Oregon set to remove faith healing defense for parents

By Phil Plait | May 26, 2011 10:30 am

[Note: I expect to hear some disagreement over my statements in this post. If you are going to comment, PLEASE read the whole post first, and then read my post "When belief kills" before leaving your comment. That should minimize misunderstanding about where I stand on this. Thank you.]

In February, I wrote that in Oregon a bill was being proposed to the state legislature that would remove the defense of religious belief in the case of homicide. Specifically, if the bill passes, parents who use faith healing instead of real medicine for their children can face murder or manslaughter charges if the child dies due to lack of medical care.

In March, the Oregon State House unanimously approved the bill. On Monday, the Senate approved it 25 – 5. It will now go back to the House for any changes to reconcile the versions. After that, it will be sent to the governor where he will sign it, and it will become state law.

This law would apply to anyone who does not seek medical care for their child, but the situation has become urgent of late because a fringe group called Followers of Christ advocates faith healing instead of real medicine, and several children have died or been seriously injured because of it.

I stated my opinion on this in my earlier post:

Stories like this always leave me conflicted. As a parent myself I always want the best possible medical treatment for my child, and I don’t want other groups interfering with that decision. However, the State has a right to protect the best interests of that child in case the parent cannot. Decades worth of evidence has shown that faith healing does not work, and in many cases the children in the Followers of Christ church had easily treatable illnesses and needn’t have died.

In the end, the right thing to do is save that sick child. If the parent cannot, then the greater society has the responsibility to do that.

I still think this is true. One of the very reasons we have a society in the first place is to be able to help people who cannot help themselves. Children fall squarely into that category. And we know faith healing is not a legitimate medical practice. For a serious illness, it is essentially a death sentence.

I support the Oregon legislature on this difficult decision. In these times of such stiff religious influence on government, this is a welcome sign of resistance.

Tip o’ the gavel to The Secular Coalition of America, via Liz Gaston and Ashley Miller on Facebook.


Related posts:

When belief kills
Two difficult court cases protect the public’s health
Calling Dr. Oz: defend alt-med on Skeptics’ Guide
Faith vs. evidence

MORE ABOUT: faith healing, Oregon

Comments (111)

  1. ethanol

    Well put. People have every right to make these choices for themselves but that autonomy does not extend to making harmful or even fatal choices for their children. It is recognized that children cannot be expected to represent their own interests and when parents won’t either, then the state must.

  2. I consider myself a pretty staunch libertarian, but I have a hard time disagreeing with this bill. The extent to which it’s acceptable for the state to protect children from bad parenting is a really tough call for me, but when it comes to life-and-death matters like neglecting medical treatment for ideological reasons, the decision is easy.

  3. I hope that many other states will follow the Trail that Oregon has blazed.
    (pun totally intended)

  4. I’ve always believed that one should be able to do whatever they want, provided they don’t harm anyone else in the process…which I suppose would be the case here. Or perhaps a better way: all things should be legally allowed when all involved parties are consenting adults…which children are not.

  5. Debra Pryor

    This is the first time I’ve felt driven to comment and it’s simply to say that I’m with all the way on this one Mr P. Well said.

  6. Jim

    Aw, crud, looks like I’m going to the sixth “me too”-er in a row.

    It’s a good law, and regrettably a necessary one.

  7. I don’t have any conflicting opinions about this ruling. I’m 100% in favor of it. Neglecting the basic needs of your child is illegal and leaving any sort of loophole for religious reasons is not only cruel to the child, it’s unconstitutional.

    However, I accept that there are loads of non-religious and well meaning reasons that parents make bad medical choices for their child. Pseudoscience isn’t necessarily religious (though it’s often based in misguided spiritual justifications). I am not a parent but I am also not a scientist of any sort and certainly not a medical expert. There is so much information to weed through and all of us can only do the best with what we understand and what information is made available to us. I am overwhelmed by just how much I don’t know and I’m surely not alone.

    What this law is REALLY about is allowing the state some means of intervening before it’s too late to save the child. I don’t think anyone thinks arresting misguided parents and long lengthy trials are a panacea (ha!) to this problem, but in the past, child services and doctors had no recourse if a child was dying in front of their eyes and a parent demanded they do nothing for religious reasons. All this does is give children a better chance at survival.

  8. Timmy

    I’m too lazy to actually read the details of the bill… It sounds like it doesn’t force anyone to seek medical tretment for their kids and it doesn’t allow the state to treat a child without their parent’s consent. It just doesn’t let parents hide behind religion when they kill their kids. I’m for this 100%.

    By the way – totally off topic, but thank you Discover Magazine for letting me post my opinions without having to sign up for an account! I promise to behave myself.

  9. Timmy

    @Jon Voisey – maybe now less kids will die of dysentery!

  10. Do these people ever consider that maybe their prayers are being answered by God sending a freakin’ doctor?

  11. Scott Rivers

    I don’t really see much of a problem with it either. As Timmy said above, it doesn’t force parents to seek medical attention for illnesses, only prevents a hackneyed defense for their deaths.

  12. KiltBear

    If you accurately summarize the bill one possible problem is here: “parents who use faith healing instead of real medicine for their children can face murder or manslaughter charges if the child dies due to lack of medical care.”

    It targets religion, or specific forms of religious faith. So if someone is just an incompetent parent, are they given more leeway? Is this a higher bar being applied to religious reasoning than applied to any parent who makes uneducated or simply really bad decisions? Isn’t this already enforceable under standing law?

  13. Alyssa

    As a Christian…although a rather progressive/liberal one compared to some…I firmly believe in science and doctors and that they should be using any and all tools or medicines at their disposal to heal someone.

    Simply “praying it away” is NOT going to help if they aren’t getting medical care. There is a REASON God gave doctors and nurses and pharmacists the skills and knowledge they have, and that’s to heal. Why anyone would say differently astounds me. I think faith healing (the type you see at large “revival” meetings) is simply hogwash. I believe prayer helps, even if only a type of meditation or plea for help from a higher power.

  14. While bills limiting religious practices or peoples’ roles in medical decisions often make me nervous, I think this one sounds spot-on. Religion is no defense for letting your child die. One should face the consequences.

  15. frankenstein monster

    That isn’t very neutral towards religious beliefs. But this is a good thing. Because neither the reality is :)

  16. TSC

    @ KiltBear

    The Bill doesn’t target specific religious faiths. That would probably be a violation of the 1st Amendment. Instead, as the law currently stands, there exists a defence to homicide in cases where a child dies as a result of being denied medical treatment by parents for a religious reason. That is, right now, the law in Oregon will allow anyone to be charged with homicide if they allow a child to die by withholding medical treatment… unless the treatment is withheld because the parents went with faith “healing.” The proposed Bill eliminates that exception, and makes it so that the law of homicide in Oregon treats everyone who kills a child by withholding medical treatment the same, regardless of faith.

