Well, I Guess I Stand Corrected

A couple of weeks ago, I shared a speech I’d given about the perceived conflict between “religious liberty” and civil rights. The basic thrust of the talk was that even in the freest societies, all liberties –including religious ones–have limits.

As an example, I pointed out that we don’t allow people to commit infanticide even if they have a totally sincere belief that their God wants them to sacrifice their firstborn.

When we discuss First Amendment freedoms in my classes, we talk about the more common questions that arise when parents have religious beliefs that forbid medical interventions even for children who are desperately ill, or parents who believe they are “called” to beat the devil out of their children. Courts generally do not look favorably on these assertions of “religious liberty” or “parental rights.”

So imagine my surprise when I came across this headline: “Idaho Is Reconsidering the Law Allowing Religious Parents to Kill Their Kids Without Punishment.”

Idaho is one of only six states where you can escape charges of negligent homicide, manslaughter, or capital murder as long as it happened as an exercise of your religious faith.

So if your child dies because your Christian Science religion prevented you from taking her to a doctor, you won’t be punished. And Idaho is the only state of those six where children have actually lost their lives as a result of their parents’ religious beliefs.

Evidently, an Idaho legislative committee is “studying” whether this law needs to be changed. A prosecutor who testified at a hearing convened by the committee explained that the law prevents her from charging such parents with child abuse or neglect, even though parents engaging in identical behaviors not based upon doctrinal belief would be criminally liable.

Pew recently posted a review of the states having the same or similar exemptions.

All states prosecute parents whose children come to severe harm through neglect. But in 34 states (as well as the District of Columbia, Guam and Puerto Rico), there are exemptions in the civil child abuse statutes when medical treatment for a child conflicts with the religious beliefs of parents, according to data collected by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

Additionally, some states have religious exemptions to criminal child abuse and neglect statutes, including at least six that have exemptions to manslaughter laws.

Law is all about drawing lines. Respect for other people’s religious beliefs is an important value, but one would think that the well-being–indeed, the lives– of children would be an even more important value, one that would take precedence when that particular line is being drawn.

Where are all those “pro life” people when you need them? (Oh–I forgot–they’re not really “pro life,” they’re pro birth.)

I can’t help wondering–given the rhetoric of this election season–how much “respect” for “sincere religious belief” our lawmakers would display if the parents in question were Muslims…


  1. Love your ‘good questions”.

    I was under the impression that parents could not deny medical care to their children (not even for religious purposes) in Indiana until the child was old enough to make their own medial care decisions. Am I wrong about that?

  2. Well, this explains why Indiana underfunds the state’s child protection agency. Why pay for good folks to protect children from abusive and neglectful parents if the state’s conservative religious crowd has stripped our laws of the teeth needed to enforce that protection?

  3. Sheila,

    “But in 34 states (as well as the District of Columbia, Guam and Puerto Rico), there are exemptions in the civil child abuse statutes when medical treatment for a child conflicts with the religious beliefs of parents, according to data collected by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.”

    Thanks. Now I see things more clearly for our next step…… In the name of religion we now have the right to destroy the future of America, better described as FUTURCIDE.

    Don’t fret about it. FUTURCIDE like DEMOCRACIDE is just another exemption.

    Today is my 79th birthday. WE all need to do something to stop this “national insanity.” I’m left with only one option…….All I can do is go down to the elections office this afternoon and start proceedings to Recall the Tea Party Mayor of Jacksonville. Personally, I believe that’s a good start. And better still, a good way to celebrate my birthday.

  4. Happy Birthday, Marv! I like the idea of you celebrating your 79th year by marching down to the election office and charging hell with your bucket of water.

  5. Interesting that god selects certain individuals for her experiments. Denying a sick child medical care for any reason seems insane to me. It also seems like a perverted natural selection that may ultimately bring about the extinction of those with the predilection to deny their children medical care.

  6. Abortion is touted as protecting the fetus (a future child) from being “killed” for religious reasons. What are the laws – ARE there any laws – in any states regarding medications prescribed for pregnant women, some of which have later been proven to cause serious birth defects. If we are going to protect our children we need to begin by protecting expectant mothers from drugs harmful to the fetus and often to the mother. Or is there a religious reason, other than Christian Scientist, preventing this form of protection? Nothing worthwhile is ever easy or simple; one possible answer usually leads to more questions.

