Another Oregon Couple Found Guilty in Child’s Faith-Healing Death

Another religious couple from the Followers of Christ Church.

Another attempt at “faith-healing.”

Another dead child.

Another guilty verdict, though, if that’s any consolation to anyone.

Dale and Shannon Hickman were found guilty of second-degree manslaughter on Thursday after they let their newborn son die:

Prosecutors provided a timeline that showed there was as much as 45 minutes between the time the baby’s condition noticeably changed and his death, more than enough time to get emergency medical help. Instead, Dale Hickman held his son and anointed him with oil. He said he was with the baby for five or 10 minutes.

Shannon Hickman testified that she watched for maybe five minutes as the baby took his final labored breaths.

Jurors questioned whether the decline was so rapid.

“We really didn’t trust Shannon’s testimony very much,” said [jury foreman Collin] Fleming.

The amount of time was irrelevant, Fleming said. “They were never going to call for medical assistance.”

A pediatric expert who testified at the 10-day trial said the baby had a 99.9 percent chance of surviving if he had been taken to a hospital — the standard response for premature babies born at home. Even defense medical experts agreed hospitalization was the right choice.

Shannon Hickman said even if she had wanted to call 9-1-1 she was powerless to act because her church calls for wives to submit to their husband’s decisions — to do otherwise is a sin.

It used to be the case that Oregon allowed people like the Hickmans to get away with murder because of “faith-based exemptions”… in June, the last bits of the “spiritual healing defense” were taken off the books.

Unfortunately, the Hickmans were indicted before that law went into effect. So it’s possible the judge could sentence them for a prison stay less than the now-mandatory six years and three months. I hope he doesn’t do that. Make these people yet another example of how one’s faith should never be allowed to override a child’s health.

If you want to pray for yourself to get better, go for it. When someone else’s life is on the line, you cannot put their care in a fictional god’s hands.

(Thanks to Ashley for the link)

About Hemant Mehta

Hemant Mehta is the editor of Friendly Atheist, appears on the Atheist Voice channel on YouTube, and co-hosts the uniquely-named Friendly Atheist Podcast. You can read much more about him here.

  • Robinsoncomedy

    Stories like this make me want to throw up. Jail is too good for these clowns.

    • Erp

      Prison is probably best for them.  It forcibly removes them from an environment that led to this tragedy and surrounds them with people who have a very different set of ethics (at least as far as seeking medical care) so perhaps they will learn.  Unfortunately prisons in the US are less than desirable places for reformation.

      I could see the mother getting a somewhat lesser term in that she probably wasn’t in the best condition herself having just given birth.  However I don’t know all the details.

  • Anonymous

    Throw the fucking book at them. Maximum sentence MIGHT be sufficient.

  • Wazzy

    Did these people ever think “Maybe god put doctors here to help us?” I mean – if they believe god created everything – why not doctors to help too – right? Why must Atheists explain everything to them?!

    • Timothy

      No, most of these idiots think that doctors are “tools of the devil”  remember, science is evil to these nimrods.

      • NickDB

        Yet they still love using what Science has brought them;
        Church buildings, cars, TV etc. Hypocrites each and every single one of them.

    • Anonymous

      Reminds me of the old joke about the guy who drowned and went to heaven. “Why didn’t you save me, God?” he asked. “Well,” said God, “I sent you a life raft, a Coast Guard boat, and a helicopter rescue team. What more do you want?”

      • dauntless

        You mean that joke that someone tells in the comment thread of every single post dealing with this or similar subjects?

        • Anonymous

          I’m sorry, but there’s no need to be a dick.  That’s just unnecessary. This is my first time commenting on this blog. Probably my third visit. I haven’t spent a lot of time trolling all of the comments in other posts.

          • Heidi

            Friendly word of advice: Don’t tell that joke at Pharyngula. It drives PZ batshit. Also, nice to meet you. Welcome aboard. :-)

  • lapushka

    Give them the chair and see if their god intervenes for them.

    • MariaO

      Murdering a person in cold blood after long planning is a much worse crime than not calling for help when a person dies naturally. Wheather it is the state or a citizen that does it.

      The parents should be punished, but they are not murderers. The killing was done by [incert deity/deities/evil spirits/natural causes of your choice].

      • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=553145445 Gordon Duffy

        You are entitled to your opinion, but they are murderers.

        • lapushka

          Agreed.  If you can save your own child with a phone call, and deliberately choose not to,  you are a cold blooded killer.  They didn’t make that call because of fear, not for the child, but for their own selfish asses not getting into heaven. 

          • Greisha

            Those idiots are crying about saving unborn, but do nothing about saving life of already born baby.

            I am really sorry for the child, but it looks very much like natural selection in action.  Too bad natural selection could not act on them before they conceived the baby.

  • Anonymous

    These people make me sick.  This delusional mindset they get into – which overrides medical attention – in lieu of an unseen being coming down from the clouds to heal the child, makes me wonder if they are even fit to be parents.  I’ll be bold and say maybe instead of prison time, they need to be medically stripped of their ability to create more children.

  • Botait

    I just can’t come close to imagining the depth of conviction to an ideal that I could watch my child struggle to breathe and die while I do nothing. 

    I’d really like to know, what does it take to go that far down the rabbit hole?
    In a sense, I see them no different than a suicide bomber. 