    Or so is my understanding.

  17. In general, such a new law is in keeping with existing interpretations of the First Amendment as developed in cases of “snake handling” cults. As a Christian, myself—well, according to Matthew 4:5–7:

    Then the devil took [Jesus] to the holy city, Jerusalem, to the highest point of the Temple, and said, “If you are the Son of God, jump off! For the Scriptures say,

    ‘He will order his angels to protect you.
    And they will hold you up with their hands
    so you won’t even hurt your foot on a stone.’”

    Jesus responded, “The Scriptures also say, ‘You must not test the Lord your God.’”

    …so I certainly have no religious objection, either.

  18. SuperDude

    Kilt Bear.

    Current Oregon law requires parents to seek medical care for their children….unless the parents have a specific religious objection to doing so. The only change the bill makes is to allow the state to sucessfully prosicute parents who allow their children to die as the result of not seeking medical care, even if they have religous objections to seeking care. It removes a loophole that allows parents to be criminaly negligant if they claim a religous exemption, therefore allowing the state to apply the law equally to all parents.

  19. For those who are interested, here is the full text of the bill.

    It refers only to “spiritual treatment” or “spiritual means.” It does not single out any particular religion. From what I can see, all they are doing is changing the conditions under which a religious defense is acceptable. Before, the law allowed a religious defense for manslaughter if the defendant used spiritual treatment for the decedent, regardless of the decedent’s age. The law as amended would change it so that it is an acceptable defense if the decedent is 18 years of age or older. Younger than that, the defendant would not be able to use religion as a defense.

  20. KiltBear:

    It targets religion, or specific forms of religious faith. So if someone is just an incompetent parent, are they given more leeway? Is this a higher bar being applied to religious reasoning than applied to any parent who makes uneducated or simply really bad decisions? Isn’t this already enforceable under standing law?

    Actually, as I understand it, it’s just the opposite. It used to be that religion was allowed to be used as an excuse for letting your child die. It doesn’t “raise the bar” as far as religion is concerned. Rather, it brings the bar back to even.

    Frankenstein Monster:

    That isn’t very neutral towards religious beliefs

    Sure it is. It removes a privilege granted to some “religious people”, making the law more “religion-neutral”.

    Note: This is based on my understanding of the law, as written about on this blog, and not an actual reading of the law itself.

  21. jjmcgaffey

    9 – KiltBear – what the bill is targeting is the legal defense of ‘faith-healing’. That is, if a child dies, the parent(s) can be charged with murder or manslaughter; at the moment, a valid defense in such a case is the parent claiming that they were using faith-healing on the child so the child was getting ‘treatment’. Once this bill passes, that won’t be a valid defense anymore. So yay.

    That’s my reading of the above – I didn’t go check the bill itself.

    And several others said the same thing before I finished my comment…

  22. Mitch

    As a resident of Oregon, I’m torn by this. It makes me angry to see these people allowing their children to suffer and die from stupid, little, treatable illnesses. I emphatically deplore their practices (or lack of same) and I want them to be stopped. Immediately.

    On other other hand, I worry that this particular law will provoke a constitutional challenge and we could end up with some unintended consequences. It seems to me that the US Constitution explicitly allows us to be religious nutjobs, and prevents the government from interfering in our nutjobbery.

    Every time the government interferes with religious nutjobs, it potentially weakens the protections afforded by the constitution. I’m uncomfortable when the government raids compounds in Waco. I’m uncomfortable when the government arrests polygamists. And I’m uncomfortable with this bill. Each time, we weaken the protections afforded by the constitution.

    On the other hand, I’m pissed off about these particular nutjobs letting their kids suffer and die. So I’m in a quandry.

    Somewhere there’s got to be a balance, but I don’t know what it is. I’m just not sure.

    One thing I am sure about: this bill and its inevitable challenge is going to earn a few lawyers a whole lot of money.

  23. truthspeaker

    KiltBear Says:
    May 26th, 2011 at 11:06 am

    If you accurately summarize the bill one possible problem is here: “parents who use faith healing instead of real medicine for their children can face murder or manslaughter charges if the child dies due to lack of medical care.”

    It targets religion, or specific forms of religious faith. So if someone is just an incompetent parent, are they given more leeway?

    No, letting your child die because of negligence that isn’t related to religious beliefs was ALREADY illegal. This bill seeks to remove the exemption for negligence caused by religious beliefs.

  24. Liath

    I live in Oregon. The proposed law came about because we have recently had a rash of totally treatable child deaths while the parents and their friends prayed really, really hard. I’m not one for passing judgement on how parents raise their children. However, in this case the behavior was criminal and should be treated that way. A three month old baby girl can not make a choice, nor can a 14 year old that has been throughly indoctrinated. This is a necessary law.

  25. truthspeaker

    Mitch Says:
    May 26th, 2011 at 11:40 am

    Every time the government interferes with religious nutjobs, it potentially weakens the protections afforded by the constitution. I’m uncomfortable when the government raids compounds in Waco.

    You’re uncomfortable when the government tries to arrest someone who has raped children and who owns a large stockpile of illegal weapons?

    Religious nutjobbery should not make people exempt from the law.

  26. #10 Richard Dickson wrote: Do these people ever consider that maybe their prayers are being answered by God sending a freakin’ doctor?

    I agree. What if these people were experiencing a severe drought, and were thirsty but a neighbor had well-drilling equipment and knew how to use it.

    Would they take him up on an offer to drill a well and thank the Lord that he was there, or would they decline his offer and pray for God to magically make them not thirsty?

  27. Vicky

    How would this law affect people who’s children die because their parents refuse to let them have a blood transfusion? I think Jehovah’s Witnesses (someone please correct me if I’m wrong) believe that blood transfusions are sinful and won’t take them. So if a child needed one and the parents refused and their child dies, would they have been able to use this defense in the past? I think it’s probably a different issue (surely people have the right to refuse medical treatment?) but now by brain is getting all confused…

  28. adrian

    They are saying that Faith Healing does not work? So why then should we have faith in Doctors or anything else for that matter?Do n’ t you need faith and trust is someone or something in order to go through with it? I am sure that the person who trusted any type of medical treatment would need to have faith that it would work.
    In a very good many cases our misplaced faith in doctors is what kills us.
    Think again Oregon. Why should we put our faith in you?

  29. Dark Jaguar

    I see no conflict in this, and neither should you BA. There are times when others have every right to interfere in how a parent raises their child, and this is one of those times. Assuming no weird letter heads find themselves stapled to this, I see no problems with this bill and think other states should start adopting it quickly.

