now) the benefits Psychiatric treatments available were not markedly better than nothing at all (and in some cases, clearly harmful).

    • Notagod
      Posted October 30, 2013 at 4:26 pm | Permalink

      There are a couple of errors in your comment:

      – I hope you intended failure to get medical treatment instead of failure to withhold medical treatment.

      – It would be incorrect to compare the deaths of children with measles due to christianity with the total population of children with measles because those children that died due to christianity clearly were children that could have and should have received medical treatment. The children that survived without medical treatment have been correctly removed in the study from both sides of the equation. The study is correctly comparing seriously ill children that received medical treatment with similarly seriously ill children that received christianity. The children that received christianity lost big time!
      From the study summary provided by Dr. Coyne above:

      Design. Cases of child fatality in faith-healing sects were reviewed. Probability of survival for each was then estimated based on expected survival rates for children with similar disorders who receive medical care.

      The study is based on estimates so isn’t exact but, the study is comparing the correct groups for the scope of the study.

      Results. One hundred forty fatalities were from conditions for which survival rates with medical care would have exceeded 90%. Eighteen more had expected survival rates of >50%. All but 3 of the remainder would likely have had some benefit from clinical help.

      The study is clearly considering and comparing similar illness conditions.

      – Your last paragraph is irrelevant as the study clearly wasn’t conducted nor does it pertain to practices from hundred(s) of years ago when christianity was practiced much the same as today but, medical treatment and practices have moved far ahead. Also, as noted by Sastra and JBlilie, wrong.

      • Divalent
        Posted October 30, 2013 at 6:19 pm | Permalink

        Ya, I meant “failure to treat” (where’s the damn edit button when you need it).

        Consider this alternate study, which kind of reverses the comparison: measles kills some people even though they get medical treatment. Take the population of people who died despite getting medical treatment. Note that 99% of people who get measles and only pray survive the illness. Would you conclude that those that died despite getting medical treatment would have had a 99% chance of living had they chosen “prayer only”?

        (Last paragraph was not intended to address the topic in my prior ones. Jerry indicated that he intended to deal with the general topic in an upcoming book, so was just noting what IMO is an important aspect of dealing with rejection of medical treatment by religions: that those “traditions” began at a time when the advantage of the best medicine of the day was not so clear cut. See my comment above in response to )

        • Divalent
          Posted October 30, 2013 at 6:24 pm | Permalink

          … Sastra and JBlilie. (where is the damn preview button when you need one?)

        • Notagod
          Posted October 30, 2013 at 10:19 pm | Permalink

          It appears by the design of your “reversed” study that you aren’t reading (comprehending?) closely enough. I suspect that is the case because your made up alternative study leaves out very important aspects of the real study.

          The study included 172 children that died while receiving christian approved treatment but no medical care. Of those, 140 died from conditions that would normally result in only 14 deaths if they had received medical treatment, 18 more died with conditions that would normally result in only 9 deaths had they received medical treatment, of the 14 remaining that died under christianity 11 would have received some benefit from clinical help. Only 3 children out of 172 would have been expected to have a similar result under christianity or under medical treatment. Of 172 children that died while being treated with christianity at least 135 would have normally been expected to survive with medical help. Medical treatment could have saved at least 78.5% of the children that died under christianity.

          Your made up alternative study doesn’t account for the varying condition of the patients. As a start would would need to eliminate children with conditions that would have normally survived without medical care. I expect that would leave zero to continue your study with.

          • Notagod
            Posted October 31, 2013 at 7:03 am | Permalink

            You English speaking folks can substituted “you would” for “would would” in the last paragraph.

    • Sastra
      Posted October 30, 2013 at 7:19 pm | Permalink

      Divalent wrote:

      I doubt a new religion birthed today would restrict the use of modern medical technology…

      What about the New Agers? They’re among the most committed proponents of alternative medicine — including “energy healing” and homeopathy — and they’re usually fierce critics of mainstream modern medicine, its technology, its methods, its pharmaceuticals, and Big Bad non-holistic Western Science in general. They hates it, they do.

      Although you can trace the beginnings of New Age from 19th century movements like New Thought, Theosophy, and Spiritualism, there’s not a lot of continuity of tradition there. They pick and choose more or less according to whim, with a running theme of preference for anything which is NOT buying in to the materialist paradigm and its lack of respect for Other Ways of Knowing and the wisdom of Nature and indigenous people.

