Will Saletan throws it, we swing away:
Should parents go to jail for believing so devoutly in faith healing that they don’t seek lifesaving medical treatment for their children?
Leilani and Dale Neumann of Wausau, Wis., will soon find out. Their 11-year-old daughter died of diabetic complications after they relied on prayer rather than doctors to heal her. Now they face trial for reckless endangerment and a potential prison sentence of 25 years. They’re the third couple slapped with criminal charges in the last year for failing to seek treatment for a child. In today’s New York Times, Dirk Johnson reports:
About 300 children have died in the United States in the last 25 years after medical care was withheld on religious grounds, said Rita Swan, executive director of Children’s Health Care Is a Legal Duty … Criminal codes in 30 states, including Wisconsin, provide some form of protection for practitioners of faith healing in cases of child neglect and other matters …
Saletan thinks we should just tell the faith-healing types that this is “bad religion”:
Properly understood, there’s nothing unscientific about religion, and there’s nothing irreligious about science.
But unfortunately, this is to assume that the reasoning process of a person who watches a child die while praying fervently is the same as someone who wisely gets that kid to a hospital as soon as possible. It isn’t – which makes Saletan’s question a mere rhetorical exercise.