  • http://profiles.google.com/nathanlee2 nathan lee

    I’m… not sure what I think of this. On one hand, it’s a damn shame that the child died. It also could have been prevented.

    On the other hand, was this a case of maliciousness? or just stupidity. If it’s the latter, well, it’s not illegal to be dangerously stupid. We also don’t prosecute people who drink expensive juice to cure alzheimers, or who stick questionably clean needles into their skin for the sake of feeling better. Nor do we prosecute the amish (or other completely religious groups) if they decide not to get medical care.

    • SeniorSkeptik

      To quote Richard Dawkins, ” Faith is the great cop-out, the great excuse to evade the need to think and evaluate evidence.” 

      Humanity will find itself much better off  once it rids itself of religion.

    • Anonymous

      You can be stupid with your own body as much as you wish. But if you harm other people in the process, you’re in the wrong.

      It’s fine if they hadn’t gotten medical attention for themselves. If anything it removes morons from the gene pool. But they can’t make that decision for a child

    • Volunteer

      When stupidity leads to death of others, especially dependents, it’s prosecutable

      • SJH

        Not in the case of late term abortion.

        • Byskwik

          To be clear, do you mean legal late term abortions, where either the woman’s life or the child’s quality of life is on the line, or illegal ones?

        • Tom

          I could point out that “death of others” refers to other *people,* and at what point an embryo is considered a person is both hotly debated, and legally considered to be such that late term abortions are allowable in many jurisdictions.  But I’m damn sure you already know all that.

    • http://twitter.com/jennywags7 Jennifer Wagner

      When someone drives drunk and kills someone it’s still manslaughter.  The person was obviously not “trying” to kill someone… it was obviously their stupidity.  

    • Travshad

      Amish parents don’t deny medical care to their children or themselves.  I went to a very nice benefit dinner and auction a couple of months ago that was raising funds to pay for a y0ung Amish girl’s medical bills at Nationwide Children’s Hospital.

  • Spencer

    “Shannon Hickman said even if she had wanted to call 9-1-1
    she was powerless to act because her church calls for wives to submit
    to their husband’s decisions — to do otherwise is a sin.”This is the part that sicks me the most.

    • Thin-ice

      I drive past this church every day, and my wife assists in a special ed classroom where one of their children was attending. When the teacher said that they would call an ambulance if the little girl had a seizure, the parents pulled her out of the classroom.Unfortunately, the parents being in prison, to them, is proof of their being martyrs for Jesus. They will keep on being idiots till Jesus returns!

  • Anonymous

    I feel sorry for them.  They are so trapped in their religious delusion that they allowed a child to die.  This kind of insanity must be stamped out by harsh penalties from the law to send a message to others who suffer under the same delusions.  It is a pity that their child died and a shame that they need to be made an example of but I cannot bring myself to feel anything but pity and disgust for them.

  • http://www.facebook.com/scott.j.jordan Scott James Jordan

    Mark 5:25:

    5:25 And a certain woman, which had an issue of blood twelve years,
    5:26 And had suffered many things of many physicians, and had spent all that she had, and was nothing bettered, but rather grew worse,
    5:27 When she had heard of Jesus, came in the press behind, and touched his garment.
    5:28 For she said, If I may touch but his clothes, I shall be whole.
    5:29 And straightway the fountain of her blood was dried up; and she felt in her body that she was healed of that plague.

    Lesson:  If you have a medical problem, don’t trust those evil doctors!! They’ll only make it worse (and we all know that exacerbation is a sin)!!  Try Mouth-to-Mouth Jesuscitation™ Today! ;)

    • SJH

      What do these verses have to do with doctors and medical attention?

      • rx7ward

        What are you doing here? Do you have a point to make? If so, then make it already! All of this “just asking questions” bullshit is really passive-aggressive and pointless. If you don’t think you can make a cogent point, then just STFU already! Maybe you’ll actually learn something for a change …

      • http://yetanotheratheist.com/ TerranRich

        Ahem. Read the above verse veeeery carefully, SJH. Then maybe you might get it. Unlike many Christians, most atheists know their Bible (and their Koran, Torah, etc., etc.).

  • Tinker_tak

    I can’t imagine what these people must be going through. How terrible to do what you truly believed to be the right thing, then your child dies, then you get put on trial, called names and sent to jail. These people lost their baby and have to live with the knowledge that they could have saved it. Yes, I am disgusted by the use of faith as a cop out for stupidity but does no one have any empathy at all for these two? They seem like victims of a brainwashing cult more than malicious criminals.

    • Aaron Scoggin

      I have a little. But it’s either jail, or a psychiatric hospital. If they were put in a psychiatric hospital, there would be an outcry because people would finally have to accept that kind of thinking as a mental problem. They don’t want to do that. And maybe, just maybe, a bit of time in jail *away* from their cult will reveal to them the root of their problems.

    • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_2C6XFSMIUYAZUDZ4CWUWLV7CEY Josh Pearson

      They may not be malicious criminals, but they deserve no empathy. Thousands of people every year leave their religion because of antiquated, misguided concepts such as this. The “indoctrination” argument is moot.

      They let their fear of death, or their fear of ostracization, kill their child. That doesn’t garner empathy. If Mrs. Hickman had been held against her will while trying to call 911, or take the child to the hospital, then yeah she’d deserve empathy. As far as I know she didn’t. She stood by and let her child die. As did the husband.

