Five years probation

These things are not that rare.  This is from last year’s Daily Mail, reporting on a case in Oregon:


Five years of probation in return for killing their son.

Here’s who else is guilty besides the parents:

  • The Church of the First Born, for preaching doctrine that encourages child murder (Churches are never held responsible for such deaths),
  • The judge, for handing down probation and therefore reducing the possibility of deterring religious and like-minded parents from similar acts,
  • The U.S. government, for allowing 43 states (Oregon is an exception) to have legal exemptions from child abuse, manslaughter, or homicide if medical care is withheld on religious grounds.
  • State governments, for passing those laws,
  • Moderate religionists, for helping pass those laws and not opposing them,
  • The rest of us, for not working to overturn them.


  1. Diana MacPherson
    Posted November 13, 2013 at 12:30 pm | Permalink

    Awful. I don’t know how a judge can sit through the testimony and hand out such a light sentence.

  2. Sastra
    Posted November 13, 2013 at 12:32 pm | Permalink

    Damn. Too bad we can’t blame “God.”

    • gluonspring
      Posted November 13, 2013 at 1:59 pm | Permalink

      God would have intervened but he was already serving several life sentences for reckless abandonment, negligent homicide, and murder of his many children on Earth.

    • David
      Posted November 13, 2013 at 5:29 pm | Permalink

      Actually we can blame God. He is harvesting souls to fill up heaven. Spontaneous abortions, ectopic pregnancies, sudden infant death and childhood diseases are His favorites as He gets to lock them in before they can jump ship.

    • Posted November 13, 2013 at 5:43 pm | Permalink

      Nor can HE be sued. A lawsuit was making its way to the Supreme Court of Canada where a woman is charging she wasn’t properly informed of the risks of the acne meds she was prescribed.

      She became pregnant and bore a very brain damaged child who constantly screams in discomfort – against the recommendation of her doctors.

      Reading the bit on the front page would have left the impression the docs might not have been very clear.

      Inside you learn the docs did recommend abortion. They were waved off with “God wouldn’t do that to us, not after blessing us with this miracle.”

      Miracle alright, Dad had a vasectomy 4 years earlier

      • teacupoftheapocalypse
        Posted November 13, 2013 at 6:48 pm | Permalink

        If she’d paid more attention to the 7th Commandment, she wouldn’t have had to stick by her interpretation of the 6th.

        • gravelinspector-Aidan
          Posted November 14, 2013 at 4:01 pm | Permalink

          Vasectomies do reverse spontaneously. It’s not very common (a percent or so?), and it is far and away most common in the first few months after (not) “feeling the burn”. But it does happen. Or so the coal palynologist’s society told me after getting mine done.
          (What, you didn’t know that Marie Stopes was a geologist before she got into reproductive management? Do you never go to a pub quiz?)
          But “extra-curricular activities” are the number one suspect.

  3. Posted November 13, 2013 at 12:33 pm | Permalink


    • Diane G.
      Posted November 13, 2013 at 12:47 pm | Permalink


  4. rodgerma
    Posted November 13, 2013 at 12:33 pm | Permalink

    Only religion can get away with, and “legalize” murder.

    • DiscoveredJoys
      Posted November 13, 2013 at 1:46 pm | Permalink

      Horrible indeed, but I don’t suppose (IANAL) a murder charge would have been appropriate unless you could have a reasonable chance of proving that the parents intended to kill their son.

      Given a good lawyer (which is perhaps what happened) they could even argue that they genuinely thought they were doing the best thing for their son, so a manslaughter or lesser class of homicide might not have succeeded.

      I don’t like it, I want to see religious justifications removed, but there’s that religion/state separation argument in the USA. In the UK the child would be made a ward of court and treated – if known about in good time.

      • gluonspring
        Posted November 13, 2013 at 2:03 pm | Permalink

        Speaking of ward of the state… what of their other children?

        • Posted November 13, 2013 at 2:07 pm | Permalink

          If you go to the Mail link, it says that their seven other kids were taken as wards of the state, but were likely to be given back. I don’t know what happened after that.

