It's a warm Oregon day, but I'm still frosted over a jury deciding that child sacrifice in the name of Jesus deserves no more than a legal slap on the hand: the father was found guilty of criminal mistreatment, a misdemeanor; the mother got off entirely.
Over on my Church of the Churchless blog, I said "Child sacrifice gets a yellow light in Oregon." That post has generated a lot of comments, many of which mystify me.
Disturbingly, they seem to reflect the misguided sentiments of the jurors who voted to absolve Carl and Raylene Worthington of the most serious charges. Believing that hurting someone is right doesn't make it so, not under our laws.
Today I responded to a commenter who, like the jury, argued that people should be free to believe whatever they want.
Phil, interesting legal theory you set forth -- which, thankfully, isn't accepted in cases of child abuse, spouse abuse, and such.My wife was a psychotherapist in private practice for many years.
She encountered quite a few men, usually Christian, who believed that it was fine to beat their wife or children because, gosh, God has decreed that the man is the head of the family, and whatever he feels Jesus/God wants him to do, that's the best for everyone.
So I assume that if someone is a meth addict, and believes it is OK to not take their child to the doctor when seriously ill, because there's just no point and doctors don't know shit anyway, you feel this is a reason to absolve them of legal guilt?
What's the difference, as an Oregonian columnist pointed out, between someone high on deluded religious beliefs and someone high on a pharmaceutical?
If I'm ever stopped for speeding, I'll try telling the policeman, "I'm innocent because I didn't believe I was going that fast," or "I believed it was fine to go 90 on this stretch of road."
I'm up with the sort of moral relativism you espouse when breaking laws doesn't hurt other people. But when it puts innocents in danger, as in this case, they have to be protected from an attitude of "Hey, everyone is entitled to believe what they want to."
The jury members had a tough job. However, they should have stuck with the law, rather than their emotions.
The Oregonian newspaper reported that the jurors' empathy led them to a "epiphany": the Worthington's didn't take Ava, their 15 month-old daughter, to the hospital because they thought she was getting better.
There's two problems with this: (1) Oregon law doesn't require intent to be a factor in determining whether someone is guilty of manslaughter, a fact the jurors ignored. (2) Ava's grandfather testified that under no circumstances would the family seek medical care, because their bizarre religious belief is that Jesus heals, not doctors.
I'm pleased to see that one juror now is saying he wishes he could change his vote, since he didn't know about the other deaths of children in the faith-healing church. Unfortunately, it's too late. But not too late to save the lives of other children.
Oregon needs to toughen its laws in this area. And religious fundamentalists need to learn that their right to believe as they wish ends when acting on a belief harms someone else.