      Instead of choosing their child they chose their religion, and that is wholly wrong. It doesn’t matter if they were brainwashed or not, they could have made a different choice. They didn’t and deserve to be punished. They shouldn’t receive any empathy or sympathy, they did this themselves.

      • Makethemostoflife

        That is so cold, and depressing you get 9 likes for that.

        They do deserve some empathy.  I think you would benefit from understanding free will a little better.  You seem to me like a person who left the religion yourself, & therefore just scorn anyone else who doesn’t, as just incompetent and stupid.  Well guess what, given their genes, upbringing, luck etc, you would be make their decisions as well.  You are privileged through no choice of your own to be in the, free from dogma situation you are.  You make think it was your free will, but not.  Your thoughts and intentions make you, not the other way around.  I can only recommend reading what Sam Harris wrote about free will on his blog and in The Moral Landscape, to try and move you a away from this ‘because x managed to leave the religion, they y is not a victim’, and give you some compassion where it is due.

        The line “instead of choosing their child they chose their religion” completely betrays your understanding of what happened here.

        They specially did not do this.  They chose their child, the best way they knew how.  They tried to use religion to heal their child, not chose there religion instead of the child.  They would have believed at the time that God would cure there child.

        To say that they deserve no empathy at all, in some ways makes you a worse person then parents who killed there child.  They are guilty/victims of stupidity, and indoctrination.  I have no reason to believe they are ‘bad’ people.  You however are beginning to give me the indication that you are a cold-hearted bad person, offering not a drop empathy or sympathy at all to couple who lost their child….. Lost Their Child, behaving the best way they saw fit.

        • http://itsmyworldcanthasnotyours.blogspot.com/ Anonymous

          I’m sorry you feel that way. But the simple truth is, they sat and watched their child die, when help was just a phone call away. That is a cold, callous, and downright intentionally malicious act. They killed that baby just as surely as if they’d smothered it with a pillow.

          • Makethemostoflife

            I disagree for reasons I have already outlined.  That you call it:

            “A cold callous malicious act…..as surely as if they’d smothered it with a pillow.”

            You should be ashamed.

            • http://itsmyworldcanthasnotyours.blogspot.com/ Anonymous

              And again, THEY SAT THERE AND WATCHED THEIR CHILD DIE.

              They knew they could get medical help. It was only a phone call away, and still they CHOSE TO LET THE CHILD DIE.

              How is that not cold, callous, cruel, and inhumane?

              • Makethemostoflife

                Really….. Your shouting at me in caps now?

                I’m not impressed…..

                Some quotes from the news item:

                “….a great-great grandson of church founder Walter White — would never
                have received medical treatment, regardless of his condition. They said
                he was born into a family bound to the belief that life-and-death
                decisions were a test of faith. God, not doctors, would determine who
                survives and who succumbs — even when an illness is treatable by
                medicine or a minor medical procedure….”

                “It wasn’t God’s will for David to live,”

                “When he turned blue, gasped for breath and lost consciousness, the Hickmans prayed but did not attempt to get medical help. ”

                “Instead, Dale Hickman held his son and anointed him with oil.”

                “Shannon Hickman said even if she had wanted to call 9-1-1 she was
                powerless to act because her church calls for wives to submit to their
                husband’s decisions — to do otherwise is a sin. ”

                Are they guilty of causing this child’s death? Yes. 

                Should they be punished? Yes.

                Did they appear to take steps to save their child the best way they saw fit? Yes

                Is it a tragedy for the parent watching your newly born child die in your arms, while you are doing the best you have been taught to do? Yes

                Did the parents want/expect/deserve to give birth to a sick child? No

                Did the parents want their child to die? No

                Did the parents act in a cold callous cruel malicious way? No

                Was it inhumane? From my perspective yes, but as to the parents perspective at the time? No

                Is praying to a God you ‘know’ exists for your child to live & using oils to try and heal him equivilant to the act of “smothering your own child with a pillow”? No

                So you see, repeatedly shouting:

                “THEY SAT THERE AND WATCHED THEIR CHILD DIE.”

                Shows a very selective cold callous malicious interpretation of the events.

                • http://itsmyworldcanthasnotyours.blogspot.com/ Anonymous

                  Wow, you don’t get it at all. That baby’s life and well-being automatically trumps religious beliefs and idiots who “think they’re doing the right thing” or that “Gawd’s Will” is being done.

                  Medical care was available. They CHOSE — they made the conscious decision — to not call for help, and are therefore guilty of murder. They willfully caused the death of a baby.

                  They have. no. excuse.

                • Makethemostoflife

                  I get it just fine……

                  You have no idea what the definition of murder is.

                  Your position gets weaker each time you exaggerate like that, and to be honest its getting tiring replying to someone who writes like they are ranting.

                  And what is this choice you want to shout…. Again(!) that you think they have.  You talk about your view of doctors and medical professionals like it was exactly the parents view as well, but they just chose to ignore it.

                  This is a big error for your understanding the parents mind set.