    You went a little easy on them. Let’s be clear, it’s not just when a parent “cannot” provide proper care, but explicitly WILL not provide it, regardless of their thinking. I’m sure plenty of child abusers are convinced that the only proper way to raise a “smart mouth” kid is with ample use of back hand, but no one’s convinced by that except other child abusers.

    Heck, let’s call a spade a spade. Anyone who, due to their faith, decides that scientifically established medicine should not be used on a child and instead they should simply wish for them to get better, is delusional, dangerous and does not deserve to keep their children.

    Mitch, ignoring the complications of Waco (the method they picked to solve that problem was too heavy handed, but they certainly should have gotten involved), this shouldn’t be an issue for you. Let me put it this way, this IS the middle ground you speak of. The middle ground is, if an adult decides not to get treatment for THEMSELVES for whatever nutty reason, let them. However, when they make that choice for someone else, someone too young to have any choice in the matter, they’ve gone too far. That sounds perfectly fair as a compromise. What issue do you have with it? (Going to Waco again, children were involved there too. Again, far too heavy handed, but a lot of people were there only because they were dragged there and had no choice.)

  30. Mikey

    In Oregon (and many states) child neglect is treated as murder. Basically, if you have a kid you never feed and he starves to death, you’re guilty of murder. If the kid has diabetes and you never go get him insulin, and he dies, you’re guilty of murder. Etc. That strikes me as reasonable, and I can’t really imagine an alternative.

    There had been an exception it you were, in good faith and all that, seeking treatment that was religious instead of medical. So take Junior Diabetes to a faith healer, and he died, you’re off the hook. Note that this didn’t apply if you took him to a homeopath, and gave him nothing but diluted sugar water, and he died. That was and is murder.

    Now, with that exception gone, you can’t claim you were treating him by getting a prayer circle going. It’s as neutral as any other thing that doesn’t cure diabetes: homeopathy, an extra hour of video games, earlier bedtimes.

    Murder by neglect is going to be tricky to prove and win – a parent who fails to detect a child’s cancer isn’t going to get in trouble; it has to be pretty heinous. But ignoring all medical treatments for a child with a known and treatable illness is pretty clear cut.

  31. Thanks for writing about this. It’s measures like this that make me reallllly want to go to OHSU.

  32. Daffy

    I would like to add that people who say “God” gave doctors and nurses their skills confuse me. For at least 200,000 years our ancestors had no such skills—why did it take God so long to provide them?

    Or could it be that mankind came up with the skills on on their own and God had nothing to do with it? Because if He did, you at least have to admit he is a major procrastinator.

  33. Mikey

    As far as Constitutional challenges go, there’s absolutely no way that letting your kid die is constitutionally protected. There’s only a marginal difference between this and permitting child sacrifice, and it’s clear that the Constitution does not protect your religious belief that you must sacrifice a new born to the Dark God Cthulhu.

    More practically, the Constitution doesn’t protect the use of peyote by religious groups who find it essential to their spirituality, nor does it let Rastafarians use marijuana. This seems safely past those lines.

    Or perhaps, this is more apt: the Constitution forces you to get your kids Social Security numbers if you want to claim them as dependents on your taxes, even if your religion says that it’s the Mark of the Beast.

  34. DanielMPf

    The next step is to target these religious people, more actively than just this bill’s news coverage, with the message that this isn’t acceptable and they will be prosecuted if they treat there children this way. Eye on the ball: preventing harm is the goal, punitive action doesn’t bring anyone back from the dead.

    Also, I’m lazy like most, didn’t read the bill, but hopefully this would also overide the objections of jehova’ witnesses to blood transfusions when a child’s life is at stake and the doctor deems it necessary.

    Finally I second Tommy in thanking Doscover for the comment-without-login capability. I wouldn’t have commented otherwise.

  35. dirk

    Excellent bill. I applaud your pro-life, anti-choice stance.

    /troll

  36. The Beer

    If I recall BA’s original post on this, he received a lot of heat for “Stories like this always leave me conflicted. …”. I was surprised (pleasantly) for not seeing any posts against that this time. I agree completely with his stance.

    Anything else I have to add would simply repeat what’s already been stated by others!

    @ #32 – Mikey – Yeh, I guess even that’s against the law too! Ph’nglui mglw’nafh Cthulhu R’lyeh wgah’nagl fhtagn

  37. I also see absolutely zero problems with this bill.

    When people are old enough to have at least been exposed to information they need to make complex, real-world decisions and are old enough to make their own informed (or in some cases willfully dis-informed) choices, we should let them and nature take its course.

    Children are not old enough to understand that their life is in danger if they all their parents to do as they wish and can’t appreciate what the consequences of their their parents’ negligence and self-delusion can very well be. Therefore, you protect the children and punish the parents when they harm a child.

    One would think that the thought of your child dying would prompt you to try everything possible, and killing him or her through your negligence would be punishment enough, but apparently, as the evidence shows, one would be wrong…

  38. Daffy:

    I would like to add that people who say “God” gave doctors and nurses their skills confuse me. For at least 200,000 years our ancestors had no such skills—why did it take God so long to provide them?

    <mode type=”Devil’s advocate”>Perhaps G-d gave Man the ability to learn the skills, and it took Man those 6,000 years :-) to figure it out.
    </mode>

  39. Adrian said:

    “In a very good many cases our misplaced faith in doctors is what kills us.”

    Faith is for suckers. I base my beliefs on evidence. The evidence says to me that, though doctors can certainly make big mistakes, their record is much, much better than faith healing. This isn’t faith vs. faith, it’s faith vs. science. I’ll pick science, with all its human-borne faults, every time.

  40. @adrian

    They are saying that Faith Healing does not work? So why then should we have faith in Doctors or anything else for that matter?

    Here’s the difference between faith healing and real medicine:

    Faith Healing – Whether you have faith in it or not, if applied, it doesn’t work.
    Real Medicine – Whether you have faith in it or not, if applied, it does work.

  41. Michael Swanson

    I will be a proud Oregonian when this passes. Now, I fully support freedom of religion, and, even though I think they’re all bunk, will contend until my death that each person has the right believe anything they wish – until it infringes on the rights, or health and well-being of another person.

    For instance, you can believe, if you want, that fire does not harm anyone, that it is merely golden light and warmth and a precious gift from god. Fine. Not a problem. But when you decide that you won’t lead your children out of a burning house, and that it is your right not to do so because you’re a Southern Methodist Born Again-Promethean then you’re just. plain. wrong.

    Prayer can’t heal your child. If that were the case, then it would also be true that god, in an omniperfect choice, made your child sick. If he wanted to make your child sick, then who are you to change his mind? Well, either bacteria or viruses made your child sick, and medicine might cure her, or god made your child sick – and medicine might cure her!

    The Followers of Christ live in a world where a sick child forces you to choose between the life of your child or your immortal soul. What a wretched god they have!

