Thought of the day

Twenty-nine states currently have laws protecting parents who engage in faith healing.

In related news, 29 states have asinine laws on the books designed to give special protections to dangerous people of faith.

Seen on Facebook

Here’s a ridiculous status I recently saw on Facebook:

Incredible outbreak of healings tonight at the [Connecticut] outpouring!! Life debilitating diseases and ailments instantly healed! Yay God!

I left a couple of comments asking who would be receiving the Nobel Prize for this discovery, but they were quickly deleted. It’s almost as if there is absolutely no proof that prayer works in the least. Let me break it down in this flowchart:

Faith healing couple convicted

The faith healing couple that was charged with felony mistreatment of their daughter last year has been convicted:

An Oregon jury took just an hour Tuesday to convict a couple of felony criminal mistreatment for relying on faith healing instead of taking their infant daughter to a doctor.

Timothy and Rebecca Wyland’s daughter Alayna, born in December 2009, developed an abnormal growth of blood vessels that covered her left eye and threatened her vision. Now 1 1/2 years old, she has improved under state-ordered medical care. She remains in state custody but lives with her parents…

The couple had 6 ½ months to seek medical attention before the state intervened but they did not, [Prosecutor Christine] Landers said. Because of their faith, “they never would have,” she said.

In the past two years, Clackamas County has prosecuted two other couples from the same church whose children died from untreated ailments.

Oregon has been making great strides in the fight against this religious-based violence on children. It is currently in the process of developing and passing a law that takes away the defense of faith healing, it has this recent conviction, and as the article notes, it has convicted other Christian parents of their crimes. The only place where improvement is needed is in sentencing. While I am against using prison merely as a means of punishment (because that’s just petty, emotional revenge), it does serve a legitimate purpose to use real sentences as a deterrent. Most convicted faith healing parents receive short sentences or probation (which is likely for the Wylands), and what do we keep seeing? Parents who want to hide behind their religion when they neglect their children. It has to stop.

No more protections for faith healers in Oregon

It seems like all I’ve been seeing is terrible legislative news the past few weeks. It’s so nice to see an elected body, somewhere, actually doing something good for a change:

The Oregon House approved a bill Thursday that would remove legal protection for parents who choose faith healing over medical intervention when treating their children.

The bill passed unanimously, though two Republican representatives raised concerns that the legislation was taking the issue away from juries and sending the state down a slippery slope.

The legislation comes in response to an Oregon City church, the Followers of Christ, that has a long history of child deaths even though the conditions from which the children died were medically treatable.

Currently, spiritual treatment can be used as a defense against some* homicide charges. The bill would eliminate that defense and subject parents who chose faith healing over medical treatment at the expense of their child’s life to mandatory sentencing under Measure 11.

Faith healing has been one of the shining examples of how we give undue respect to religion. These abhorrent laws have taken the protections already granted by the constitution and twisted them into legal defenses for neglectful parents. I am absolutely ecstatic to see them get thrown away in Oregon.

Twenty-nine states to go.

Leniency for monsters

I wrote back in December that I had very little confidence in our judicial system in sentencing faith healing parents who are responsible for the deaths of their own children. Lenient sentences happen again and again – and bad parents keep praying for their children instead of seeking real medical help. This recent sentencing isn’t going to help.

Speaking in court, [negligent father] Herbert Schaible asked the judge [Carolyn Engel Temin]for leniency to allow the couple to support their family.

“We are grieving and will always feel the loss of our son,” Schaible said. “With God’s help, this will never happen again.”

Temin sentenced them to 10 years of probation, during which they are required to seek routine and emergency medical care for their seven children, ages 1 through 15.

No, with the help of the judiciary doing its job and discouraging other parents from neglecting their children, this will never happen again. With the help of the legislatures in the 30 states which offer protection for faith healing, this will never happen again. With the eradication of religion, this will never happen again.

Two of the three things I mentioned are within easy reach.

Follow-up: Praying a child to death

I wrote last year of a Pennsylvania couple who prayed their child to death. The 2 year old toddler, Kent Schaible, would have survived if his parents weren’t nut jobs motivated by their religion. We can’t bring Kent back, but the more we convict monsters of praying their kids to death, maybe the fewer kids we see needlessly die.

