Faith Healing and Government's role in religious belief..

Discussion in 'Religion' started by Bells, Feb 19, 2014.

  1. Bells Staff Member

    Back in 2009, a 2 year old boy, named Kent, died of bacterial pneumonia, after being sick for 2 weeks. His parents, both of whom are fundamentalist Christians who belong to a Pentecostal Church, chose faith healing, as their religious beliefs deem medicine and even doctors to be forbidden.

    The church's website has a sermon titled "Healing – From God or Medicine?" that quotes Bible verses purportedly forbidding Christians from visiting doctors or taking medicine.

    "It is a definite sin to trust in medical help and pills; and it is real faith to trust on the Name of Jesus for healing," says the message, from last May.

    A jury found Herbert and Catherine Schaible guilty of involuntary manslaughter and they were sentenced to 10 years probation. The judge also ordered that their other children in their care must be given medical care should they require it, as a condition of their probation. During that time, they had at least one other son, named Brandon.

    In April 2013, Brandon fell ill and for at least a week, suffered from diarrhea and breathing problems. His parents did not seek medical care and he died. Instead, Mr and Mrs Schaible relied on their religious teachings and beliefs and thus, once again used faith healing on Brandon. As this was in direct violation to their parole, they were charged and in a statement made to the police, Herbert Schaible stated:

    "We believe in divine healing, that Jesus shed blood for our healing and that he died on the cross to break the devil's power,"

    He then declared that medicine is against their religious beliefs.

    Their lawyer argued, after their initial hearing after Brandon's death, that they had complied to the probation and had taken all of their children (they currently have 7) for medical check ups and Brandon was apparently checked by a doctor when he was 10 days old, but there is no evidence of any other treatment or medical contact. There is no evidence that any of their children had received medical treatment during that time.

    They are currently awaiting sentencing. Their pastor has declared:

    Their pastor, Nelson Clark, has said the Schaibles lost their sons because of a "spiritual lack" in their lives and insisted they would not seek medical care even if another child appeared near death.

    Firstly, I need to be very honest and open here. I find this to be abhorrent. Perhaps this is my own bias speaking here, but I find this an absolutely appalling case - where the best medical help is available for your child and to lose a child in such deliberate circumstances, only to then commit the exact same act and allowing another child to die.. To me this is inexcusable.

    However, my own personal bias aside, does the court have a right to impose such a condition on their probation?

    The First Amendment of the United States Constitution:

    Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.

    Is faith healing a religious practice and should they be free and protected to exercise it as they see fit? Or should the State be allowed to interfere with one's religious practice and force something they are clearly against on them in this fashion?

    We have seen many instances where children and their parents have refused blood transfusions based on religious beliefs. Should the same principle apply here? Or should the age of the children matter in this as they have no ability to consent to faith healing instead of medical care which would, in all likelihood, saved their lives.

    More disturbingly still, children do die as a result of faith healing and the family's refusal to seek medical care:

    An investigation led by Asser published in Pediatrics found that between 1975 and 1995, 172 children died following faith healing, 140 from easily curable or treatable medical conditions (Pediatrics 1998;101:625–9). In one case, a two-year-old girl choked on a banana and showed signs of life for an hour before dying, while her parents and other adults simply prayed.

    Choking on a banana .....

    It is sadly ironic, perhaps, that pro-lifer's do not picket these individuals. Moving on, these are preventable deaths for the majority of these cases. While some States are moving to remove the religious exemptions to religious individuals who rely solely on faith healing, because children are falling ill and dying as a result, some child advocates deem that not enough is being done and the Courts are being too lenient. Should they be lenient?

    Should one's religious beliefs and convictions override the necessity of seeking care for a sick child, for example? And should parents be held criminally responsible if they refuse to seek medical care for their children on religious grounds? But most importantly, should religions that preach this type of ideology be encouraged to move with the times and embrace 'science' in the form of medical care? Should their status as a religion be protected? Or should the State have the right to interfere with individual's religious beliefs.
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  3. Sorcerer Put a Spell on you Registered Senior Member

    The parents are guilty of manslaughter. End of discussion.
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  5. Bells Staff Member


    However that is not exactly the point of this thread.