    We can pass laws demanding medical care for all children in all states but where and when do these protections begin and what are the limitations. Sheila only APPEARS to stand corrected in a few backward states which have managed to ignore the 1st Amendment protection of keeping government out of religion…there seems to be no protection to keep religion out of government. Pence immediately comes to mind with Kim Davis as head cheerleader; this covers two states, Indiana and Kentucky as religious based governments. Will there be a place for Kim Davis in the Trump/Pence cabinet if they are elected?

  7. Marv; a very Happy Birthday to you! This greeting warrants a separate message from my blog comments; I am grateful for our friendship, one that allows us the adult option of agreeing to disagree on occasion and maintain the mutual respect and friendship. Of course; if we are not able to use adult options at 79 years of age, we should keep all opinions to ourselves;-)


  8. Making law is hard, so many issues to be considered. That’s why we need the best and brightest making, enforcing and adjudicating them. Obviously we’ve been very neglectful in that duty and it seems like the state level is what we’re most neglectful about. It gets a little better on the average up and down from there.

    I suppose one of the things that oligarchy has taught us is that because government doesn’t matter who we hire and fire to administer it doesn’t matter. As long as the best and brightest make more money regardless of the impact on others all will turn out fine. Clearly the most important building and institution in Indianapolis for instance are for the Colts, everything else is optional.

  9. “Law is all about drawing lines.” Same with the clinical and societal definitions of sanity…

  10. I agree, it is horrible to let someone die in the name of one’s religious beliefs. I agree that to do so, is more than hypocritical.

    Would you, good Dr., join those who say that it is at least hypocritical for those who are proponents of women’s rights, to allow for the abortion of an unborn child in the 3rd trimester, simply because that child is a girl?

  11. I’m taking the following with me as a guide:

    This is from The Florida Times-Union, Saturday, August 8, 1992:

    Lawyer plans to seek recall of Mayor Austin

    By Susan P. Respess
    Staff Writer

    Call this one Kramer vs. Austin

    Specifically, Marvin Kramer, an attorney “helping out” in a downtown bail bond business, vs. Ed Austin, Jacksonville mayor. [I like the way they introduced me, I sound like I’m “Rocky” the underdog]

    Kramer has filed a letter of intent with the Duval County supervisor of elections to launch a petition drive to recall Austin.

    His reasons? He doesn’t like the mayor’s choice of appointed officials or his actions on economic and racial issues. [How things never change around here one bit]

    “I really want him to step down, Kramer said yesterday. “I think he system has had it.”

    A recall would be no small feat. After Kramer submits a formal request to the elections supervisor listing his reasons, he’ll have 30 days to collect signatures of 15,733 registered voters—an amount equal to 5 percent of the voters in the last election, May 21, 1991.

    If the signatures are verified, Supervisor of Elections Tommie Bell would notify the City Council of a recall election.

    However, Austin doesn’t have to sit back and take it. [ I would suggest in this case this Mayor does, times have changed in Jax]

    The mayor can block Kramer’s efforts by collecting signatures of 15 percent, or 47,198, of the voters in the last election. If Austin’s defensive petition drive fails, he can resign or tackle a recall election. [The numbers have changed a great deal in the last 25 years]

    Austin was unfazed yesterday about the recall attempt. [I don’t believe that’s going to be the case with our Tea Party Mayor Lenny Curry whose increasingly unpopular tax increase proposal is on the agenda for voters on August 30th]

    “What can you do? Any citizen can do that,” Austin said of the petition. “I was elected to a four-year term and I will serve out. [Mayor Curry better not bet on it] I have every intention of running for a second term.

    Hopefully, this will turn out to be a good example of how ETHICAL governmental civics can work out for the best.

  12. Happy Birthday Marv! And many more!

    The birthday present you are giving to yourself sounds perfect and I hope it will start much needed change in Jacksonville.

  13. If you are interested in laws and news relating to Christian privilege, I would recommend following Hemant Mehta’s Friendly Atheist blog on Facebook. He is a very good aggregator for news relating not only to atheists, but to religious minorities in general. You just might be gobsmacked at what goes on out there.

  14. Marv, sending birthday wishes from Indianapolis to Jacksonville. And, by the way, while I was considering your 79 productive years among us, I was reminded of my go-to person when I need a transfusion of bonafide intellectual thought, Noam Chomsky.

    For sure, this comment is more appropriate to yesterday’s topic, ‘The War on Elites’, but I’ve never been one to allow a perceived deadline to prevent my sharing belated thoughts.