      From what I can tell New Agers are staunchly on the side of the faith healers (when they are not faith healers themselves.) They are also primarily a modern phenomenon. They only object when they think the ‘healer’ is too mainstream fundamentalist for their taste.

    • Torbjörn Larsson, OM
      Posted October 31, 2013 at 5:00 am | Permalink

      I’ll also note that religious restrictions on medical practice typically date back to an era where medicine really was not all that good; often no better than prayer alone (and for some diseases, worse). I doubt a new religion birthed today would restrict the use of modern medical technology, but there was a time when the value of the medical treatment of the day was not so clearly better than what the priests and shaman could provide by invoking their gods.

      This seems to say that there was a good purpose in withholding treatment instead of a control issue of parents and children both. As such, it is a claim in need of reference.

      Also the claim seems to fail the test of changed behavior today. Religions still withhold treatment.

      Another claim in need of reference would be statistics showing that “the value of the medical treatment of the day was not so clearly better”. Medical treatment is an old practice and would have died out if it were a fact. And what “days” specifically are we referring to?

      The whole idea seems to me to be made up as an attempt to excuse inexcusable behavior.

    • Marcel Volker
      Posted October 31, 2013 at 9:40 am | Permalink

      Glad you mentioned it, I was going to make the same or a similar remark.

      By starting with only fatalities, THEN comparing to standard medical treatment, the sample size of all faith-treated (non-treated) children becomes very important.

      For example: even though survival rates for normal medical procedure were 90%, from a sample size of roughly 1700, you would still expect around 170 deaths in the ‘control’ (normally treated) sample.

      While we all have no doubt what the result would be, that does not mean we should not be doing our science rigorously to actually prove this ;).

  10. Sastra
    Posted October 30, 2013 at 12:04 pm | Permalink

    From what I’ve seen the reasoning behind the religious exemption seems to fall into two categories:

    1.) The parents meant well and believed they were doing what’s best for the child.

    2.) Religious belief doesn’t have to comport with reality and it’s considered a virtue for that very reason.

    They’re often combined. Both of them privilege religion by absolving it of any requirement to make sense according to secular standards — and thus the adherents are also absolved. If your belief is both sincere and based on faith then there’s no obligation to modify your faith because that might cut into your ability to be sincere in your faith (the gold standard for all of us.) And this leaves the critic with no standing.

    Religion eliminates rational checks and balances and thus allows you to commit atrocities and mean well.

    Frustrating.

  11. darrelle
    Posted October 30, 2013 at 12:19 pm | Permalink

    “I doubt a new religion birthed today would restrict the use of modern medical technology, but there was a time when the value of the medical treatment of the day was not so clearly better than what the priests and shaman could provide by invoking their gods.”

    Fear not, have no doubts. Just take a look at the very young religion of Scientology which does precisely that.

    Almost all religious beliefs, even those of new religions are based on older beliefs. This is precisely one of the major problems with religion. This is not an acceptable or valid excuse. It is a problem that directly contributes to the needless suffering that religion empowers.

    I am not sure I understand your objection to the study. They compared a group of kids that actually died from actual medical neglect to the chances those same kids would likely have had, based on data from similar circumstances but in which medical care was not withheld, if they had received medical care. I don’t see anything wrong, subtle or obvious. This comparison seems quite apt for relating how unnecessary these deaths were. The study does not hide or exaggerate anything.

    • Divalent
      Posted October 30, 2013 at 6:28 pm | Permalink

      (See my two comments above where I address the two points you raise. They are the same ones Sastra and JBlilie and Notagod brought up)

  12. Steven Obrebski
    Posted October 30, 2013 at 12:42 pm | Permalink

    It seems to me that parents should be required, by law, to seek competent medical care for their children, up to the age of 18 or 21, and if they do not and the children die or are seriously crippled or affected, they should be removed from the parents’ care either permanently, or retain them only if suitable measures are established to insure that the neglect does not recur while the children are in their custody. The parents are, of course, free to practice whatever magical rites and imprecations while the children are being properly treated by doctors. Perhaps informing new parents of the unfortunate consequences of “spiritual medicine” ought to become a common practice as well.