    Should the State have the right to interfere with the religious beliefs of its citizens, so much so that it orders them to go directly against their religious beliefs? Or should one's religious beliefs and practices be protected?
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  7. Sorcerer Put a Spell on you Registered Senior Member

    Oh, OK, sorry. Blood started to boil.

    The CJS should uphold the laws of the State concerned. The law includes not killing people. There is a system called pluralism which means that people can follow their culture/faith/beliefs PROVIDED that they abide by the law of the land, and I have no problem with that. So in my view the State has every right to interfere with any behaviour which would result in the law being broken and people being killed.

    In most Western countries including England, children are regularly taken into care if they are being abused, and withholding medical treatment comes into that category. Clearly the authorities have a duty of care in that situation.

    So my answer to your questions is yes and no.
  8. Sarkus Hippomonstrosesquippedalo phobe Valued Senior Member

    Imo the government can not interfere with the religious beliefs, but they can interfere with the religious practices, where there is a clear and present danger to an individual, such as through parents' inaction for a child over whom they have responsibility.

    If that is not the case then any action performed in the name of religion would be above the law of the land.

    I think the US refer to this as the principle of "compelling interest"? I.e. If a law unduly burdens religious practice then there must be compelling interest or else be deemed unconstitutional. I would think providing simple medical care would fall under the "compelling interest" tag?

    Personally if a religion wants no interference whatsoever from government of the land on which they reside then they should buy their own land, set up their own country and do what they like. But if they want to live in a country and enjoy the benefits that that entails, then they should expect interference where it is applied equally to society (as opposed to interference targeted specifically at religious people).
  9. Kittamaru Ashes to ashes, dust to dust. Adieu, Sciforums. Valued Senior Member

    First... allow me to say that, as a religious person myself... these parents are absolute fucking NUTTERS. Nowhere does it say "medicine" is wrong... the idea of faith healing is that you believe "God will deliver you" through illness... yes, that's great! Having that faith will help you heal! However, "God helps those who helps themselves" and God also has allowed us to learn and practice such things as medicine... to try and decree that using such technology is wrong just... UGH, I'm going to go put my fist through a wall, one moment...

    As for your question... I believe yes, the State should have the right to interfere with religious beliefs such as this WHEN the well-being of a minor is at stake.
  10. Yazata Valued Senior Member

    My opinion is that as long as it's adults making decisions about their own health, then they should (pretty much) have the freedom to do as they like. That's not just an issue for religious sects that practice faith healing, it's also an issue for all kinds of alternative medical therapies.

    Legally it's an easier question in the case of religion, at least here in the United States, because the 'free-exercise' clause of the Constitution protects religious practice from government regulation.

    But there are exceptions too. Muslims might argue that blowing themselves up with suicide-vests in crowded places is a religious practice, and hence Constitutionally protected, but the courts are going to draw the line at religious practices that endanger other people.

    That's where a conflict arises in the case of children. On one hand, the state (in the US at least) is Constitutionally forbidden from interfering with religious practice. But on the other hand, the state has a legitimate interest in protecting the rights and welfare of other people who might be adversely affected by those religious practices.

    In law that kind of thing often happens, when one legal principle seemingly conflicts with another. The appellate courts usually sort it out. Sometimes it goes to the Supreme Court.

    I believe that there's already a massive body of law on this particular issue. My layman's impression is similar to Sarkus', that the government is allowed to intervene in these kind of cases, but they face a burden of proof in demonstrating that they have a 'compelling interest' for doing so. And no doubt there's already a huge body of precedent defining more precisely what that means.
  11. wynn ˙ Valued Senior Member

    Should the State interfere with people's sex lives?

    You'll have a hard time defending that the State should interfere with the religious beliefs of its citizens, but should not interefere with their sex lives.
  12. Sarkus Hippomonstrosesquippedalo phobe Valued Senior Member

    The State does interfere with people's sex lives... where it has compelling interest to do so. The State, for example, imposes a legal age of consent. It also imposes restrictions on where such things are to be considered appropriate, regardless of what the practitioners themselves might think.
  13. Aqueous Id flat Earth skeptic Valued Senior Member

    Under US law, the civil rights of any person can legally be reduced or terminated. Obviously a person under arrest loses quite a few rights, and without redress, as long as the cops had either an arrest warrant or else enough evidence of a crime to constitute arrest as a matter of probable cause.