  42. Michael Swanson

    @13

    “…There is a REASON God gave doctors and nurses and pharmacists the skills and knowledge they have, and that’s to heal. Why anyone would say differently astounds me…”

    Alyssa, I’ll contend that those doctors and nurses, and the myriad medical researchers behind them, gained their skills through dedication and hard work! :)

    @28. adrian

    “…why then should we have faith in Doctors or anything else for that matter? Don’ t you need faith and trust is someone or something in order to go through with it? I am sure that the person who trusted any type of medical treatment would need to have faith that it would work.
    In a very good many cases our misplaced faith in doctors is what kills us…”

    I agree with Todd. Don’t literally put faith into anything. Trust, however, based on evidence and history, is the way to go.

  43. John B

    EDIT: Changed my mind. Comment was poorly worded and accidentally sounded like I was expressed sympathy with people who didn’t get medical treatment. Just gonna delete and try again later.

  44. truthspeaker

    So why then should we have faith in Doctors or anything else for that matter?

    You shouldn’t. You shouldn’t have faith in anything. This is one of the most important lessons you will learn (or not learn) in your life.

  45. I do not care one whit about your opinions on Oregonian social politics. I am a Discover subscriber and I link to your blog because it is ostensibly about astronomy. I know you can boost your end of the month numbers with these posts but really get back to astronomy and leave this stuff to people who can never blog about the moon and the stars and gamma ray bursters.

  46. KWaters

    This bothers me because what if a child got measles and died. But the parent does not vax? How does the bill apply to them? Is it a stepping stone to forcing parents into vaccinating their kids? Or what about that story about the 14 year old who didn’t want to go through chemotherapy a Second time, and his mom ran away with him because the courts were forcing the boy to do it again. I am all for simple medical treatment, but where can this lead? 

  47. Thomas Barton wrote:

    I do not care one whit… get back to astronomy and leave this stuff to people who can never blog about the moon and the stars and gamma ray bursters.

    Baawwwww!

    I am here for the skepticism; the astronomy is just a cool something on the side.

  48. truthspeaker

    KWaters Says:
    May 26th, 2011 at 1:56 pm

    This bothers me because what if a child got measles and died. But the parent does not vax? How does the bill apply to them? Is it a stepping stone to forcing parents into vaccinating their kids?

    No, you couldn’t use this law to force parents to vaccinate, but you might be able to prosecute them after the fact if the child died of a vaccine-preventable illness.

    KWaters Says:
    May 26th, 2011 at 1:56 pm
    Or what about that story about the 14 year old who didn’t want to go through chemotherapy a Second time, and his mom ran away with him because the courts were forcing the boy to do it again.

    What about it? That judge saved that boy’s life. That was in my home state and I’m glad the law was on the judge’s side.

  49. Ad Hominid

    There is a fair amount of precedent for this. The state has every right to prohibit religious practices that are dangerous to someone other than the consenting adult practitioners themselves. For example, you can play with rattlesnakes during your own church service but you cannot, say, turn a truckload of them loose in someone else’s church in order to test that congregation’s faith.
    It would make for an amusing video, no doubt, but it isn’t constitutionally protected.

  50. Miko

    One thing to keep in mind is that there’s no reason to suspect that government will in general base its decisions on rational considerations. Put another way, it’s just as likely that we’ll end up with a government that wants to arrest parents who take their children to doctors instead of faith healers as vice versa. Fighting against government intrusions on the integrity of science will only be successful if we adopt it as a general principle, instead of applauding them when they (coincidentally) reach the correct decision and only condemning them when they (again coincidentally) reach the wrong one.

    “One of the very reasons we have a society in the first place is to be able to help people who cannot help themselves.”

    Very true, but seeing as government is not the source of society but rather a parasite that feeds upon society, I don’t see how this is an argument in favor of the government doing anything. The health of children is an important issue for society, which makes it all the more important to ensure that government has nothing to do with it.

  51. Mikey

    Thomas Barton, if you’ll send your name and address to Phil Plait, I’m sure he’d be happy to give you a full refund for your cost of reading Bad Astronomy. The Discover magazine subscription, I believe, has delivered what it promised and no refund is necessary.

  52. truthspeaker

    Very true, but seeing as government is not the source of society but rather a parasite that feeds upon society

    It’s neither – it’s a tool of society.

    Sure, you could get rid of government, and set up some system by which individuals look after the welfare of other people’s kids – and it would look a lot like government.

  53. Derek

    This whole issue is a very fine line. A lot of the people commenting seem to misunderstand the bill. It only allows the state to charge the parents with manslaughter or homicide in the event the child dies from illness that was otherwise treatable with medicine. Those parents still have the option to go the route of faith healing and not be charged at all.

    I am firm advocate for medicine and seeking treatment but I must play devil’s advocate.

    The constitution allows freedom of religion. Parents are the legal guardians and decision makers for their minor children. Giving them the right to decide on whether to seek medical care or not. An example of “where do you draw the line”: say your child has a fever. You give him/her some motrin and call it a day. Your child dies from the illness that only presented itself as a fever. Most parents don’t think much of a fever for a child. (and yes I realize that if the fever persisted many days, one may seek a doctor) Those parents are then eligible to be charged with manslaughter under that law. Where is the line drawn? Can you then interpret that law as saying a cancer patient refusing treatment can be charged for attempted suicide? Or what if the children themselves refused the medical treatment also due to their beliefs?

  54. truthspeaker

    Ad Hominid Says:
    May 26th, 2011 at 2:15 pm

    There is a fair amount of precedent for this. The state has every right to prohibit religious practices that are dangerous to someone other than the consenting adult practitioners themselves. For example, you can play with rattlesnakes during your own church service

    Actually snake-handling is illegal in some states: http://yeltsin.tripod.com/law/law.htm

  55. Mikey

    Child neglect laws have been around for generations now – we have managed to keep them relatively free of abuse, at least, in terms of medical treatment. Legislatures use language like “gross indifference to the value of human life” or “recklessness” to make sure that a kid with a cold who passes away that night doesn’t lead to a parental conviction. Police officers don’t make arrests in those cases, prosecutors don’t press charges, juries don’t convict, and judges don’t put those people away. The system is not perfect by any stretch, but broadly, this is the kind of thing that’s existed for a very long time without significant problems.

  56. truthspeaker

    Derek Says:
    May 26th, 2011 at 2:25 pm

    The constitution allows freedom of religion. Parents are the legal guardians and decision makers for their minor children. Giving them the right to decide on whether to seek medical care or not. An example of “where do you draw the line”: say your child has a fever. You give him/her some motrin and call it a day. Your child dies from the illness that only presented itself as a fever. Most parents don’t think much of a fever for a child. (and yes I realize that if the fever persisted many days, one may seek a doctor) Those parents are then eligible to be charged with manslaughter under that law.