  13. Posted October 30, 2013 at 12:52 pm | Permalink

    Just a quick check for Colorado: seems like a ton of “services” are available for anti-vaxers to claim religious exemption. So even those nutcases who are non-religious or quasi-religious can easily find the legal prose online and fill in the blanks as needed. Legislators, responding to this unexplainable bump in supposedly religious types then introduced provisions that require a “religious leader” to cosign exemption forms, provisions being fought now on Constitutional grounds as violations of separation of Church and State.

    Yeah, my irony meter broke, too.

    • gluonspring
      Posted October 30, 2013 at 2:05 pm | Permalink

      The MTBF for irony meters can not be even one day for anyone who follows the news and not more than a few days for anyone who isn’t a hermit.

      • ratabago
        Posted October 30, 2013 at 5:38 pm | Permalink

        Mine’s got a circuit breaker and a reset button.

        It’s great, except the reset button keeps wearing out and needing replacement.

  14. Posted October 30, 2013 at 1:00 pm | Permalink

    From an anti-vaxer site… regarding the language of the State-supplied exemption form, and offering advice on getting around it:

    Basically, by initialing and signing this form as is, you are admitting to understanding that “vaccine preventable” diseases are extremely deadly and ALSO admitting to negligence for willfully denying your son/daughter the life saving protection that vaccines offer. These forms are MEANT to not only be intimidating but to catch the legally ignorant off guard. This is very serious to me since all states have adopted the federally funded Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act which gives states the right to literally steal your children for up to 48 hours — the time they have to prove child neglect OR abuse.

    If it were ME, I would insist that they accept a form that I provide them since it satisfies the law. If there are any problems or they insist on me using their form, I would cite the law and ask the school or daycare provider where it actually says in state statute that this particular form is the only form that will satisfy the law. Since your parental rights are at stake here, it is best to be vigilant and err on the side of being overly cautious.

    True… one really should err on the side of caution, shouldn’t one?

    We really need an involuntary sterilization program, with me at the helm as sole arbiter. I’d go for that.

  15. Wolfkiller
    Posted October 30, 2013 at 1:06 pm | Permalink

    Who are we to question God’s will? Surely those children all died for his almighty mysterious plan. Please excuse me while I vomit on myself.

    • Posted October 30, 2013 at 1:27 pm | Permalink

      When natural disasters happen that wipe out children by the hundreds or thousands, that is exactly the platitude that is wheeled out. The corollary is that saving these children would have negatively affected the plan and increased the amount of evil in the Universe.

      Yet any one of us who was in a position to save say, a drowning child, would never conclude that this drowning must be consistent with God’s plan,and thus do nothing.

      Man, God sure seems like a douche.

  16. Posted October 30, 2013 at 1:20 pm | Permalink

    This is one area that really exposes the hypocrisy of religious moderates who believe in an interventionist God. Both so-called fundamentalists and moderates believe that God is capable of instantly curing any affliction or disease (except perhaps lost limbs, baldness, and a penchant for wearing ridiculous cowboy boots). Both have access to Bibles and can point to instances where this has happened. Both believe that faith and prayer are very important aspects of the causal chain that provokes God to intervene and cure illness. And both groups would explain the apparent evil of non-intervention as part of “God’s will” or “part of a larger, perfect Plan” that we cannot comprehend.

    So given the preceding, how is a Christian who exhibits faith, prays for intervention, and passively waits for the intervention to occur acting immorally from a Christian point of view? Do moderates contend that Christians should hedge the possibility of non-intervention, something that they accept as perfectly Good, with advanced medical care? Wouldn’t that be showing that they either lack faith or are not willing to accept God’s decision to not intervene?

    The moderate might reply that God does not want us to sit on our butts and let him do all the work. Apparently, we need to show some effort before He intervenes. How we distinguish which part of the cure or recovery was due to medical science and which was due to miraculous intervention is beyond me, but perhaps the have-it-both ways moderate can explain.

    But then, this “I’ll match your effort” style of intervention raises an even worse problem in cases of innocent children, for why should a child ever die because of the indolence or incorrect theology of the parents?