    Religious people are protected under the Constitution to pursue their beliefs freely, but conduct is another thing. By law, their Constitutional protections end when a crime or tort is committed. The police can't be sued for taking a child from the custody of its parents and turning it over to the state social workers who handle these special cases, not when there is evidence of substantial harm, or risk of such, or of a crime.

    AFAIK this is very broadly supported. There are far too few Christians who believe in faith healing, and no politician wants to be tarnished by the appearance of causing injury or death to children.

    In my opinion all churches in the US should be regulated. First there should be risk assessments for all churches. If a buddhist temple is deemed free of this kind of risk, then it should be given probation to operate unregulated. The high risk churches should then be placed under the supervision of a court-ordered monitor, who would give the offending church a reasonable amount of time, as set forth in the law, to pass muster. Then and only then, upon the judge's determination that they meet the guidelines, should they be released from supervision and placed on probationary status. All costs would be borne by the congregations, with the wealthiest ones paying more, to compensate for the inability of poor churches to pull their share of the load.

    Furthermore, the entire administration of this program should be managed at the university level, rather than by state administrative officials. Each State should set up such an office in its largest pubic university, funded by state revenues. The purpose of this is to ensure that the people managing this system are independent academics, who would be charged with making the entire process transparent and thorough. They could be incentivized with extra pay and benefits, since they may otherwise prefer to stay in teaching and research.

    All of these boards should come together for quarterly conferences, for the purpose of deciding the ultimate status of religion in America. They should be charged with studying, and producing recommendations concerning the question of whether religious indoctrination of juveniles constitutes child abuse. Their findings should have the force of law, that is, they would be operating as a federal agency with executive powers to write rules that are as binding in the courts as statutes.

    Unfortunately, there are no laws that prohibit the perpetuation of criminal ideas among religious extremists. But as these examples you gave illustrate, there is a rationale for creating such laws, which is consistent with the modern standards of justice and decency.

    Many of the churches stand behind the Tea Party and its demands that the government is failing to create jobs. Given the probability that up to 100 million Americans may come under the umbrella of probationary status, at a rate of 1 university-appointed monitor per 100 congregants, this could create up to a million jobs. Good jobs, worthwhile jobs, not just flipping burgers.
  14. Asguard Kiss my dark side Valued Senior Member

    As someone else said you can believe what you want but there are reasonable restrictions on what you can do with that belief. If your religion says you must be a cannibal you aren't expecting that to be protected? same for a Terrorist and the same for this
  15. Syne Sine qua non Valued Senior Member

    Personally, I think the initial probation should have included monthly mandatory DHS visits, and yes, after the second death, these people are no longer fit to parent. Period.

    Children do not have a choice in this "faith healing", so forcing them to observe it does not even provide any exercise of their "faith". The parents are of course free to observe whatever they like for themselves.
  16. Bells Staff Member

    Mr and Mrs Schaible were sentenced to 3.5 to 7 years in prison for failing to care for their son and neglecting to take him to the doctors when he fell ill. During the sentencing hearing, Catherine Schaible told the judge:

    “My religious beliefs are that you should pray, and not have to use medicine. But because it is against the law, then whatever sentence you give me, I will accept,”

    I will admit, I find it hard to have any sympathy for this couple, grieving as they are for the loss of two children now, it is hard to feel sorry for them.

    At the preliminary hearing, Philadelphia Deputy Chief Medical Examiner Dr. Gary Collins testified that Brandon died of a combination of dehydration and bacterial pneumonia. Had Brandon been given antibiotics and fluids he could have survived, Collins said.

    The judge was even more damning:

    Philadelphia Common Pleas Judge Benjamin Lerner told the couple that it was not their son’s time to die. “You killed two of your children … not God, not your church, not your religious devotion — you,” the AP reported.

    We often hear of cases of people dying needlessly, and this is a tragic example of this.

    Sadly, their two sons are not alone.

    According to a 2011 report in the Canadian Medical Association Journal (CMAJ), 19 U.S. states still allow religious exemptions for crimes against children, including child neglect, manslaughter and murder.