    No, they aren’t, because they gave their child the medical treatment that was appropriate for her symptoms. You’re ignoring all the case law that already exists on this issue.

    The guardianship of parents over minor children is strongly protected in US law, but it is not absolute. That’s why the government can make child abuse illegal – even in cases where the parents believe that the punishment they are using is mandated by their religion.

    Derek Says:
    Where is the line drawn? Can you then interpret that law as saying a cancer patient refusing treatment can be charged for attempted suicide?

    No, because, as it says right in the article and as Phil mentioned in his post, this law only applies to medical treatment of minors.

    Derek Says:
    Or what if the children themselves refused the medical treatment also due to their beliefs?

    Then a judge gets involved to determine if the child in question is competent to make that decision. That’s what happened with the 14-year-old boy in Minnesota who refused cancer treatment.

  57. Archwright

    @ Thomas Barton, JD
    I would be really disappointed in Discovery if they put a quota on how many blogs their contributors must post. Especially since they don’t, and shouldn’t, espouse the points of views of their bloggers.

  58. NickW

    As an Oregonian, I just want to say that I am pleased to see this bill get passed. There is enough quackery in Portland as it is….

  59. @Thomas Barton, JD

    You almost sound like a censor (1st Amendment issues?), or maybe you’re just in a bad mood.

    Don’t be fooled by the title. This blog is about SCIENCE, not just Astronomy. It is also about critical thinking, the lack thereof, and the continuing lack of education (hmmm – there’s a pun in there!) regarding critical thinking. Many people who have strong religious beliefs don’t use critical thinking when they deny their children medical care because of their faith.

    Apparently you haven’t been reading this blog very long. Maybe a couple of days? Phil and this blog have been all about these topics since almost Day 1, and Discover was well aware of it when they asked Phil to come on board.

    Just skip the posts you don’t like.

  60. Pac

    @36

    All I have to is, IA! IA! IA!

  61. Mark

    Know what I find fascinating in all of this? Scientology now has an impending lawsuit if they allow anyone to die due to quackery whilst in the state of Oregon. They’ve done it before (google “Lisa McPherson” if you don’t know) and gotten away with it. None of these shenanigans in Oregon. And hopefully, this sentiment will spread across the country.

    Imagine that: every state in the union signing into law a bill that holds accountable any and all caretakers who refuse proven medical treatments in favor of any sort of faith-based healing. No more cheap insanity pleas. No more endlessly debating the subject into obscurity. Just one clear-cut law.

    I’m getting teary-eyed just thinking about it.

  62. sqrt(-2) cents

    Richard Dickson reminded me of an old jewish joke.

    It was flooding. As the flood waters were rising, a rabbi was in his house and another man in a row boat came by. The man in the row boat told the rabbi to get in and he’d save him. The rabbi said, no, he had faith in God and would wait for God to save him. The flood waters kept rising and the rabbi had to go to the second floor of his house. A man in a motor boat came by and told the rabbi to get in because he had come to rescue him. The rabbi said no thank you. He had perfect faith in God and would wait for God to save him. The flood waters kept rising. Pretty soon they were up to the roof and he got out on the roof. A helicopter then came by, lowered a rope and the pilot shouted down to the rabbi to climb up the rope because the helicopeter had come to rescue him. The rabbi wouldn’t get in. He told the pilot that he had faith in God and would wait for God to rescue him. The flood waters kept rising and the rabbi drowned. When he got to heaven, he asked God where he went wrong. He told God that he had perfect faith in God, but God had let him drown.
    “What more do you want from me?” asked God. “I sent you two boats and a helicopter.”

  63. Mark Hansen

    Thomas Barton, I have just one question for you. If you are here for the astronomy, why don’t you appear to have evinced any interest in the 5 previous threads, all of which dealt with astronomy? The only subject that appears to have held your interest long enough to make you post is this one.

    Note to all the collectors out there: This is a standard feature of your garden-variety concern troll (Trollus Vulgaris). Comments such as “I’m unsubscribing”, “I thought this was supposed to be an astronomy blog”, etc. are helpful for distinguishing between these and other trolls such as the anti-vax troll (Trollus Rabidus).

  64. Michael Swanson

    @45. Thomas Barton

    “Social politics?” It’s science. As in “‘denying your children medical treatment is bad for them’ say scientists and doctors.” An astronomer (or gas station attendant or janitor or blog reader) can easily understand that medicine can cure or treat people.

    And maybe you haven’t read Phil’s blog for long. He had his very own blog for years, which was often about astronomy but frequently about other things, and Discover magazine liked it enough – as it was – that they invited him here. You only want to read about gamma ray bursts? Then click on the tags that say “gamma ray bursts.”

    @ 62 Mark Hansen

    Nice. :)

  65. Rift

    My sister is a practicing Christian Scientist (I was raised as one). She *strongly* supports bills like these, believing that a child is far to young to make choices and that only adults have the ‘right’ to turn away from modern western medicine. I was raised that way too although I no longer follow the church, and thought it was in the church by laws (seriously) until it was pointed out to me it was not, which is why I’m in disagreement with the Christian Science Mother Church in Boston. (well, I’m in disagreement with religion overall). My sister who also thought it was in the by laws to take anyone under 21 to the doctor. It IS in the by laws to obey local laws concerning any health issues.

    By the way, she still takes medicine, sees the doctor, etc. And no she’s not ostracized by the local congregation, and she is still considered a full member, and yes, they know she does this. Christian Science is horribly maligned , and most are not the callous, ‘baby-killers’, they have been painted to be because of a few fringe members and congregations. Most will take children to the doctors.

    And yes, the church has always allowed members to take medication and see doctors if they see fit, the church has always allowed the individual to make the choices. My family has had a Christian Scientist in it for at least six or seven generations now.

    And no, I’m not getting in any flame war about Christian Science. My sister is one and she supports bills like this, is in disagreement with the church leadership (quite a few are) over this matter, and you may make of this what you will.

    And Thomas Barton, why don’t you comment on the astronomy posts which only get a few dozen comments?

  66. Steve Metzler

    Thomas Barton, JD (probably long since gone) this post is for you:

    Politics, science, me and thee

    IIRC, the BA used to have a link to it displayed (somewhat) prominently in the right-hand column. Maybe he should resurrect it? Or maybe not. No one seems to read the fine print these days.

