One of the most horrible and damaging aspects of religion is the tendency of some faiths to refuse medical care to children, relying instead on prayer and “faith healing.” The most famous such faith is Christian Science, but many sects do the same thing. As I recall (and I’m in the airport without my figures), something like 42 states confer civil or criminal immunity on parents who injure or kill their children by withholding medical care on religious grounds. If you withhold medical care on other grounds, of course, you’re liable to prosecution. Such is the unwarranted and harmful privilege of religion in America.
I wasn’t aware that Mormons were guilty of these crimes, but as The Guardian reported (and this is several months old), Mariah Walton, a young woman in Idaho, was permanently disabled because her fundamentalist Mormon parents refused to give her surgery for a hole in her heart when she was born, and so she’s left permanently disabled with pulmonary hypertension. This is what she looks like now:
Mariah, sadly. lived in Idaho, where parents are immune from prosecution for this kind of neglect. (The last chapter of Faith Versus Fact discusses the execrable religious-exemption laws.)
Mariah, along with others injured in this way, are campaigning for an end to Idaho’s exemption laws. Amazingly, some state legislators (Republicans, of course), oppose the laws’ repeal because parents should have the right to treat their kids with faith-based medicine: it’s “freedom of religion.”
There should be no freedom of religion that allows parents to hurt their children in the name of their god. It’s bad enough that they indoctrinate their kids (which really should be illegal, too), but it’s out of bounds to withhold scientific medicine in the name of a fairy tale.
It appears that the bill to deep-six the exemption laws is still under consideration, so that children are still being injured (the Followers of Christ are notorious for this). There’s a Change.org petition to the Idaho governor to remove religious exemptions from prosecution, but, sadly, it has only 1,207 signers. It’s time to eliminate all religious exemptions for medical treatment: not just for deformities and diseases, but for vaccinations, too: 47 states allow religious exemptions for the requirement for school children to get vaccinated.