    • gluonspring
      Posted October 30, 2013 at 2:12 pm | Permalink

      The latter question is easy. It’s the god character’s nature to met out punishment on the innocent. This is a well known attribute of the god character. He explicitly threatens suffering for your children, grand-children, and generations to come based on the errors of the parents. Indeed, the centerpiece of Christian theology is that all children ever are cursed to suffer and die on account of Adam’s lack of obsequiousness.

  17. tomh
    Posted October 30, 2013 at 1:35 pm | Permalink

    OP:

    This requirement was rescinded in 1983, but most states still have religious exemptions for child abuse.

    It is true that the religous exemption requirement was rescinded in 1983, however, in 1996, Congress reauthorized the federal Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act (CAPTA) and added the clause, “Nothing in this Act shall be construed as establishing a Federal requirement that a parent or legal guardian provide a child any medical service or treatment against the religious beliefs of the parent or legal guardian;” In the debate, Sen. Dan Coats, R-Indiana, claimed that parents have a First Amendment right to withhold medical care from children. This clause allows states to grant religious exemptions from medical care and still receive federal funding under CAPTA.

    CAPTA is reauthorized every four years, (most recently in 2010), but in spite of strenuous efforts by child advocates, allowing states to include a religious exemption is still the law of the land.

  18. lkr
    Posted October 30, 2013 at 1:50 pm | Permalink

    In Oregon, where I live, there is no religious exemption for necessary medical care of minors. In recent years there have been a number of successful prosecutions of parents who withhold care for religious reasons (e.g.: http://www.oregonlive.com/oregon-city/index.ssf/2011/06/judge_in_faith-healing_case_sternly_sentenced_rebecca_timothy_wyland_to_jail.htm).

    Of course, most of these involve both a motivated prosecutor, and a religious sect that’s marginal and obviously out-of-bounds. Haven’t ever seen them go after Christian Scientists and other more established groups.

  19. Dave
    Posted October 30, 2013 at 3:41 pm | Permalink

    And now, a word from the “pro-life” faction: …………………………… (crickets)

  20. marksolock
    Posted October 30, 2013 at 5:26 pm | Permalink

    Reblogged this on Mark Solock Blog.

  21. Dale Franzwa
    Posted October 30, 2013 at 8:54 pm | Permalink

    Jerry, are you aware of the website “www.whatstheharm.net”? A very useful supplement to this book.

  22. boggy
    Posted October 31, 2013 at 12:39 am | Permalink

    In the UK members of the Jehovah’s Witnesses have refused blood transfusions for their children who have been made ‘wards of court’ and the parents’ wishes have been over-ridden.
    Why is the USA so steeped in a religion in which parents can allow kids to die with impunity?

  23. serpentvie
    Posted October 31, 2013 at 2:24 am | Permalink

    Fuk, I can’t read stuff like this without crying.

  24. Scott
    Posted October 31, 2013 at 6:09 am | Permalink

    Were the Christian parents beating the children enough before they died, as their omniscient war god instructs?

    “Withhold not correction from the child: for if thou beatest him with the rod, he shall not die. Thou shalt beat him with the rod, and shalt deliver his soul from hell.” Proverbs 23:13-14

    These irresponsible parents clearly need to beat their children with rods more, as the perfect creator of the universe commands.

  25. ellipticcurves
    Posted October 31, 2013 at 7:49 am | Permalink

    I fully agree with you that what has happened and continues to happen in these cases is unconscionable. However, I have a nit to pick with the methodology of Asser and Swan. The problem is that in comparing the odds of survival of children that received medical treatment vs. those that got the prayer, their sample consists of only kid that died in the latter case. This way, any treatment put in the second column look horrible: “Just imagine that a great number of the kids who died while using antibiotics would have recovered on their own.”

  26. krzysztof1
    Posted October 31, 2013 at 12:52 pm | Permalink

    Sad to report that Nevada has such a statute: ” NRS 200.5085  Use of nonmedical remedial treatment.  A child is not abused or neglected, nor is the child’s health or welfare harmed or threatened for the sole reason that his or her parent or guardian, in good faith, selects and depends upon nonmedical remedial treatment for such child, if such treatment is recognized and permitted under the laws of this State in lieu of medical treatment.”

    (Added to NRS by 1979, 437)


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