                  In any case,

                  Some light reading for you:

                  http://www.samharris.org/blog/item/morality-without-free-will/

                  http://www.samharris.org/blog/item/free-will-why-you-still-dont-have-it/

                  http://www.samharris.org/blog/item/you-do-not-choose-what-you-choose/

                  All I can say is until I seriously digested the implications of this information I would probably have been as misguided as you about this ‘choice’ you honestly believe they had.

                  This taught me a lot about regarding the random hand I got dealt as a life as a massive gift, rather then just judging others as ‘idiots’ for their beliefs.

                  Yes they are guilty of causing the child’s death, but not with intent and they did make misguided attempts to save their child’s life.  It’s ultimately a sad story.

                • http://itsmyworldcanthasnotyours.blogspot.com/ Anonymous

                  You really need to go back and re-read what I wrote. You are either deliberately obtuse (and thus trolling), or genuinely stupid enough to believe that these “parents” “didn’t choose” their child’s death.

                  They are, legally and morally, to blame for their child’s preventable death. They caused their child to die. They deliberately sat back and did nothing while their baby suffocated.

                  Don’t start with me about “but they prayed and blah blah blah thought they were doing what was best.” That’s bullshit, and you know it. They knew damn well what they were doing, that prayer and magic oil wouldn’t save their baby. They knew they could easily obtain medical help. Any rational person in that same situation would call 911. The fact that they didn’t speaks volumes to their intent. They never intended to help that baby. They committed murder, pure and simple.

                • Makethemostoflife

                  Thanks for reading the 3 articles i posted?

                  As i said I’m tired of your ranting, inability to express yourself other then directly repeating yourself, shouting, and now insults at me & swearing.

                  Your anger and frustration has got the better your moral compass & ability to articulate any kind of clear argument.

                  Game Over.  My point has been made, & I have nothing more to add.

                • http://itsmyworldcanthasnotyours.blogspot.com/ Anonymous

                  Hold on, the column was getting too narrow.

                  Why are you rabidly defending these “parents”? What do you gain from it? How can anyone with a working conscience look at this situation and think the parents are remotely justified in their actions?

                  Any parent worthy of the title — hell, any functioning human being, and a large percentage of the non-functional — would have immediately called for assistance and gotten that baby to hospital for proper medical care. It’s common bleeding sense! Sick baby, go to doctor or hospital as appropriate for the level of illness. Kid can’t breathe, that’s serious business, get him to hospital.

                  Beyond that, as the parents, they are entirely responsible for that baby’s life. That, coupled with “oops, dead baby”, and the long history the Followers of Christ Cult has with (surprise) dead babies,  should be cause for investigation, and (if appropriate) criminal charges.

                  All I’ve said, all along, is that it is simply not okay to let a child die just so you can uphold some religious ideal.

                  Why are you so hostile?

        • Anonymous

          Nope. No empathy for them. Protecting one’s offspring seems to be hard-wired into most people, so I think they made a deliberate choice to go against what should be instinctual. I hope they are sentenced sufficiently to provide a deterrent to others who choose to sacrifice their children.

    • Greisha

      I do not think they going through much.  If you read about such cults and religions in general you find how well they can rationalize their action.  They most likely explained it to themselves that god took their child to be with him in paradise.

      I have a lot of empathy for the child, but for the parents?…

  • Tinker_tak

    I can’t imagine what these people must be going through. How terrible to do what you truly believed to be the right thing, then your child dies, then you get put on trial, called names and sent to jail. These people lost their baby and have to live with the knowledge that they could have saved it. Yes, I am disgusted by the use of faith as a cop out for stupidity but does no one have any empathy at all for these two? They seem like victims of a brainwashing cult more than malicious criminals.

  • Bringthetruth

    Wow !  I think the biggest judges are you people blogging on this blog right now . Who died and gave you the throne to judge others ?? You didn’t know their situation and you didn’t live with them . I’m not gonna sit here and justify what they did was right at all because what they did was not a good decision for them not to take that baby in to get medical attention  But what i am trying to say is Stop judging so harshly . If you read the article it says the Mother wasn’t able to call 911 cuz the “dodo birds” who teach at their church taught them that they are suppose to submit to their husbands and if they don’t it’s a sin  . Well I’m a christian and that’s false ! Yes we are to submit but not in a way that causes danger ! These are misguided people by a bunch of people who are running a “So called church” who are not interpreting the bible right and i get so upset because people like this do make other christians look like wackys . Well guess what ,, I am a christian and I do believe in prayer and MEDICAL  ATTENTION and it’s not a SIN to get HELP in any situation ! I don’t know what and who these people are getting advice from but it’s time they all find a different church !!  P.S  another question to you all ” Since you have a finger for judgment for CHRISTANS , I wonder if you feel the same way for all those other babies who are being ABORTED everyday by unbelievers (people who don’t believe in GOD ) Who never had a chance to take thier first breath  and get chopped up or desolved in their mothers womb ?? 

    • http://www.facebook.com/DocMonkey Mick Wright

      I love the No True Scotsman fallacy there. It’s so obliviously paraded, completely unaware of how ridiculous it looks. Also, if you’re a Christian and that’s false? Tell them, not us. We aren’t the ones who would let scripture get in the way of saving a living, breathing human being.

      And yes, we do have the right to judge them. We’ve got to share a planet with them. For the same reasons, everyone has the right to judge everyone else. Whether people are listened to is a different matter, thankfully. I will say this, though: in my country, there are still buildings with spikes along the top of the walls where Christians would display the heads of those they judged harshly. Whatever you try to accuse atheists of, we’d never do that. Unlike those who let Bronze Age scriptures tell them what to do, we have no reason to.

