Sunday, November 15, 2009

Letting Children Die Because of Religion

Johnathan Turley, who I usually disagree with, has an article in the Washington Post called, "When a child dies, faith is no defense." Turley writes,
In the past 25 years, hundreds of children are believed to have died in the United States after faith-healing parents forbade medical attention to end their sickness or protect their lives. When minors die from a lack of parental care, it is usually a matter of criminal neglect and is often tried as murder. However, when parents say the neglect was an article of faith, courts routinely hand down lighter sentences. Faithful neglect has not been used as a criminal defense, but the claim is surprisingly effective in achieving more lenient sentencing, in which judges appear to render less unto Caesar and more unto God.

Turley gives examples of various cases in which people who cited their faith as a defense in the death of their children received lighter sentences than other forms of criminal neglect. I am generally a strong proponent of parental rights, and opposed to most state intervention in family matters. Although I don't like it, I support the right of parents to indoctrinate their children in their religious beliefs, and overall to raise them in the way that they see fit. But when those religious practices cause clear and obvious physical harm, the state has to intervene, and religion should not be an excuse that gets someone a lighter sentence. As a society we do not accept that parents can beat their children unconscious, or starve or molest them because of religious faith, neither should we accept religion as a mitigating excuse for letting them die by refusing medical treatment.

If people want to believe nonsense that's their right. Likewise it's their right to teach that nonsense to their children. But if that nonsense gets their children killed, it shouldn't be held up as some sort of reasonable excuse. I'm with Turley on this one. Read the article and see what you think.

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