Religion as child abuse: “Treatment through prayer”

11 04 2008

In the US state of Wisconsin there is an exemption to the statute against failing to protect children from bodily harm for so-called “treatment through prayer.” That exemption may prevent justice being served in the case of a couple whose diabetic daughter died after they prayed for her recovery rather than seeking medical assistance. The parents blamed the death on their “lack of faith.”

Dan Vergin, the local police chief, said she had been ill for a month, suffering symptoms such as nausea, vomiting, excessive thirst, loss of appetite and weakness.”She just got sicker and sicker until she was dead,” he said.

Even after her death, her parents, Dale and Leilani Neumann, who did not belong to any organised faith, prayed over her body in the hope that she might be resurrected.

This is what can happen when societies pander to faith, at the expense of the rights and well-being of others (especially those unable to defend themselves).

Via Matt Dilahunty at The Non-Prophets and The Atheist Experience.




5 responses

11 04 2008
Sammy Jankis

What really gets me about this (apart from the criminally ignorant nature of the parents involved) is that some religious folk respond to these situations with “Sure, this is awful. But what about the abuse of children that goes on in secular households? Huh? Huh!?“. As if to say non-religious parents abuse their children because they don’t believe in a deity or because of their secular nature.

12 04 2008

OTOH, we might take some comfort from the tendency for reportage of such incidents in the mainstream media to take into account the religious background of the perps. (As long as it is relevant, mind you, as it surely is in cases where individuals harm others for faith reasons.)

12 04 2008

That law, or defence, is different in each State; in Oregon they repealed the “spiritual-healing defense” in 1999.

Currently in Oregon there is a couple awaiting trial for manslaughter over the death of their daughter. They preferred faith healing to antibiotics, un-surprisingly the faith healing failed and the poor girl died.

story here and recent follow-up here

12 04 2008

What seems to be happening here is that these parents have a notion of “religious freedom” that involves the denial of such freedom to their children, such that their children are reduced to the status of mere property. And the law sanctions this state of affairs when it recognises a “spiritual healing defence.”

It just shouldn’t happen in a secular democracy.

28 04 2008
Sean the Blogonaut

There is a book that I am yet to read called God versus the Gavel which tackles the issue of preferential treatment of religion in the Law.

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