    • Makethemostoflife

      Sigh,

      Another Christian, shouting in CAPS LOCK and uses the hilarious line “….everyday by unbelievers (people who don’t believe in GOD )….”

      Nice intellectual benchmark you set there.

      Guess what chief, you do not get to judge other peoples sincerely held beliefs, when you yourself claim to be a man of faith.  This couple are no more misguided then you are in your unfounded beliefs.  But telling as always of utter delusions of grandeur, is the fact that you insist, in fact are certain, what it is to be a real Christian, while all others have failed.

      Your sinserity in your delusion is no less then the couple in this case, so take a moment before you start with “Well I’m a Christian and that’s false”

      Its exactly that kind of conviction that lead to this outcome of a baby dying.

      To answer your last question, yes i along with many other pious Christians agree with abortion, and there is a good chance you would support it as well, were you not suffering from indoctrination

    • The Captain

      A couple of quick points here.

      First, off “judgment” is an internal thought process which end up with a determination within the mind of the person making it on the value, worthiness, competence, ect of others. No one has to cease exsistance and will over a ceremonial chair for anyone to do it.

      You refer to them as “misguided”, well do you also use the same standards when looking at other religions? Say, where the 911 high jackers “misguided”, and where the Imams that taught them “dodo birds” to you, or are you a hypocrite?

      Also, no “baby” is ever aborted. Learn what words mean. A “baby” is something that live outside the womb, a fetus is what you should have referred to. I somehow doubt you call acorns trees, so please try to be consistent. 

      Oh and finally, unless you have an empirical formula to measure the amount of criticism that forms “harshness” then you just “judged” everyone on this board. But you wouldn’t be so hypocritical as to judge others for judging now would you?

    • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_2C6XFSMIUYAZUDZ4CWUWLV7CEY Josh Pearson

      There are over 20,000 different sects/interpretations of the Bible. Who are you to assume your interpretation of the Bible is more accurate? What translation do you use? Have you read the original Bible, the one that had yet to be modified by the Church Fathers 1,700 years ago? So again, how do you know your translation is the correct one?

      You say you believe in prayer and how is that different from these people? There faith was so resolute that they believed their god would heal their child. Isn’t that how original Christians, without real medicine (based on evolution), would have dealt with things? You call them “dodo birds” but you believe in magic too. Prayer has been proven to do nothing. Meditation is more affective than prayer.

      Also in the United States the majority of abortions performed every year are done on people that are religious. “Women
      identifying themselves as Protestants obtain 37.4% of all abortions in
      the U.S.; Catholic women account for 31.3%, Jewish women account for
      1.3%, and women with no religious affiliation obtain 23.7% of all
      abortions. 18% of all abortions are performed on women who identify
      themselves as “Born-again/Evangelical”.” – http://www.abortionno.org/Resources/fastfacts.html

      That means of the roughly 2 million abortion performed in the U.S. annually, only 474,000 are performed on the non-religious. That means, on average, 1, 500,000 abortions are performed on Christians every year (Jewish women account for 26,000 a year). So this, ” I wonder if you feel the same way for all those other babies who are
      being ABORTED everyday by unbelievers (people who don’t believe in GOD” is a total piffle.

      Oh and the majority of divorces in the United States are between religious couples, atheists are less likely to do so. 

      • Pureone

        Don’t forget that somewhere between 20 and 50 percent of conceptions spontaneously abort (regardless of faith).  That would be Gods hand, No?

        • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_2C6XFSMIUYAZUDZ4CWUWLV7CEY Josh Pearson

          I had forgotten about that. Thanks for the additional point!

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=553145445 Gordon Duffy

      They sacrificed their child to their god, what right do you have to tell them they are “misguided” or “so called” christians? Jesus explicitly promised that magical healing would be forthcoming in his big book of fables. They have the right, biblically, to call you a “so called” christian for supplementing prayer with medical attention.

      I have every right to say that their sacrifice is disgusting. That the bible promises are empty and false. That they deserve as stern a sentence as legally possible.

  • http://twitter.com/jennywags7 Jennifer Wagner

    Why is the preacher of this church not being prosecuted for brainwashing people? They are the ones taking vulnerable people and spouting lies at them and they got off scot-free? It’s ultimately up to everyone to make their own decision (so I’m not saying that the parents shouldn’t be prosecuted), but isn’t the church also at least somewhat to blame for telling people to do something that is illegal? 
    I wonder if these people still believe in god.

    • Gus Snarp

      This is the real question. As long as the pastor of that church keeps brainwashing his cult into not seeking adequate medical care for their children, children will keep dying. But how do you prosecute him (I assume it’s a him, since he preaches that “wives are to submit to their husband’s decisions”)? Freedom of speech and religion gives pretty wide latitude for people like this. Assuming he’s smart enough that he can show that he hasn’t expressly called for his followers to never seek medical help, or that he’s allowed for some exceptions, it becomes very hard to prosecute. Even if we assume he’s on record against any medical care, what law applies? Still, we just performed an extra-judicial assassination of an American citizen for telling his religious followers to kill people, so maybe we can set this clown up for a Predator drone strike too?

      • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_2C6XFSMIUYAZUDZ4CWUWLV7CEY Josh Pearson

        Simple reality: Just because someone says you are supposed to do something it doesn’t mean you have to.

        The Pastor is not culpable here since these people have the ability to think for themselves and they chose not to for an eternal reward. Yeah indoctrination is tough to get over, but if watching your child die isn’t enough to break that spell then they are guilty and should be adequately punished.

        The Pastor may be a misogynist and bigot, but people can leave if they want. They are just too afraid to do so, and well that’s their problem.

        • Gus Snarp

          So was Anwar Al Alwaki culpable for the Fort Hood shootings, or for any crime for that matter? Or was he murdered in cold blood? All he did, after all, is tell his religious followers they would go to heaven and get to party with virgins if they killed non-believers, and we dropped  a missile on him for it. I agree with the prosecution of the parents for the crime they clearly committed, but directly ordering your religious followers to commit crimes is a crime as well, I’m just not sure how easily it applies to this particular case, not being a lawyer. But this is apparently all moot, since there is apparently no pastor. Which is awfully convenient for them.

          • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_2C6XFSMIUYAZUDZ4CWUWLV7CEY Josh Pearson

            No, Anwar Al Alwaki isn’t culpable for a crime unless he ordered it. Making a direct declaration of “kill X person” is a crime. Again, people don’t have to listen to them they choose to. Yes they are blinded by indoctrination and lies, but if they accept it that’s on them. If he said, “If you martyr yourself you get gifts in heaven” he wouldn’t be culpable. Though if he said, “You are to kill X for me by killing yourself”, then he is culpable.
             
            Somebody can “order” you to do something until they are blue in the face, but that doesn’t mean you have to follow it. Unless there was a direct threat of physical violence, they had a choice and they chose wrong.

            The Pastor (or leader, or council, whatever they have) read an interpretation of the Bible, made a declaration off that, and they CHOSE to listen. They CHOSE to obey that. They weren’t forced. Fear of excommunication isn’t a defense against letting your child die.

            That is why the Pastor isn’t culpable here, in this instance.

            • Tom

              Does eternal damnation for non-compliance count as a threat of violence?  Hell may be supposed to be incorporeal, but it’s always described in terms of physical pain.

              It’s also worth noting that though the law in most nations seems sorely lacking in its ability to regulate certain kinds of fraudulent, unqualified or scientifically invalid medical advice (and it’s really, really high time something is done about that – though most places have “unlicensed practice of medicine” laws, there are all kinds of loopholes for woo, the chief one seeming to be that you can get away with a lot as long as you don’t pretend to actually diagnose anyone), it does have significant power to punish false claims of efficacy of medicinal substances.  Does “Anointing your kids with holy oil is just as good as taking them to the doctor” count?

    • Gus Snarp

      I went looking around the web to see who the leader of this movement was and what he has said on the subject. It seems the last official leader, Walter White, who founded the Oregon branch of the church, died in 1969, and there has been no leader since. Also, they apparently don’t have any written doctrines, everything is handed down orally within church families. I’ve never heard of a cult like this existing for forty years without a leader and all this seems really convenient if you don’t want to be prosecuted for the deaths of your followers’ children, so I expect somebody is in charge, possibly one Fred Smith, the president of the church. Meanwhile, the child who recently died was the great-great-grandchild of Walter White and the church does not admit anyone other than children of members and shuns anyone who questions any church doctrine, so they sound like a pretty typical cult aside from that supposedly leaderless business. This is all from Wikipedia and the Oregonian.

  • Makethemostoflife

    In my opinion, there is far more evil comments on this thread then the intentions of the parents in this case.

    If the report is true….. Picture how it went down.

    You consider the supposedly good pious couple looking forward for 9 months to having a baby.  All the investment, that goes into that.  Then one of the most important days of your life is suddenly upon you, your child is born early and sick.  They then undertook the best course of action they could think to do to help their child.

    There is no evil or malice in their actions.  They only followed a practice that they were indoctrinated to do.

    To me this is a sad story, that what was supposed to be one of the happiest day of their lives has not only resulted in the loss of their child but also up to 6 years in prison, for people with good intent, who’s crime is being the victim of indoctrination.

    For goodness sake put the pastor or the religious institution on trial instead,  and send a proper clear message.

    • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_2C6XFSMIUYAZUDZ4CWUWLV7CEY Josh Pearson

      Except that it isn’t the Pastor who is making these claims, or inciting
      illegal activity, the Bible is. You can’t prosecute a book.

      The only way to stop this is to a) keep sending bad parents like this to jail and b) better educate our populace.

      There
      is no point in vilifying the Pastor of this church, he’s just doing
      what his religion tells him to do. Is he truly culpable? No. Is he a
      jackass and an idiot? yes.

      The reality is though that all of
      those church’s parishioners are not forced to attend and are not forced
      to comply (not physically anyway). They may be deciding based on fear
      (not being excommunicated, violence) and indoctrination, but they could
      always leave if they wanted to.