  67. Messier Tidy Upper

    This reminds me very much of the memorably excellent ‘Believers’ episode of Babylon-5 :

    http://www.midwinter.com/lurk/guide/010.html

    &

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Believers_(Babylon_5)

    Edit : Hmm… seems that both the writer for that B-5 ep. and another similar one in the trek-verse got the idea for the story from the headlines :

    Peter [the writer of a DS9 novel witha similar premise – ed.] likely got his notion of the sick kid and the religious parents from the same basic source we did: the headlines. This has been an ongoing problem in real life for some time. So he took that real premise, and did one story based on it, and we did another extrapolation. This notion did *not* originate in the Trek universe….

    Since this was released in 1994, its safe to say we’ve had this issue for a while.

  68. Keith Bowden

    @Mark Hansen: Haha! Thanks, I had visions of varieties of trolls frozen in space and slowly working themselves up again (a la Chuck Jones cartoons). I’m very happy to hear about this law passing in Oregon and hope it spreads throughout the other 49 states. (How is the law as to deaths unstopped by homeopathy?)

    @MTU: Oddly, that’s the only episode of B5 I’ve ever seen. I thought it was horribly written (you knew exactly how everything was going to unfold minutes in) and so I’ve never watched another episode. I’ve heard since that it is considered one of the very weakest shows by some, so one of these days I’ll give B5 a shot from the beginning.

  69. Messier Tidy Upper

    @ ^ Keith Bowden : ‘Babylon-5′ is my all-time favourite SF TV series. I’d certainly extremely highly recommend it – although I will note you need to watch quite a few episodes as it is a series with a lot of depth and character development and something that grows on you with time.

    Was the plot of that ‘Believers’ ep predictable? I’m not so sure – but sometimes it’s not where the plot goes so much as how well it’s done ie. even a predictable plot done well enough can be well worth watching. It was certainly one that got me thinking about the issue and created an emotional response.

    PS. I totally support and agree with this bill (& the BA here) and the idea that children should be protected first in these situations. Consenting adults can choose to sacrifice themsleves for their religious ideologies and principles – minors, children who haven’t developed enough understanding of what’s going on and who lack the pyschological maturity to do so. No. Just no.

    Medicine works. Modern science works. It saves kid’s lives. Deliberately denying kids medical treatment for whatever religious reasons is just plain unacceptable.

  70. Alyssa

    @42

    Let me clarify: Since I believe in a higher power, I believe that that higher power bestowed knowledge and intelligence on us in varying degrees: I am definitely not dedicated or intelligent enough to become a doctor. That is why I am not!

    I’m not saying God miraculously gave them all their smarts in one fell swoop, I know how hard they all worked to achieve what they have. I thought that bit was obvious. My bad.

  71. Keith Bowden

    @MTU – Y’know, I think I’ll go ahead and put B5 in my Netflix queue now. (I dunno, maybe I was in a bad mood or something in 1994, but I just got bored waiting for that episode to play out. And it’s odd, because I usually like David Gerrold’s stories.)

  72. Messier Tidy Upper

    @63. Mark Hansen : Good point, good humour and nicely put. I agree. Mostly.

    However, I don’t know that its fair to call people trolls based on just one posting – I think we can jump to conclusions too fast.

    If Thomas Barton is a newbie – new to the internet and new to this blog – then I think he deserves some slack

  73. Even without a statutory defense for faith healing, there may still be a couple of ways that faith healing beliefs can be considered in a murder or manslaughter case.

    First, there is an argument that there is a constitutional right to free exercise of religion, that, at least to the constitutional minimum, trumps state law. After all, the whole point of the free exercise of religion is that it provides legal protections to people who believe weird things on the basis of the minority weird status that legislative majorities disagree with.

    In practice, this might mean that neglecting medical care might not give rise to criminal liability unless someone puts the parents on very specific individualized and clear notice in the case of a particular illness that a particular kind of medical treatment must be provided to avoid a foreseeable deadly outcome, and that no reasonable person would refuse that treatment, so that criminal sanctions that overcome religious belief are narrowly tailored to a purely secular and neutral purpose.

    Second, homicide charges are graded into various kinds of murder, manslaughter, negligent homicide, etc. by the intent of the defendant. The historical norm was to call it murder if it was intentional, knowing or done with depraved indifference to human life, to call it manslaughter if it was reckless, and to call it negligence homicide if it was none of those but was done with criminal negligence. To the extent that one genuinely and sincerely believes that faith healing is going to work the criminal intent could be diminished, since that individual didn’t intend to cause death, didn’t know they were causing death and took action which they believed would work. The faith healer may be in a position similar to that of someone who sincerely but mistakenly believed that hemlock was a cure from some disease instead of a poison because they read it on the internet, even if it was unreasonable to rely on the internet for something like that. It still might be criminally negligent to use faith healing, or even reckless, but it is much harder to show the intent for a true “murder” conviction.

    A prosecutor is in a tricky spot claiming that someone actually didn’t genuinely and sincerely hold a religious belief at the time a child died from lack of medical treatment that someone says months later on the witness stand that they did via the First Amendment free exercise clauses implications for the laws of evidence and criminal procedure (although conscientious objector cases have posed similar issues in the past).

    To the extent that the Oregon legislative move is less dramatic than it seems at first blush, it is easier to understand the nearly unanimous support that the legislation received.

    Of course, most criminal cases produce plea bargains anyway, and the existence of this change in the law directed mostly at a particular group of people may have considerable effect as a negotiating tool and as an in terrorum threat to parents even if it is never tested in a court of law.

    The change in the law might also strengthen the hand of Child Protective Services officials who seek to remove the children from the home on the grounds that the parents are objectively neglectful even if they subjectively believe that they are doing the right thing, because they can not point to the murder statute exception as proof that their course of conduct is justified by law.

  74. Wayne Conrad

    “However, the State has a right to protect the best interests of that child in case the parent cannot.”

    States don’t have rights, they have powers. Only people have rights.

  75. This is surprisingly un-whacky for Oregon.

    I have to agree with Wayne in #74 above, governments have powers, not rights.

    This is definetly one of the few powers I think states should have, and as a fan of the Constitution as it was written and intended I see no problem with this. Our inalienable rights certainly trump the free exercise clause. Every adult is certainly free to seek faith healing for themselves, and to die of an infection that could have been cured by four dollars worth of Penecillin, but no one is free to make another individual die like that, especially a child.

    As a father who has buried a child that the best medical science in the world couldn’t save I can not understand how anyone could turn down anything that might save their child.

  76. Jonathan Ray

    Do these people ever consider that maybe their prayers are being answered by God sending a freakin’ doctor?

    That’s what the moderate religious folks think. It’s less ridiculous than faith healing, but still as ridiculous as intelligent falling because it’s assuming that God needs to have anything to do with something that has perfectly natural explanations. What is God supposed to have done there? Magically mind control someone to get them to go to medical school?

  77. I don’t see the conflict. Just keep in mind that when science clashes with libertarianism, science wins. Always. Never alllow your morals to keep you from doing what’s right.