A fundamentalist Christian couple who relied on prayer, not medicine, to cure their dying toddler son was convicted Friday of involuntary manslaughter and child endangerment. Herbert and Catherine Schaible of Philadelphia face more than a decade in prison for the January 2009 pneumonia death of 2-year-old Kent.

“We were careful to make sure we didn’t have their religion on trial but were holding them responsible for their conduct,” jury foreman Vince Bertolini, 49, told The Associated Press. “At the least, they were guilty of gross negligence, and (therefore) of involuntary manslaughter.”

The Schaibles, who have six other children, declined to comment as they left the courthouse to await sentencing Feb. 2.

This is great news, but I have very little faith in the system to dole out an appropriate sentence. As we’ve seen in the past, some parents get a slap on the wrist for praying their child to death. I hope to see something more substantial for the Schaibles. After all, the point of the system ought to be to correct the behavior of individuals for the better (as the article said, the Schaibles have 6 other children; any that are very young may be in danger) and to make sure society is safer. If parents think they can get away with praying for their sick children instead of seeking real medical help – 30 states have protections for faith healing – then we’re going to keep seeing awful stories like this because children of religious nut jobs will not be safe.

Faith healing couple being charged

Faith healing is a significant problem in child medical care. Many parents are sensible enough to bring their sick or diseased children to real doctors who can offer real solutions, but that isn’t true of all parents. One reason is that 30 states offer protection for this evil practice. That, in part, leads parents to believe it is okay to refuse actual medical care for their children because the state will not prosecute them. The other part of the equation is obviously religion. It’s a virus that eats away rationality.

Take the case of the Neumann’s. Even without state protection in Wisconsin, they decided to forego real treatment for their sick daughter. The little girl, Kara, died, despite having a fully treatable condition (diabetes). The couple cited over and over their religious devotion and reasons for effectively giving their child a death sentence. It was this that gave them a ridiculous jail sentence of a mere 6 months to be served over a 6 year period – one month a year. And they have other children.

It is clearly a problem that 30 states are willing to protect negligent parents, but religion is at the root of it all. Take this recent case of Timothy and Rebecca Wyland, members of Oregon City’s Followers of Christ church.

The Wylands’ 7-month-old daughter, Alayna, was placed in state custody earlier this month after child-welfare workers received a tip about the untreated and ballooning growth. Doctors said that the condition could cause permanent damage or loss of vision.

The Wylands and their church reject medical care in favor of faith-healing — anointing with oil, laying on of hands, prayer and fasting. The parents testified at a juvenile court hearing last week that they never considered getting medical attention for Alayna.

I’m not posting it here because it’s gross, but there is a picture of Alayna at that link. Take a look. Her parents weren’t going to do anything but wipe away some puss and discharge.

The upside of all this is that Oregon is not one of those 30 states which protects negligent children. In fact, it has taken exactly the opposite direction.

Under Oregon law, it is a crime for parents to intentionally and knowingly withhold necessary and adequate medical attention from their children. First-degree criminal mistreatment is a Class C felony punishable by up to five years in prison.

The Wylands have been indicted on that charge of first-degree criminal mistreatment. There’s no way they’ll get the full sentence they deserve – Alayna needs to be given the longest possible time without any chance of either of them neglecting her further – but hopefully they will be given some prison time plus probation plus required medical supervision of their daughter. That’s the least that ought to happen to these nuts. Their religion has blinded them to the serious health problems of their daughter – who may end up blind because of their neglect.

Oh, and there’s this.

Wyland’s first wife, Monique, died of breast cancer in 2006. She had not sought or received medical treatment for the condition, said Dr. Christopher Young, a deputy state medical examiner who signed the death certificate.

Monique would likely still be alive rather than not existing with her fictitious god if she received treatment.

Thought of the day

The force standing in the way of proper science education? The force standing in the way of marriage equality? The force standing in the way of child safety? The force standing in the way of even beginning to find peace in Nigeria and the Middle East?