      “Shannon Hickman said even if she had wanted to call 9-1-1
      she was powerless to act because her church calls for wives to submit to

      their husband’s decisions — to do otherwise is a sin.” – This is a
      cop-out of major proportions. This just shows that Mrs. Hickman cared
      more about her religion and it’s rules than the value of her child’s
      life. She could have called 911, she could have taken the baby and went
      to the hospital, instead she let inane fear prevent her from doing the
      correct thing. The only people to blame here are the parents. They are
      the ones that let this happen, they chose to let this happen. Even if
      that choice was the result of manipulation, they had a choice. How many
      of you were raised in a religion only to leave because something like
      this made you realize it was piffle? Many atheists and agnostics come
      from religion, they didn’t let the bullshit interfere with reality.
      These parents did. And the did so for a eternal reward. That should be
      punished. The Pastor was just gasoline, the parents are the ones that
      lit the fire.

      • Makethemostoflife

        Interesting counter view, but i don’t agree at all.

        How can you absolve the pastor with “he is just doing what his religion tells him too.  How about in the case

        http://www.patheos.com/blogs/friendlyatheist/2011/09/28/after-a-complaint-one-christian-pastors-illegal-healing-methods-come-to-light/

        Is the pastor also absolved in this case?

        Did these girls just light there own fire?

        You can’t blame the bible.  It is a book, that is filled with hate and violence.  If you choose to preach those aspects, or in this case faith healing, then you are culpable, in a similar way a con artist would be.

        Sure the parents have to take some blame, but more should fall for the indoctrinators.

        All this though is a little bit irrelevant if, as Gus Sharp says there is no pastor in this particular Church.  I’m sure though there must be some sort of hierarchy that exists.

        • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_2C6XFSMIUYAZUDZ4CWUWLV7CEY Josh Pearson

          There is a huge difference between a pastor molesting underage girls and a pastor saying what is already in the Bible. That was a sex-crime, this was the result of two people making a bad decision out of fear, ignorance, or idiocy.

          If, however, the Pastor (or person in charge) coerced, or extorted them to not seek help, then they would be culpable. Or if they used physical violence in any way.

          How it stands though parents had the choice to do something. The only “threat” against them was probably excommunication, which is nothing but fancy words saying “your not allowed in our club anymore”. Big. Friggin’. Deal.

          The Bible explicitly supports (through interpretation) not seeking medical care, that women are subordinate, and the with “god” all things are possible. It doesn’t say to molest under-age girls.

          I’m not excusing the Bible, which is one the vilest things ever written, but the religion supports these antiquated ideas. Is it right? Absolutely not. Free-speech though allows for the Pastor to say these things. And until he/she forces people to break the law they’re not culpable.

          It was on the parents to do the right thing, and they didn’t. Do you still believe in Santa Claus just because an authority (your parents) told you he existed when you were a child? I doubt it. You saw through the bull and dismissed it.

          This is the same thing. The Pastor could have said, non-prayer based medicine is wrong and an affront to god and that you shouldn’t use it ’cause it’ll make god angry. Then the parents could have said, well that sounds stupid, we should take our child to the hospital. But they didn’t. They let their child die because they chose to believe a single person over what was happening on front of them.

          Is the Pastor guilty of being an idiot? Of course. Are they guilty in the death of this child? Not at all. Only the parents are because they chose to do this. They weren’t forced by anything other than words they choose to believe. 

          Getting kicked out of a club because you choose not follow the clubs rules is not a big deal, letting your child die so you can stay in a club is a big deal. They didn’t have to listen to the Pastor.

          • Makethemostoflife

            Ok take the underage thing out of the equation, that looks likely but not confirmed.

            How about for the other ladies.  Is it ok for a pastor to exploit gullible young woman (of legal age) into sex acts?

            They gave their consent freely at the time

            Has a crime been committed by the pastor?

            • http://itsmyworldcanthasnotyours.blogspot.com/ Anonymous

              Coercion makes it rape, and therefore a crime.

              • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_2C6XFSMIUYAZUDZ4CWUWLV7CEY Josh Pearson

                wmdkitty is correct.

                If that Pastor had only said, “The Bible says rape is ok.” and then a parishioner rapes someone, he wouldn’t be liable; not in criminal court anyway.

                But he manipulated someone into having sex with him. It’s the exact same as if, say, one twin slept with the siblings partner pretending to be the sibling; that’s rape.

                Saying to someone, “God commands you to touch me.” Is coercion by authority, and that is rape. Especially if the person is a believer because they that belief to trick them into something they wouldn’t normally do.

                 If police do this it’s called entrapment, otherwise it’s known as extortion.

                • http://itsmyworldcanthasnotyours.blogspot.com/ Anonymous

                  This is something I found out The Hard Way, After The Fact.

                  So… ummm…. yeah, ladies, if you’re with a guy, and he’s pressuring you to do something you’re uncomfortable with, your best bet is to LEAVE. He’ll force the issue eventually. And I do mean FORCE.

                • Makethemostoflife

                  Your just playing games with words to try and make your point, when it is not that simple.

                  Coercion is defined as forcing someone to behave in an involuntary manner.  The woman at the time game themselves voluntarily.  If they then change their mind afterwards and then by your simplistic definition, are victims of being coerced of rape by authority, I don’t see how that is morally different to the case we have here.   I would say the woman in this case who did not make the phone call is no less a victim of coercion in fact maybe even more so.  It says in the article “even if she had wanted to call 9-1-1 she was powerless to
                  act because her church calls for wives to submit to their husband’s
                  decisions””Coercion (pronounced /koʊˈɜrʃən/) is the practice of forcing another party to behave in an involuntary manner (whether through action or inaction) by use of threats, rewards, or intimidation or some other form of pressure or force.”