          • Larry Gay
            Posted November 13, 2013 at 2:49 pm | Permalink

            According to the NY Daily News the other six children are still at home. The “parents” must follow a safety plan prescribed by the Oregon Department of Human Services. Nothing in the article about monitoring of the plan.

            • microraptor
              Posted November 16, 2013 at 12:40 pm | Permalink

              It probably won’t be monitored at all.

      • Posted November 13, 2013 at 2:07 pm | Permalink

        I’m not a lawyer, either, but I’m pretty sure that criminal negligence includes willful blindness as well as acts of incompetence. Involuntary manslaughter requires no intention to do harm. If you can be guilty of involuntary manslaughter for driving drunk and running somebody over, you damned well should be guilty of at least involuntary manslaughter for chanting spells over somebody rather than securing competent medical care.

        To me, this is an open-and-shut case of first-degree murder. They knew their son was in mortal danger, and yet they deliberately chose a course of action that they knew was more likely to result in his death than anything else, preferring the purity of their fantasies over their son’s life.

        If their religion required blood sacrifices but not necessarily from dead victims, and they stuck a needle in his arm and drained his blood, hoping to stop before he died but (for whatever reason) not stopping in time, that’d be a slam dunk conviction first degree murder conviction. This case is only different in that they didn’t even plan on turning off the spigot even if he showed signs of distress. It’s S&M with a kidnap victim and no “safe word.”


        • Posted November 14, 2013 at 9:46 am | Permalink

          First degree murder requires intent and premeditation. Your bloodletting scenario includes neither of these. Any prosecutor trying for 1st degree murder in the situation you describe would be very disappointed in the outcome.

  5. Posted November 13, 2013 at 12:39 pm | Permalink

    un – effing – believable !

    AND as referenced: “The rest of us, for not working to overturn them.”

    Please .COUNT ME IN. to try to help STOP / END this m o t h e r f # # k — in any way which W E I T folks deem possible !


  6. mordacious1
    Posted November 13, 2013 at 12:46 pm | Permalink

    There was a similar case (just not connected to religion) where I lived many years ago. The parents got probation after their child had died of neglect. I met the prosecutor at a party weeks later and asked her how a judge could give probation for this type of thing. She said, “How can he send them to prison? They just lost their child”. I was floored and responded, “If I murder my wife, you won’t send me to prison because I just lost my wife?” She didn’t have an answer…but I think the judge might have been thinking the same thing in this case.

    • Posted November 13, 2013 at 1:09 pm | Permalink

      Good point, which again illustrates the harm arising from moderate believers. The moderate thinks, “they didn’t do it on purpose…they meant well…they shouldn’t be punished for making an honest mistake.” The moderates are as much the problem as the fundies.

    • bacopa
      Posted November 13, 2013 at 5:14 pm | Permalink

      Oh what the fuck! This is so horrible. My dearest friend lost her severely disabled son to an infantile seizure disorder. She fought like hell for him his entire life. Her marriage crumbled from this. Her underlying mental illness became worse from this.

      She went to medical libraries, she became an expert in these disorders. She prompted a doctor at Texas Children’s Hospital in Houston to write a case study and later on a new paper on this rare disorder.

      to this day she sees moms who snarl at their children and says “At least your child can talk; At least you have a child.”

      A ruptured appendix is common and easily treated, I have seen a parent give more love even when the outcome was almost certainly fatal

  7. M. R.
    Posted November 13, 2013 at 12:49 pm | Permalink

    I find it impossible to come to terms with people like this, who are prepared to watch their child die in agony. They are, of course, quite mad: as are all those like them. Only the truly mad could allow such a thing to happen; and there was another truly mad person sitting on the bench.

    • Sastra
      Posted November 13, 2013 at 1:04 pm | Permalink

      Not technically mad: psychologically normal, from a clinical standpoint. The banality of evil is one of its most frightening features. The parents probably saw their child’s agony as akin to Christ’s suffering on the cross — it all comes out all right in the end, you just need to step back.

      Cases like this make the assertions that “you atheists are JUST LIKE fundamentalists” all the more insulting. Yeah, nothing to choose between us.

      • bacopa
        Posted November 13, 2013 at 5:16 pm | Permalink

        I long for the day that we secularists are so numerous and strong that we could define religious belief as a pathology if we wanted to.