And is there evidence for its creation stories? Can it offer well-reasoned ethical arguments against gay marriage? Can it justify allowing parents to forego needed medical care for their children? Can it operate beyond its sectarian labels? Can it be reconciled with fundamentally different claims?


Protecting Killers

I wrote some time ago about Leilani and Dale Neumann. They thought it appropriate to only pray for their diabetic daughter. They did not take her to get diagnosed, and when her health became grave, they continued in their quest to neglect her. They deserve to be put in prison; they have other children, not to mention the fact that not convicting them would encourage more parents to neglect their children through the meaninglessness of prayer.

Well, there’s good news and bad news. They were convicted earlier this year. Unfortunately, despite the fact that a jury decided these people were guilty of second-degree reckless homicide, the judge gave them a slap on the wrist. He sentenced them to 6 months in prison with 10 years of probation. The 6 months will be served over the course of 6 years – just one month a year. Compare this to the maximum they could have received – 25 years each – and it’s obvious that justice has not been served.

There are two mitigating factors to be noted, neither of which had a legal bearing on this particular case. The first is that Wisconsin is one of 30 states that protect faith-healing monsters. The law did not apply in this case. However, it’s hard to imagine it wasn’t a factor in sentencing. Second, the judge took pity on this couple because of their religion. He gave them an unfounded respect for their wacky and dangerous beliefs. Prayer will cure diabetes as well as it will restore an amputee’s leg.

The above link to their sentencing also cites similar sentence lengths for other, far less offensive crimes.

Russell J. Wozniak Jr. and Jennifer Ann Wozniak, of Chippewa Falls, Wis., received basically the same sentence as the Neumanns for, the criminal complaint said, allowing their 2-year-old to wander around covered in vomit and wearing a full diaper.

It’s absurd to pretend that the death of Kara Neumann is at all equal to what the Wozniak’s did. They had a child in a bad situation. So did the Neumanns. The difference is that the Wozniak’s child is still alive.

Then there are similar cases with differing sentences.

Then there are the parents of Alex Washburn. The 22-month-old died after hitting his head at home in Cross Lanes, W.Va. His parents, Elizabeth Dawn Thornton and Christopher Steven Washburn, said the boy fell a lot and hit his head on the corner of a table and his chin on a toilet. They apologized for not seeking medical help and agreed to terminate their parental rights to their other children, handing over custody to the state. “I wish I did seek medical treatment for my son faster,” Washburn told the court. “That will definitely be with me for the rest of my life.” The court sentenced both parents to three to 15 years in prison.

There are two differences here with the Neumanns. First, religion was not a factor for Thornton’s and Washburn’s actions. Second, Washburn was remorseful. He did not believe what he did was right; he recognized the evil in his actions. In contrast, here is a quote from Neumann.

If I in a moment of crisis and in a moment of time, I went to anyone else but the Lord, it would not have been favorable to God,

Here he has defended his inhumane actions. That should be unacceptable to anyone of rationality. Here is another quote (found in sentencing link).

I am guilty of trusting my Lord’s wisdom completely. . . . Guilty of asking for heavenly intervention. Guilty of following Jesus Christ when the whole world does not understand. Guilty of obeying my God.

As if his lack of regret about his cruelty was not enough, his wife feels the same.

I do not regret trusting truly in the Lord for my daughter’s health.

Really read that. This woman does not regret acting in a way that resulted in her daughter’s avoidable death. If you’re a parent reading this, ask yourself if you could ever say such a horrible thing. Ask yourself if you would ever be proud of behaving in a way that resulted in the death of your child.

Another couple prays child to death

A couple from Pennsylvania has prayed their child to death.

A fundamentalist couple who prayed over their sick toddler rather than get medical help before his pneumonia death have been ordered to stand trial on manslaughter charges.

Prosecutors believe 2-year-old Kent Schaible succumbed because his parents chose prayer over modern medicine.

There may be some legitimate defense in this particular case, but there is a more important issue here.

Some states carve out exceptions to criminal neglect statutes for parents who rely on faith or spiritual healing.

These states (including my own) disgust me. Believing in magic is not a license to practice magic, especially when the life of another person is at stake.