Not too long ago, I passed on a story about a young girl who died because her parents were treating her diabetes with prayer. A different church attempted the same thing with young Ava Worthington, with equal success, and now Ava’s cousin has had the same results.
Fortunately, Oregon, unlike Wisconsin, has laws that hold parents responsible for withholding medical treatment from children in favor of faith healing. (In the articles from kgw, it looks like this particular church was a driving force in this law.)
Colorado had just changed their law granting exemption from prosecution for faith-healing parents when this happened:
Grand Junction — Charges have been filed against the parents of a 13-year-old girl who died from a common infection that turned into gangrene after her parents opted to treat her with prayer but not medicine.
Randy and Colleen Bates, members of the General Assembly Church of the First Born, were issued summonses Friday on charges of criminally negligent homicide, reckless manslaughter, reckless child abuse resulting in death, and criminally negligent child abuse resulting in death.
Church of the First Born members believe there is a biblical injunction against medical treatment. They treat illnesses and injuries with prayer.
Amanda Bates, one of the Bateses’ 11 children, died Feb. 6. Someone at her home called 911 early that morning to report an unattended death. Paramedics were able to revive the skeletal youngster, and she was kept alive until evening on machines at St. Mary’s Hospital and St. Luke’s Hospital in Denver. An autopsy showed she died from complications of diabetes, which include an increased risk of infections. Amanda’s infection began with an easily treated vaginitis, which eventually spread and turned to gangrene.
Even a group called Religious Tolerance lists faith-healing sects, including their incidences of unnecessary deaths. Our tolerance, as well, should be exclusive of beliefs that cause this kind of suffering. Perhaps we must allow people to hold their beliefs, no matter how ridiculous, but they have to be held responsible for the actions they take because of their beliefs. People whose beliefs include animal sacrifice or grave robbing for human remains to be used in ceremony find themselves charged with crimes if they’re caught sacrificing animals or robbing graves. There is no reason that people who withhold medical treatment from children until they are clearly ill, even until they die, should not be charged with a crime. The evidence of faith healing’s failure as a treatment is abundant – evidence of its success is wishful thinking.
And yet. . .our tax dollars just paid for Ken Ham to speak at the every-Wednesday Pentagon Prayer Breakfast.
Despite the fact that Ken Ham is delusional, as any look at Answers in Genesis or a brief tour through his ludicrous Creation Museum shows. But our military leadership wants to hear what he has to say.
Despite the fact that the prayers of devout believers directed at specific individuals has failed to save their lives, our government supports prayer to save entire troops (who were sent into danger by the very same folks soliciting the prayers) both ideologically and financially.
Despite the fact that parents avoid simple, proven medical treatments in favor of wishing really hard end up killing their children, many states exempt them from prosecution.
Am I wrong to object to my government endorsing religion in this way? Does it not seem like letting people die is OK as long as you really wish hard that they don’t? Is doing nothing, in the form of waiting for your invisible friend to grant your wishes, a get out of jail free card?
As long as prayer is held up as a viable course of action, practiced loudly and publicly by influential people, and allowed as an excuse for people to act in otherwise inexcusable ways, it is indeed an establishment of religion. It is a violation of the Constitution, and a violation of common sense.