  78. DM

    You can add one more to the litany of those who see this as a positive development. No such exemption should have ever been written into Oregon law, and I’m glad to see them axe it. The state cannot and aught not single out people for their religious views, but neither are one’s religious beliefs an acceptable defense for breaking secular law. Criminal negligence is criminal negligence, and no, “God made me do it” doesn’t absolve you. Though if you couch it right you might shoot for insanity.

    Anyway, I guess I haven’t got anything to say that hasn’t been said already. Though, that Thomas Barton imbecile did get me wondering: These folks who whinge when Phil does a skeptic post (there were hardly any this time, oddly, but there’s usually a few)… they do realize that calling folks out on hoaxes and pseudoscience is what the original Bad Astronomy site was, yeah? It’s just kind of odd that people can come here and be shocked at these posts, all things considered.

  79. Sion

    Phil, as far as I can see this is your blog and you have every right to write about anything that interests you. The people who tell you to write about their interests instead really should start their own blog.
    For me, I’m happy to read your opinions on any topic you care to take the time and effort to provide. Free, gratis and for nothing. Thanks.

  80. Randy Aimone

    Not all Darwin award winners are funny.

  81. Nigel Depledge

    Marnie (7) said:

    I am not a parent but I am also not a scientist of any sort and certainly not a medical expert. There is so much information to weed through and all of us can only do the best with what we understand and what information is made available to us. I am overwhelmed by just how much I don’t know and I’m surely not alone.

    Which is exactly why we have professional experts.

    Consult your physician if you are in any doubt. There are some areas of medicine in which thought is divided (or where a GP’s knowledge might not be up to date), but this is generally not the case for severe illness or injury.

  82. Nigel Depledge

    KiltBear (12) said:

    It targets religion, or specific forms of religious faith. So if someone is just an incompetent parent, are they given more leeway? Is this a higher bar being applied to religious reasoning than applied to any parent who makes uneducated or simply really bad decisions?

    No, because existing law holds incompetent parents culpable already. Parents who choose to withhold treatment from their child for religious reasons used to have the pretense of a defence. That pretense is what this bill seems to remove (IMO, obviously).

  83. Nigel Depledge

    @ Mark Hansen (63) –

    Please note that Latin binomials use an initial capital for the generic name but a lower-case initial letter for the specific name. Thus, that should be Trollus vulgaris and Trollus rabidus.

    ;-)

  84. Nigel Depledge

    Miko (50) said:

    Very true, but seeing as government is not the source of society but rather a parasite that feeds upon society, I don’t see how this is an argument in favor of the government doing anything. The health of children is an important issue for society, which makes it all the more important to ensure that government has nothing to do with it.

    To expand slightly on what Truthspeaker (52) said:
    The mechanism through which Society implements checks, balances and controls on the behaviours that are and are not considered acceptable has a name. Government.

  85. Woo Fighter

    Slightly off-topic (cos it’s more to do with anti-vax than faith healing), but the Daily Mash has this:
    http://www.thedailymash.co.uk/news-in-pictures/news-briefly/measles-increasing-among-children-of-total-and-utter-bloody-morons-201105273873/

  86. 74. Wayne Conrad Says:

    States don’t have rights, they have powers. Only people have rights.

    When I saw that phrase in BA’s post, I knew someone would comment. And you’re right. The state does not have a “right” to do this, in the technical sense.

    It does, however, have the responsibility to do this. I would also say that it has the mandate to do this. In not doing this, the state fails on a basic level.

    In a more general sense, I think the way he used the word “right” is basically correct as informal usage goes. As in, the state both has the power to do so and is morally/ethically correct by doing so.

  87. Georg

    What makes Oregon differ so much from, say, Missisippi?

  88. Nigel Depledge

    @ Georg (87) –
    Erm … the rain?

  89. Ema Nymton
  90. Michael Swanson

    @70. Alyssa

    “Let me clarify: Since I believe in a higher power, I believe that that higher power bestowed knowledge and intelligence on us in varying degrees…”

    That’s just downright cruel of a god to do. “And the Lord said, ‘YOU get to be a supergenius; YOU get to be kinda smart; and YOU, well, you’ll be lucky if you can string two coherent sentences together.’ ”

    Not that a godless universe is necessarily nicer, but at least it’s not purposefully capricious!

  91. Acronym Jim

    Georg@87 –

    Mountains higher than 806 feet? A distinct scarcity of alligators? A lack of a hurricane season (or in the case of last year, any season at all other than fall)?

  92. mike burkhart

    Like I’ve said there is nothing worng with prayer when one is sick but one must also take medical trement.It is worng to alow a child to die of an treatable condation.Phil is right that there are limits on freedom of religon for example,we don’t allow sacrifice of virgins or stoneing of alduters in each case this would muder and those invloved could not claim freedom of religon as a defence.I think this is a good law.Off topic I bought a electronic home weather station its been good at weather prediction.I would encourge everyone to get one.

  93. I believe that God helps those who help themselves. Faith has a place in life but let the doctors do their job. Some would say that is why God put doctors on the planet.

  94. mram

    Personally I’d like to see a law that says, “NO, you can NOT send your kids to a school that teaches creationism and that the earth is only 6000 years old and other idiotic ideas..”.. There are just certain things we KNOW to be fact, but millions of kids are being intentionally mislead with garbage science, garbage politics, garbage belief and so on..

  95. @Mr am – so it’s not just science and medicine, even in subjective matters like politics you want a law to prevent anyone receiving any information you disagree with?

  96. Catherine

    I don’t see that this bill will really serve as a deterrent. Parents who choose faith healing choose it because they believe it will work – if they thought their kid was going to die if they didn’t go to the hospital, they would go to the hospital.

    I just don’t see people thinking to themselves, “I should get my child medical care because if they die I could go to jail”. Going to jail after your kid dies isn’t that much scarier than having your kid die and getting off scot free – losing a child is already the parent’s worst nightmare come true.

    If dead child isn’t an adequate deterrent, jail won’t be either.

  97. Anne C.

    I only have one reservation about this, and it doesn’t have to do with religion (as I am not religious). Rather, it has to do with situations in which one disagrees with the efficacy of certain medical treatments that are the *current* accepted norm. For example: chemotherapy. I question its efficacy in many cases, and in fact, know two people who went to Germany for cancer treatment, where they received focused radiation and heat therapy (raising the body temperature to levels that will not harm healthy cells, but appear to be damaging to cancer cells), but not chemotherapy. Both are ten years cancer free. I realize this is anecdotal, but my point is not to debate the efficacy of chemotherapy or heat therapy here; it’s to point out that reasoned, scientifically-minded people can disagree with the accepted medical standards of the time. Were I the parent of a child diagnosed with cancer, and were I to consult with medical professionals in Germany (where heat therapy is used much more than here) and decide to take my child there for that treatment, could I be charged with murder if the child died?

