Just Because You Can, Should You?

Morality can be a shifting line, and there are definitely some gray areas. For some, living in a sexual relationship outside of marriage is absolutely immoral, for many others, it’s not. It’s not illegal to have sex outside of marriage, or for couples in relationships to live together outside of marriage, but just because it’s not illegal, is it right to do this? Many will argue that it’s not ok. I don’t care either way. But, I have a different issue in mind here outside of sexual morality (a very weird subject in connection to Christian Science, by the way). My issue relates to the raising and protecting of children.

In many (32 approximately) states in the United States, parents cannot be held criminally responsible if their children die, get seriously ill, or injured due to lack of medical care if they are using a “spiritual” means for healing (such as Christian Science). Many children have died, and I personally know others who have suffered permanent injury due to the fact that their parents did not seek medical attention for them. In many cases, the disease or injury could have been routinely treated, with a very high likelihood of full recovery. However, many parents (not just Christian Scientists) use these shield laws as justification for grossly irresponsible actions.

Fortunately for me and many others, no such shields exist in Canada where I was born, raised, and live, but that’s not to say I didn’t suffer as a child due to religiously-based medical neglect at the hands of my parents. I did. In my case, no red flags were raised other than extended absence from school, but in the mid 1970s, teachers didn’t pry much, and when I returned, seemingly unscathed, all was forgotten. Fortunately for all of us, I survived relatively unscathed, so the attention of authorities was never alerted. Because I grew up in, and was deeply indoctrinated in Christian Science, I spent most of my life thinking nothing of the suffering I did experience. I normalized it. It wasn’t until recently when I was having what started out as a casual conversation with a friend who is a retired trauma counselor that I realized I had indeed suffered from neglect as a child, even if my parents did not mean to neglect me, and had absolutely no malicious intent at all. The fact is, they did–it doesn’t matter why they did, and that is wrong. Too much religiously-based abuse and neglect goes on “in the name of God” in this world, and the suffering some endure is unimaginable.

Religious exemptions in child protection laws, in my opinion, are legal sanction for child abuse and neglect, and all too often put parents in a legal limbo. They encourage parents to take risks they shouldn’t take with their childrens’ lives and health. After all, if it isn’t illegal, it’s all ok, right? I can still pray and practice my religion, right? It’s ok because I won’t be prosecuted if my child suffers and/or dies, right? Wrong! I can’t believe a parent would allow their child to suffer when simple medical intervention would end the suffering, or mitigate it somewhat. Parents in some truly fringe religious groups go as far as to feel genuinely that if a child dies, it’s “God’s will”. Christian Scientists don’t go to that extreme–they actually believe their prayers do something, but any which way you slice it, it’s still wrong. Children should never be sacrificed at the altar of their parents’ twisted religious beliefs. If you’re an adult and you want to pray for healing, that’s fine, it’s your decision. Children don’t have that decision making capacity or authority. They’re entirely in the hands of their parents, and their lives turn on the whim of their parents; parents that in some cases are so thoroughly indoctrinated with malignant religious beliefs that they will sit back and watch as “God’s will” kills their child.

The Christian Science Church lobbied to have all of these shield laws put into place, and works diligently to preserve them to this day, and while they try their best to distance themselves from the other truly lunatic fringe groups like Church of the First Born who use these laws to avoid prosecution, the Christian Scientists have all of that blood on their hands, and they cannot deny it. If the laws weren’t put in place due to their efforts, the parents in these lunatic groups would be held criminally responsible for their complete and callous lack of care for their children. And, the Christian Scientist parents who’ve also sacrificed their children at the altar of their faith would also be held responsible for the deaths of their children. Just because something isn’t illegal doesn’t make it right.

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