    In one of Chomsky’s most recent media interviews (5/2016), he discusses global trade agreements, the 2016 Election, climate change and discusses these topics in that wonderful, calm, unflappable, reasoned manner of the intellectual. Our MSM, unfortunately, does not provide us with such relatively unemotional and calm discussions as found on Ch 4, a group of British journalists. Why do we need to rely on media outlets from across the Atlantic for reasoned discussions?


  15. Happy Birthday, Marv.
    Can anyone answer these questions about Indiana:?
    Have we ever recalled anyone in Indiana?
    Is Pence still on the payroll (welfare) while running for VP?
    Is impeachment possible?

  16. OMG,

    It appears that Evan Byah has been ‘recalled’ by Democrats in Indiana. Plus, John Gregg seems to be on the active ‘recall’ list each time Democrats need a candidate for Governor.

  17. The GOP has been overtaken by its own incompetence and lies in ruins now everywhere. R.I.P.

    The real question is how and with what will it be replaced.

  18. Pete,

    “The GOP has been overtaken by its own incompetence and lies in ruins now everywhere. R.I.P.”

    That is a very safe generic comment which is about as helpful as telling the starving man that you’ll pray for him. And followed by turning around to your friends and asking for them to come up with ideas.

  19. When parents cause harm or death to their child because of their personal religious beliefs, they must be criminally charged. Any competent adult person can choose to forego medical treatment for any reason, including personal religious belief, but cannot foist their own religious beliefs on those who are not competent to make these decisions for themselves, such as the elderly, the mentally disabled, and children. That is the opposite of freedom of religion.

    The biography of Jean Harlow is an interesting read on this subject. Harlow died of kidney failure at age 26. Her mother was a devout Christian Scientist and refused hospital treatment for her desperately-ill daughter until Louis B. Mayer intervened. Harlow had already slipped in a coma by the time he finally got her away from her mother, but it was too late to save her life.

  20. When I hear that Idaho and others have people who are treated differently (one can rough up the kids and the other one can’t because of religious beliefs) the first thing that occurred to me was Equal Protection of the Laws. Has anyone checked out whether such statutes are constitutional?

  21. Indiana does not have a recall provision. We have only the ballot box during regular elections.
    Pence is indeed still on the payroll–theoretically, he’s still Governor.
    I don’t know whether Indiana has an impeachment process–does anyone else know.

  22. So Pence is working part time but getting full time salary. No doubt Holcomb is also working part time now that he is running for governor and receiving full time pay. Of course, they are also getting full benefits. So we are learning that the job of governor can be done by part time employees. Lets move that they are paid accordingly, and like other part time employees they get no benefits, just like the tens of thousands of minimum wage employees this state has produced under Pence/Daniels. That’s a kind of smaller government I can live with.

  23. BSH,

    “Why do we need to rely on media outlets from across the Atlantic for reasoned discussions?”

    Because the socio/political structure in the U.S. is in a “free fall” not completely unlike 9/11 and the Twin Towers. I know that you will object to this analogy. I can’t blame you.

    So I’m back home now after visiting with the Elections Office. I’m too late. I’ve fallen behind the PUCK. I’ll have to go back to my drafting board in order get ahead of the PUCK again. The only person, the Director of Candidates, who I trusted was replaced in July. And I could tell by what was said to me that it probably wasn’t too “Kosher.”

    However, I picked up the Recall Packet anyway and noticed during my short walk to the library that the state-wide African-American newspaper was pretty much advocating a third party choice in Jill Stein. It sounded very much like the position William has been taking all along.

    Some of you might have also seen the announcement by the Black Lives Matter movement that they are now going to start airing grievances against the State of Israel. None of this can be good for Hillary Clinton and the Democratic Party. The political environment is becoming much more volatile, that’s for sure.

    Before heading for home, I stopped at Chamblin’s Bookmine for a snack and had a short conversation with a political science professor acquaintance who teaches at the University of North Florida. I mentioned the change in the elections office, as well as JoAnn’s post yesterday concerning fears of fraud during the presidential elections. He was also very concerned after learning about the change. And also said that I was probably right in that our presidential election by November will need to be monitored by neutral sources either from representatives of The European Union or The United Nations.

    We need to wake up to reality and fast. That’s why it pays for you to listen to media outlets across the Atlantic.

    “I skate to where the puck is gonna be, not where it has been.”
    ~ Wayne Gretzky, National Hockey League great

  24. All is not lost by understanding what is going on in the Elections Office in Jacksonville. As I have mentioned before, Jacksonville is both the major prototype and the spearhead of The Tea Party movement. If Republicans are making sure they have complete control over the Elections Office here in Jacksonville, then you know that the same thing WILL BE ATTEMPTED all over the U.S. if given a chance.