      • David
        Posted November 13, 2013 at 5:58 pm | Permalink

        Yes, and I imagine such parents see themselves as favored by God to be put into this role – they get to enter into the “Godly grief” of sacrificing a child for “holy” principles. That probably makes them special with their peers. Perhaps that’s why the mother was so proud to show off the cardboard cutouts of her dead child.

  8. darrelle
    Posted November 13, 2013 at 1:16 pm | Permalink

    Yet another unavoidable result of idolizing Faith.

  9. gravityfly
    Posted November 13, 2013 at 1:16 pm | Permalink

    “The rest of us, for not working to overturn them.”

    Very true…

  10. Larry Cook
    Posted November 13, 2013 at 1:19 pm | Permalink

    I’ll reluctantly accept my share of the blame. However, it is difficult to see how I’m supposed to stay on top of every stupid exemption in every state law. I certainly can’t see spending all of my time keeping up with the practices of every nutty church, but I will gladly add my voice to any organized opposition to any practice that hurts children. As shocking as this should be but isn’t, there is a television show on either NATGEO or The History Channel about catching and using poisonous snakes in religious services in the southern states of the U. S. This show may be exposing something horrific, but it does so in a non-judgement way. What should I be doing so that I don’t share in the blame when a child dies from a snake bite?

    • tomh
      Posted November 13, 2013 at 3:59 pm | Permalink

      What should I be doing so that I don’t share in the blame when a child dies from a snake bite?

      Not to worry, already taken care of. The ‘Snake Salvation’ pastor was arrested and 53 poisonous snakes were seized. He faces fines and jail time. The National Geographic series alerted people in the region, who called authorities. His defense is free exercise of religion.

      • JohnnieCanuck
        Posted November 14, 2013 at 12:25 am | Permalink

        He’s not the only one though, I’m sure. Just one of the more visible. Just looked at the Wikipedia entry for ‘snake handling’ which mentions five specific churches.

        Most of these are part of a subset of Pentecostal churches. Also, in keeping with the OP, early Pentecostals were known to rely solely on faith healing.

        It died out.

  11. Posted November 13, 2013 at 1:33 pm | Permalink

    How the fuck are you supposed to cure appendicitis with prayer?

    If their torture victim fell off a ladder and suffered a compound leg fracture, and they tried to pray that away rather than go to the ER, would that have merited probation as well?

    What about a gunshot wound from a drive-by? Snake bite?

    I…I…I damned well better shut the fuck up, myself, now….


  12. Wolfkiller
    Posted November 13, 2013 at 1:33 pm | Permalink

    Charles Manson has and will spend his life in prison for convincing a group of fools to murder. These parents get a slap on the wrist and the church that convinced them isn’t even looked at. Seems fair.

  13. teacupoftheapocalypse
    Posted November 13, 2013 at 1:55 pm | Permalink

    Was the judge vetted for his own religious beliefs or, indeed, whether he belonged to the same church? I’ll wager ‘no’.

  14. RFW
    Posted November 13, 2013 at 1:57 pm | Permalink

    It will never occur to these murderous fools that PRAYER DOES NOT WORK; NEVER HAS, NEVER WILL!

    • Posted November 13, 2013 at 2:00 pm | Permalink

      I remember reading a study that showed that hospital patients for whom people pray have a lower recovery rate than those for whom nobody prays. This is probably due to the former having unrealistic expectations which are not realized, thus driving them deeper into their illness.

    • Chris
      Posted November 13, 2013 at 2:14 pm | Permalink

      “I prayed for twenty years but received no answer until I prayed with my legs.”

      Frederick Douglass

  15. Posted November 13, 2013 at 2:33 pm | Permalink

    Fantasy facilitates hesitation. If only the liabilities of hesitation could obliterate fantasy.

  16. Posted November 13, 2013 at 2:37 pm | Permalink

    How can the USA allow such insanity?

    What about the right to life?

    • Posted November 13, 2013 at 2:41 pm | Permalink

      If the Republicans ever get their way, in the States, the right to life will begin at conception and end at birth.

      Hell, with their anti-contraception efforts, the right to life will begin before conception….


