Many innocent lives have been lost throughout the ages as a result of religious beliefs. An Oregon couple is now headed to prison for the death of their newborn because their faith does not allow them to believe in doctors.
An Oregon State Supreme Court Judge has ruled “faith healing” is no substitute for medical care. The couple, Dale and Shannon Hickman, who had been found guilty of manslaughter in the death of their newborn son in 2011, will now be held in separate state penitentiaries until at least January 2018.
Dale and Shannon Hickman, as members of the Oregon-based Followers of Christ Church, believe in “faith healing” and not in traditional medical care. When their premature son was born at home, weighing just 3 pounds, 7 ounces, they chose not to go to the hospital but to pray over the dying baby and “anointed” his head with oil.
If the Hickmans had phoned 911 as soon as their son was born, one state doctor estimated that he “would have had a 99 percent chance of survival.”
The most troubling aspect of this story is not the much-hyped clash between religious beliefs and the law. No, it is between deeply held religious beliefs and common sense.
As of February 2015, 39 states and the District of Columbia have “laws providing that parents or caretakers who fail to provide medical assistance to a child because of their religious beliefs are not criminally liable for harm to the child.” In addition, federal law does not require parents to provide medical treatments to children that are against their religious beliefs.
The fact is, Oregon only completely removed its own religious exemptions for such cases in 2011 as a direct response to infant deaths among the Followers of Christ. The legislation passed unanimously.
But striking down this exemption came too late for many children born into the small fundamentalist sect. Reports have claimed that as many as 78 children and 10 women have died among the “faith healing” believers … all deaths during childbirth.
Dale and Shannon Hickman will have plenty of time to think about why their god forsook them and their infant son at their hour of need.
It is truly incredible to think that in 2015, in 39 states, the Hickmans would have been allowed to walk free!
Image courtesy of holohololand at FreeDigitalPhotos.net