    The Republican Party will do everything they can to win the presidency whether by hook or crook.

  25. One of the things you learn as an attorney is to exhaust all your remedies before taking administrative action. It’s also best applied in political action. If you have many scenarios, you take the easiest one first. If you don’t succeed you go the next best one, so on and so on.

    For example, if a successful recall election is not possible, then you go to the next scenario that is still possible. However, it probably will be more difficult to achieve than the previous scenario.

  26. Marv, happy birthday.

    As I said earlier the GOP is in collapse, a condition that I find interesting and useful though BSH does not.

    What it means to me is that the environment after election day will be substantially different than before. I’m not sure what that means for Jacksonville but am sure that it will have an impact on the Tea Party. Their keeper will be a mere shadow of their former selves.

    Gov Scott had a couple more years but Rubio for instance will probably be replaced.

    Trump was the last straw for thinking Republicans. They have to go somewhere.

  27. Idaho is as far from Indiana control as is Ohio, a totally different property area and constitution of, by, for those People. What happened to Indiana’s 1980 Juvenile Code, for example? Nothing. A federal judge gave a television lecture I watched talking about attorneys’ lack of intellectual resources for trying two shots at a win when they know only DC “one size fits all” Constitutional law and copycat local ones. Indiana’s bar exam he said did include Indiana’s Law, so the players can try two shots at winning a case. Harvard and “the elites” do not have their own State knowledge courses, for the most part, being displaced by such stories as “Shakespeare and the Law” (IU Shakespeare course professors do that in depth) and Psychodynamics of Law (Medico-Legal 1950s, Ohio). Harvard owners are allowing him to teach State Constitutional Law on demand. When I read the Code, I will believe it. That it is legible, intelligible, clearly bar-coded.

  28. Happy Birthday Marv. Good luck with trying to remove your mayor.

    JoAnn, besides Christian Scientists, Jehovah’s Witnesses don’t believe in blood transfusions and I believe that there are a few smaller fundamentalist churches that blame all disease on The Devil and thus believe in non-medical remedies.

    Pete, I wouldn’t be too quick to write off the GOP in its current form. A Cruz or Rubio could pick up the pieces, and though they might lose a chunk of the most extreme part of their base, they would not return the party to the past version that Sheila, among others, remembers. The current version of the Republican Party has too strong a hold on state-level politics to go away quickly. I think it may take a few loses at the state level, perhaps after 2020 redistricting, to cause a major change.

    As I see it now, there are three possibilities then. First, the “establishment” and business Republicans could regain control over a smaller and weaker party and then proceed to rebuild it. Second, various parts of the old GOP could leave the party and coalesce as a new “second” party to the Democrats, similar to the Republicans replacing the Whigs. It isn’t clear what that would look like, though. Finally, I could see the Libertarians becoming the new “second” party, similar to the way that Labor replaced the Liberals in the 20th Century UK. This last one seems less likely as Libertarians and most Democrats share similar views on social issues and the social conservatives would seek a different party to represent them.

  29. “business Republicans could regain control over a smaller and weaker party ” is what worked for them once. To me the question is what will the uneducated do. They are the hardest to.predict because they are the easiest and first to be misled.

  30. Dr. Seuss Kennedy
    As I’m sure you have figured out, it doesn’t matter what you write, the tribe seems only to care about disliking Trump and Pence. It matters not that A judge overturned an Indiana law that made it illegal to abort an unborn girl in the 3rd trimester, simply because she was a girl. As long as a woman has a right to make that decision, it is okay.

    What if she is Muslim, and her husband insists that she do so, that is okay, too.

    I guess some rights, including the right to choose, Trump a future woman’s right to life.


    Trump and Pence are bad! Here! Here!

  31. Here’s the thing William, I like you have never once in my entire life been at risk for pregnancy. I also have no reason to expect that I am in any way extra entitled in wisdom to make life changing decisions. So I figure those who do find themselves pregnant may want to ponder their predicament and knowing everything that I know plus a whole lot more about their specific situation and make the best decision all things considered.

    You may claim to be better than they about living their lives but I just don’t see it.

    Frankly I do expect the same consideration about my life from others.

  32. The facts and figures you provided were interesting and troubling. Then you make your stab at pro-life. I believe that’s called propaganda.

  33. And Pete, who has never met an issue he doesn’t have an opinion on, doesn’t have an opinion on whether girls should be aborted simply because of their gender . . .

    Because he’s never been a girl.

    And the women’s rights tribe remains silent.

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