      • Mark Joseph
        Posted November 13, 2013 at 8:12 pm | Permalink

        Every sperm is sacred!

        • Posted November 13, 2013 at 8:27 pm | Permalink

          If only I could convince that cute girl of that….


  17. Posted November 13, 2013 at 2:51 pm | Permalink

    Shit like this really chafes my hide. These people should be illustrated in the dictionary alongside the word smugassignorantdipsticksthatshouldneverhavechildren. 5 years probation is a joke. The judge should get 5 years probation, the parents should be under the jail.

  18. Posted November 13, 2013 at 4:21 pm | Permalink

    There is a website that counts the victims of the anti-vaccination lobby ( Is there a similar thing for “faith healing”? The anecdotes are terrible but I suspect the faithful could equally pull out anecdotes of when modern medicine has got it horribly wrong and amputated the wrong limb or given someone hepatitis/HIV during routine blood work.

    Don’t get me wrong, I am 100% in favour of evidence-based medicine and 100% against faith healing but if we really are to fight it then I think we need good data as well as shock stories that people can relate to.

  19. Hempenstein
    Posted November 13, 2013 at 5:21 pm | Permalink

    If snake-handling churches can be prohibited (everywhere, per an earlier post, but West Virginia) and bars can be declared problems and shut down, where’s the problem with doing something about this one?

  20. Timothy Hughbanks
    Posted November 13, 2013 at 7:08 pm | Permalink

    This case is even worse than you think:

    Her first husband, Brian Sprout, died of sepsis in 2007 after sustaining and failing to seek medical treatment for a leg injury, a Lane County Sheriff’s Office lieutenant said when the Bellews were arrested in February. Brian Sprout was the biological father of three of the six children placed in state custody Monday, as well as of Austin Sprout.

    A state child welfare worker revealed Monday that Russel Bellew also lost a spouse from a prior marriage, Randi Dawn Bellew, who died in Sisters in 2008. She was the biological mother of two of the remaining children. The sixth child was born to Russel and Brandi Bellew in 2010.

    • JohnnieCanuck
      Posted November 14, 2013 at 12:40 am | Permalink

      Pity the little children that came unto this marriage.

      They got them back? No, they can only see their children if someone (from the gov’t?) is there.

  21. Wolfkiller
    Posted November 14, 2013 at 1:08 am | Permalink

    This poor kid is going to wish his idiot parents killed him… 😦

    “A three-month-old infant has been left mutilated after doctors cut off his penis during what was supposed to be a 20-minute circumcision procedure.

    Memphis, Tenn. mother Maggie Rhodes is now regretting taking her son Ashton to the Christ Community Health Center in August to get circumcised.”

  22. gravelinspector-Aidan
    Posted November 14, 2013 at 4:15 pm | Permalink

    The judge, for handing down probation and therefore reducing the possibility of deterring religious and like-minded parents from similar acts,

    I very much doubt that even stringing them up from a convenient piece of street lighting would have had a deterrent effect. The people who do this sort of thing are normally convinced that (1) they are doing the right thing, and that (2) because of item (1), there is no “caught” for them to “get”.
    They may be delusional, and that may put their custody of the other children at hazard, but unless someone can prove (beyond reasonable doubt) that they really believed that their actions were going to cause the death of their child, then manslaughter / culpable homicide / murder in the second degree is probably the appropriate charge to lay against them. First degree murder requires a “guilty mind” – knowing the consequences of your actions and continuing with the actions. If you don’t have that principle, then you’re half way to hanging the horse that throws it’s rider. (Which has happened in more than a few cases in most countries that have existed for more than a couple of centuries. The US may have avoided this particular piece of legal lunacy, but only just.)
    “Deterrence” is a concept that applies to people who know they’re doing the wrong thing, and anticipate getting caught to be a significant probability. Which is why idiots still attempt spectacularly idiotic murders. From the data presented, I can happily assess these idiots as being mind-bogglingly stupid. But that doesn’t itself make them “evil” (whatever that means).

  23. marksolock
    Posted November 15, 2013 at 10:36 pm | Permalink

    Reblogged this on Mark Solock Blog.

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