Here's some bad news for children being abused or killed in the name of religion: last Friday an Oregon judge sentenced Carl Worthington to two months in jail for sacrificing his child, Ava, in the name of Jesus.
It's disturbing that this legal slap on the wrist is all Worthington got for committing an atrocious crime. As Oregonian columnist Susan Nielsen said today, religious crazies benefit from a double standard under my state's laws.
This trial should inspire Oregon to look outside its borders and consider the following:
First, other states aren't so deferential to parents who withhold lifesaving medical care and offer prayer instead. A woman in Wisconsin who let her daughter slowly die of untreated diabetes was convicted of homicide this spring and faces up to 25 years in prison. Her husband is on trial now for the same offense. [Note: he was convicted and could get the same sentence as his wife.]
Second, it's hard to define what qualifies as "religion." In a few recent cases of fatal medical neglect, parents claimed a religious defense because they were diligently following some spiritual advice they found on the Internet.
Third, other states have gotten into trouble for maintaining an Oregon-style patchwork that allows a religious defense in some circumstances but not in others. Appeals courts tend to throw out convictions when they notice the absurdity of punishing the same behavior that is singled out elsewhere for protection.
On the positive side, Judge Maurer got it exactly right when he sentenced Carl Worthington. This is just what I've been saying in my posts on this subject.
"I will stand by my assessment that this was wrong, wrong, wrong," Maurer told a Clackamas County courtroom full of supporters from Worthington's church. "This was an unnecessary tragedy"..."This, religious tenet or not, is simply wrong -- fundamentally and simply wrong," Maurer said.
As noted before, I was surprised at how some commenters on this blog tried to excuse criminal neglect -- not taking a child to the doctor when she had a life-threatening condition that could have been easily treated with antibiotics.
SImply wrong. It's refreshing when judges cut through religious and pseudo-philosophical crap.
There have been quite a few letters to the editor published about the verdict and sentencing. Here's a sampling:
I am absolutely disgusted that the jury failed to convict the Worthingtons of manslaughter in the faith healing death of their daughter.
If there was ever a case of child abuse that directly caused the death of a child, this was it. Denying necessary medical treatment for a child is no different than denying that child food, water or shelter from the elements. Abuse is abuse and religion is no excuse.
Rather than practicing a perverted form of Christianity, what if the Worthingtons were followers of the "Spaghetti Monster" and claimed it was part of their religion to not seek medical help? I'm sure the verdict would have been different.
What a sad statement this jury has made on its behalf and that of the American justice system. Rabbit hoarders and others who neglect their animals receive harsher punishment than the Worthingtons will receive for killing their child.
I was particularly struck by two details in your story on the Worthington verdict (July 24).
First, the report that "Of 78 children buried in the [Followers of Christ] church cemetery from 1955 to 1998, at least 21 could have been saved by medical intervention, according to a 1998 analysis by The Oregonian."
This means the demise of little Ava Worthington brings the death toll to 22. Twenty-two children have suffered and died of preventable causes in the name
of their parents' religious beliefs.
In the words of presiding juror, Ashlee Santos: "Granted, they didn't take her (Ava) to the hospital, but it was truly because they thought she was getting better ... That was the best epiphany moment."
Some epiphany. The Worthingtons didn't take their baby to the hospital because they don't believe in hospitals. They don't believe in medical treatment, period. Somehow, the foreperson overlooked this central fact.
I wonder who the 23rd child in the cemetery will be?
What stands out for me about the Worthington case is that Raylene's parents are going on trial in January for "criminally negligent homicide" because Raylene's brother died of a curable "urinary tract blockage."
These may be nice people, but they "kill" their children.
Put your faith in the mythological teachings of a 2,000-year-old itinerant carpenter instead of the collective wisdom of millennia of human learning and experience and this is what you get. Dead and suffering children.
The Worthington jurors let their good sense be overcome by their empathy for the unrepentant and unreformed parents of this unfortunate innocent child.
Ava Worthington died because her parents reject medical science and the ability of physicians and medicine to cure sick patients and ameliorate suffering.
I wonder how far their rejection of science goes. Do they have a car? Do they have a television set in their home? A radio? A refrigerator? A gas or electric stove? Air conditioning? Heating? Electric lights?
All of these and many other everyday items are products of scientific endeavors. I am sure the Worthingtons do not live in a cave with only a log fire to cook their food and warm themselves at night.
Why is it they can make use of many products of science and yet deny science that would save their child? I find this very troubling.
Me too. Thankfully, Judge Maurer ordered that Worthington provide medical care for his five year old daughter and the baby his pregnant wife is carrying.
No more Christian child sacrifice. Never. Ever. Religion doesn't belong in 21st century civilization. It's an archaic relic of ancient mythologies. Truly freaking bizarre:
Ava Worthington died in March 2008 while church members gathered around her for prayer, "laying on of hands," anointing her in oil and administering small amounts of wine.