Yesterday the Wisconsin Supreme Court upheld the conviction of a couple for homicide – or, as NBC News put it, the conviction of a “deeply religious Wisconsin couple who prayed over their dying daughter rather than seek medical help.” Not fanatically religious or irrationally religious or stupidly and dangerously religious but “deeply” religious. Let’s give them extra deference and admiration for the profundity of their unreasonable magical thinking even as we report that their “deep” religion caused them to let their daughter die of an easily treatable condition.
Kara Neumann, 11, of Weston, Wis., died March 23, 2008 — Easter Sunday — of complications of untreated juvenile onset diabetes.
According to the case records, Kara had been showing symptoms of exhaustion and dehydration for more than a week, but her parents, Dale and Leilani Neumann, refused to take her to a pediatrician, and decided to respond to her illness with prayer, not medicine.
How deep. Or rather, how inexcusably stupid and self-indulgent and whimsical. They might as well cut their children’s arms and legs off to make a nice dinner, in the expectation that praying will make the bleeding stop and the arms and legs reappear.
The Neumanns don’t belong to any particular church, but they identify as Pentecostals, according to factual findings in the court record, none of which the Neumanns disputed. Some Pentecostals — but by no means all — believe that prayer and strong religious belief can cure all illnesses, a tradition that helped give rise to famous “faith healers” like Oral Roberts and Benny Hinn.
They have no right to believe that. They might as well believe a power saw is the best implement for combing their children’s hair. If your beliefs are lethal to other people you have to stop coddling them. You don’t get to believe that you can push your child out of a tenth floor window because God will catch her.
As Kara weakened, the Neumanns asked family and friends to pray for her, too. The day before his daughter died, Dale Neumann posted a message on a Christian listserv with the subject line “Help our daughter needs emergency prayer!!!”
“We need agreement in prayer over our youngest daughter, who is very weak and pale at the moment with hardly any strength,” the message said.
He posted a message on a Christian listserv, did he. So technology is ok for him. Technology is ok when it gives him an extra tool with which to mess around with idiotic “beliefs” – but when it comes to his daughter’s health and life, why, no, only magical incantations will do.
Dale Neumann testified that he knew Kara was sick but never thought she might die. In fact, he testified that he thought that Jesus would bring her back from the dead, as he did with Lazarus in the Gospel of John.
Wisconsin is among 17 states that allow religious defenses against felony charges of crimes against children, according to records compiled by Children’s Healthcare Is a Legal Duty, a nonprofit activist group that opposes religious exceptions to child health and safety laws.
Shame on you Wisconsin, and the other sixteen states along with you.
“If we were to adopt the parents’ reasoning, no prayer-treating parent would know what point is beyond ‘a substantial risk of death’ until the child actually stopped breathing and died,” Chief Justice Shirley Abrahamson wrote.
Steven Miller, Dale Neumann’s attorney, criticized Wednesday’s decision as having “essentially gutted the faith healing privilege under the child abuse statute.”
The what??! There shouldn’t be such a thing as a faith healing privilege – it’s insane! You can’t abuse your children except you can if faith. Wrong! Bad idea. Bad, bad, bad idea.