    "Children who have died in these cases suffer seizures, vomiting," Dr. Seth Asser, a Rhode Island pediatrician, told the CMAJ. "Their deaths are agonizing, slow and extremely painful."

    Asser and Rita Swan, founder of Children's Healthcare Is a Legal Duty (CHILD), argue that judges and legislators often fail to acknowledge the risks inherent in faith healing, especially when children are involved, according to the CMAJ report.

    Scarier still, healing ministries are not uncommon. They are in fact, quite popular. A fair few very famous and widely followed TV evangelists declare themselves as faith healers and their ministries have 'healing ministries' within their ranks. And they make an absolute fortune from it. The likes of Benny Hinn and Kenneth Copeland count amongst the many with such ministries. And this is spreading, with many evangelicals making inroads in 3rd world countries in Africa, for example. It must also be said that this is not solely relegated to evangelical churches, as many other forms of Christianity also embrace this method. Certaintly, not all ban the use of medicine or the use of science, but many who belong to these religions prefer to believe that only God can heal them - and sadly for me, I have some cousins and an aunt who have gone down that road. While they are relatively healthy at the moment and none of have small children, it is worrying to observe from the sidelines.

    I agree with Syne, the decision to refuse medical treatment on religious grounds should be made for one's self. No one should force children into such compromises. However in many cases, the law protects these beliefs and families can be exempt from criminal prosecution if they happen to live in a State where these exemptions exist.

    Sadder still, these people usually remain unnoticed until a tragedy happens. And by then, it's too late.
  17. Hapsburg Hellenistic polytheist Valued Senior Member

    It depends on what you see as better for the community: upholding their rights, or upholding their lives. Both can be argued. And it's not even a matter of "individual vs community" in terms of scale. The question scales both ways: is it more important for their rights to free expression and conscience be upheld, or for their physiological livelihood be maintained?
    Much as I disagree with faith healing as a concept, I'd go with the former. It promotes greater long-term stability for a society. A few people can die from negligence, but once you start curtailing peoples' rights, things get dicey.
  18. cosmictraveler Be kind to yourself always. Valued Senior Member

    When those beliefs harm or kill others than yes the government should step in and do something.
  19. Sorcerer Put a Spell on you Registered Senior Member

    I'm pretty amazed you said that. What you're saying is that parents have the right to kill their children, which is both wrong and immoral. No one's rights are absolute, that's why we have laws.
  20. Aqueous Id flat Earth skeptic Valued Senior Member

    Applying that maxim, the child's right to live trumps the parents' rights to sustain a particular thought or feeling, religious or otherwise. Free expression doesn't encompass deliberate indifference to the substantial risk of causing harm. There isn't going to be a riot if the kid is rescued by medics and the parents are punished. People will go back to what they were doing as if nothing had happened, maybe just a little more phobic about the scale of religious activism.
  21. Hapsburg Hellenistic polytheist Valued Senior Member

    What I'm saying is it can be argued. I don't really have much of a stake in the situation. In a vague sense, I'd support whatever makes society more stable. I'm sceptical if allowing a precedent of government interference in personal lives promotes stability.
    But I could be wrong. Perhaps government intervention is necessary to prevent individuals from creating their own destabilizing precedents.

    Prove it. "Wrong" and "Immoral" are silly and meaningless terms.
  22. Sorcerer Put a Spell on you Registered Senior Member

    It cannot be argued that parents have the right to kill their children. They do not. Killing children does not make society more stable, it is very likely to do the reverse.

    You use the term "wrong" and then call it silly and meaningless, which says a lot about you.

    Actually, your post says a great deal about you. I smell a Libertarian here, where any form of governmental interference is strongly resisted.

    In any case I dislike you and your opinions intensely.
  23. origin In a democracy you deserve the leaders you elect. Valued Senior Member

    The whole sad affair is just nuts and of course the state has the obligation to protect the children. That being said I think the worst bastard in the whole thing is the preacher.

    That's just dandy! Jesus will save your kids, if not it is you parents who are at fault because you prayed wrong or watched a Harry Potter movie or whatever.

    I hope Jesus kicks old Pastor Clark in the nuts.

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