  98. truthspeaker

    VinceRN Says:
    May 27th, 2011 at 11:53 am

    @Mr am – so it’s not just science and medicine, even in subjective matters like politics you want a law to prevent anyone receiving any information you disagree with?

    He wasn’t talking about politics, he was talking about creationism.

  99. Bryan Feir

    truthspeaker@98:

    And how is Creationism not politics these days? It certainly isn’t science, no matter what it’s supporters are trying to pull…

  100. Steve Metzler

    96. Catherine Says:

    I don’t see that this bill will really serve as a deterrent. Parents who choose faith healing choose it because they believe it will work – if they thought their kid was going to die if they didn’t go to the hospital, they would go to the hospital.

    The logical, skeptical side of me rails against this viewpoint. But the pragmatic side of me says that Catherine is spot on. One fundie family will serve as a test case for this new law. Then the rest of the blighters will move out of Oregon.

    Perhaps that is the intent? /sarc

  101. @truthspeaker – no problem with not teaching creationism is public schools, clear violation of the establishment clause to teach it I think. However, he specifically lumped politics in with his statement.

    Also, as for not being allowed to teach creationism privately, that would violate the free exercise clause. He is saying that no one, publicly or privately, should be allowed to teach anything he disagrees with, not just those things that are objectively wrong, and not just publicly. He would outlaw teaching anything but the straight party line of whatever his beliefs or opinions are. That’s what he means by “garbage politics”.

    If I were the sort that wanted my kids taught that it’s turtle’s all the way down the government should not be allowed to stop me. How ever, since that would be a religious teaching the public schools can not teach kids about the turtles in science class.

  102. Jim

    I am a Certificated faith healer in the UK , and the organisations principle is to work in conjunction with the health service .

  103. Christopher Petroni

    @Catherine

    Deterrence is not the only purpose of criminal law. By eliminating the “faith-healing” exemption from child neglect prosecution, Oregon will express its disgust with parents who hide behind their faith to deny medical treatment to their children. As another poster said, the existence of the law will affect how the child protection services evaluate parents’ competence as well.

    @Jim
    The UK certifies faith healers? As in, people who don’t actually provide any medically effective treatment? Why? What special training does faith healing require? What risk is there from “incompetent” faith healers?

    Faith healing in conjunction with the health service, hmm? It sounds about as useful as performing dowsing in conjunction with a science-based search for an oil deposit.

    Besides which, the prospect of a long prison sentence might do the trick for a lot of these parents. It’s easier to be devout when someone else is paying the price than when you will have to answer personally for it.

  104. JediBear

    Here’s hoping Washington follows suit.

  105. Messier Tidy Upper

    Vaguely related – a story here about a controversial medical-social-religio-political issue :

    http://scienceblogs.com/pharyngula/2011/05/abortion_needs_to_be_taught_in.php

    that really should be read.

    A woman nearly died – and the one competent and good doctor who saved her life no doubt faces daily death threats and the vicious misogynist rage of bigots who would rather see women die than allow them to have choices when it comes their very own bodies. :-(

  106. John Stevenson

    @104. Christopher Petroni

    “The UK certifies faith healers?”

    No, woo-mongering whackjobs form organisations to certify each other. Then when someone calls them on their lies, they try and sue: google ‘simon singh libel’

    In a sane world, they wouldn’t be certified, they’d be sectioned. [For non-UK folks: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sectioned

  107. Nigel Depledge

    Catherine (96) said:

    I don’t see that this bill will really serve as a deterrent. Parents who choose faith healing choose it because they believe it will work – if they thought their kid was going to die if they didn’t go to the hospital, they would go to the hospital.

    I just don’t see people thinking to themselves, “I should get my child medical care because if they die I could go to jail”. Going to jail after your kid dies isn’t that much scarier than having your kid die and getting off scot free – losing a child is already the parent’s worst nightmare come true.

    If dead child isn’t an adequate deterrent, jail won’t be either.

    True, but our western justice systems are all about punishment rather than deterrence (IIUC, harsher penalties for crime do not correlate with lower crime rates).

  108. Nigel Depledge

    Anne C (97) said:

    my point is not to debate the efficacy of chemotherapy or heat therapy here; it’s to point out that reasoned, scientifically-minded people can disagree with the accepted medical standards of the time.

    This is not to say that chemotherapy doesn’t work.

    Because cancers are so variable, it is a judgement call about which treatment is the most likely to be effective.

    Were I the parent of a child diagnosed with cancer, and were I to consult with medical professionals in Germany (where heat therapy is used much more than here) and decide to take my child there for that treatment, could I be charged with murder if the child died?

    No, because you are still obtaining professional medical care for the child.

  109. Nigel Depledge

    Vince RN (95) said:

    @Mr am – so it’s not just science and medicine, even in subjective matters like politics you want a law to prevent anyone receiving any information you disagree with?

    Actually, go re-read mram’s comment. (S)he was referring not to things with which (s)he disagrees, but to things we know to be false, such as the YEC idea of the age of the earth.

    I would also be happy for our civilisations to have laws that prevent the teaching (as fact) of things that are known to be false.

    After all, it is not all that long since many US states were forced to repeal their laws that prevented the teaching of what was known to be the best understanding of reality (evolution), despite the religious grounds for those laws being unconstitutional (in relation to federally-funded schools).

  110. Nigel Depledge

    Vince RN (102) said:

    Also, as for not being allowed to teach creationism privately, that would violate the free exercise clause.

    No, it would not. (IIUC.)

    The free exercise of religion does not cover proselytising, even if the religion requires you to bring up your children “in the faith”. After all, the bible requires that certain crimes be punished by stoning, but such activity is clearly not protected by the free exercise clause. (IIUC.)

    He is saying that no one, publicly or privately, should be allowed to teach anything he disagrees with,

    This is a strawman. Mram claimed no such thing. Go back and re-read what (s)he posted.

    not just those things that are objectively wrong,

    Actually, mram referred specifically to things that we know to be objectively wrong. Specifically, mram (94) said:

    There are just certain things we KNOW to be fact, but millions of kids are being intentionally mislead with garbage science, garbage politics, garbage belief and so on..

    Back to Vince RN:

    and not just publicly. He would outlaw teaching anything but the straight party line of whatever his beliefs or opinions are. That’s what he means by “garbage politics”.

    I think you are reading your own opinion into his/her statement.

    In post 94, the term “Garbage politics” is set in opposition to things we know as fact. Thus, for instance, the politics of ID / creationism, or the politics of anti-AGW would count as “garbage politics”, because they adopt a stance that is demonstrably false. However, at no point does mram mention the teaching of things only he/she agrees with.

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