I’m not feeling very sympathetic toward any religion at the moment.
Here’s an awful story for you:
Members of One Mind Ministries… denied a 16-month-old boy food and water because he did not say “Amen” at mealtimes. After he died, they prayed over his body for days, expecting a resurrection, then packed it into a suitcase with mothballs. They left it in a shed in Philadelphia, where it remained for a year before detectives found it last spring.
The boy’s mother, Ria Ramkissoon, agreed to plead guilty to “child abuse resulting in death” instead of murder… with one catch (you know the prosecutors felt safe with this one):
Ramkissoon, 22, has agreed to plead guilty to a lesser charge on one condition: The charges against her must be dropped if her son, Javon Thompson, is resurrected.
Here’s where it gets even stranger.
Psychiatrists who evaluated Ramkissoon at the request of a judge concluded that she was not criminally insane. Her attorney, Steven Silverman, said the doctors found that her beliefs were indistinguishable from religious beliefs, in part because they were shared by those around her.
“She wasn’t delusional, because she was following a religion,” Silverman said, describing the findings of the doctors’ psychiatric evaluation.
Some people may ask: Why are those things mutually exclusive, especially in this case?
She chose to follow her beliefs and didn’t suffer from any actual mental illness or disorder. Because of that, she should face a harsher sentence.
Her attorney is arguing she wasn’t acting on her own free will:
Silverman said he and prosecutors think Ramkissoon was brainwashed and should have been found not criminally responsible; prosecutors declined to comment. Although an inability to think critically can be a sign of brainwashing, experts said, the line between that and some religious beliefs can be difficult to discern.
“At times there can be an overlap between extreme religious conviction and delusion,” said Robert Jay Lifton, a cult expert and psychiatrist who lectures at Harvard Medical School. “It’s a difficult area for psychiatry and the legal system.”
Lost in all this is the fact that an innocent child died because his family harbored absurd religious beliefs. It’s not the first time that’s happened and it won’t be the last.
As if the rest of it wasn’t enough, here’s one last excerpt from Dan Morse‘s article:
The body was placed on a mattress in a back room, and Queen Antoinette told her followers that God would “raise Javon from the dead,” according to the charging documents.
Javon’s body remained there for at least a week, police said. Eventually, it was wrapped in a blanket and placed in a suitcase. Queen Antoinette burned the mattress and Javon’s clothes, police said, and the room was washed down with bleach.
The group came to believe there had been no resurrection because someone among them was not a true believer, according to an attorney for one of the other defendants, Marcus Cobbs. With that person no longer part of the group, they headed north out of Baltimore with the suitcase, believing Javon could be raised at a future date, according to Cobbs’s attorney, Maureen Rowland.
I don’t think any religious person is about to defend their actions. But at what point are their beliefs considered absurd? Is it because they allowed a child to die? Is it because they believed he would be resurrected? Is it because they tried to cover this all up?
Where’s the line between “regular” religious beliefs and the beliefs of this cult? What’s acceptable and what’s not?