                  Is she not therefore more of a victim on coercion? She was possibly acting specifically involuntary and I don’t see how it is that different.

                  But law aside, & whatever the bible says aside.  Whatever way you want to try and split hair over the  difference, I don’t agree in moral terms.  Even if the law did agree with you, then I don’t agree with the law.  I think mystics and psychics also should be held liable for their predictions, that lead others to take life wrecking decisions.

                  To me the parents need some kind of punishment/therapy, but apart from the supposed value in sending a message to others of a long prison sentence, I think they are also victims and should be treated as such.  Their crime is carrying out what they had been indoctrinated to believe was the best thing that they could do for their child.

                  The best message would be to go for where the buck stops in these cases.  It is more accurate in moral terms, and would send much clearer message about cleaning up the racket that is religion.

    • Gus Snarp

      Apparently the Followers of Christ have no pastor and all teachings are handed down within families.

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=553145445 Gordon Duffy

      Did they pray rather than take their child to the doctor? That’s all I need to know.

  • SJH

    I don’t believe that punishment will keep them from doing things like this. Unfortunately the misunderstanding of reality is so severe yet their belief so strong that it leads them to do something like this. If their beliefs are so strong then it is unlikely that government action will fulfill its purpose. Criminal action should be taken but it will not solve the problem. It takes a cultural reversal to convince people that they have to be more rational. Faith and reason do not have to be at odds.

    • Anonymous

      It won’t cause them to change their core beliefs. But I think when these cultists realize that there are be consequences to their behavior, they will be more open to getting their children medical care. At least in extreme situations. It won’t be for the right reasons, but if it gets another couple to think twice before doing the same then some good will come from it

      • SJH

        Yes, it would potentially save the lives of a few that choose to put their beliefs aside for the fear of going to jail but I wonder if the prison term would have to be overly severe to match the severity of their belief. imprisonment is necessary but it is a very small part of the solution.

      • NickDB

        I think we’d struggle to make real consequences worse than what they fear. To them it’s go to jail or spend the rest of eternity in hell.

        Nothing we can do as civilised humans can out do an eternity of torment and pain that they think hell is. That is the biggest problem with religion, they’ve upped the ante so much that intelligence and logic can’t compete.

    • ACN

      As long as faith gets to claim things like “the evidence of things unseen” they are somewhat intrinsically at odds.

  • Nena

    I agree that the pastor should be tried and convicted. He is closer to being the root of the crime.

    The parents still believe that they did the right thing. They are obviously indoctrinated beyond the point of having the ability to think rationally, or else they would have taken their baby for treatment. Their imprisonment is going to be worthless.

    Put the pastor away, and throw away the key.

    • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_2C6XFSMIUYAZUDZ4CWUWLV7CEY Josh Pearson

      Except that it isn’t the Pastor who is making these claims, or inciting illegal activity, the Bible is. You can’t prosecute a book.

      The only way to stop this is to a) keep sending bad parents like this to jail and b) better educate our populace.

      There is no point in vilifying the Pastor of this church, he’s just doing what his religion tells him to do. Is he truly culpable? No. Is he a jackass and an idiot? yes.

      The reality is though that all of those church’s parishioners are not forced to attend and are not forced to comply (not physically anyway). They may be deciding based on fear (not being excommunicated, violence) and indoctrination, but they could always leave if they wanted to.

      “Shannon Hickman said even if she had wanted to call 9-1-1
      she was powerless to act because her church calls for wives to submit to
      their husband’s decisions — to do otherwise is a sin.” – This is a cop-out of major proportions. This just shows that Mrs. Hickman cared more about her religion and it’s rules than the value of her child’s life. She could have called 911, she could have taken the baby and went to the hospital, instead she let inane fear prevent her from doing the correct thing. The only people to blame here are the parents. They are the ones that let this happen, they chose to let this happen. Even if that choice was the result of manipulation, they had a choice. How many of you were raised in a religion only to leave because something like this made you realize it was piffle? Many atheists and agnostics come from religion, they didn’t let the bullshit interfere with reality. These parents did. And the did so for a eternal reward. That should be punished. The Pastor was just gasoline, the parents are the ones that lit the fire.

      • SeniorSkeptik

        Paraphrasing here—–good people will do good things, bad people will do bad things but for good people to do evil things requires religion…

        • Nordog

          So, athiests that do evil things are not good people, but Christians that do evil things can be good people?

          • JenL

            For a person to do evil requires one of 2 things: either 1) the person is a bad person, or 2) the person is a good person who thinks this evil thing is the *good and right* thing to do. Generally, it takes religion to convince an otherwise loving parent that allowing your child to gasp, wheeze, and suffocate (without seeking the medical help that might save the child) is the right and proper thing to do.

            Religion isn’t the only way to convince a good person to do something evil – militaries have a long history of training good people to kill “the enemy” by convincing the soldiers that “the enemy” is “less than” human or for whatever reason deserves to die. But religion certainly does pop up quite often when you look at the reasons why someone “good” did something horrible.

      • Tom

        About that book thing:
        You can’t prosecute a book.
        In most free countries, you can’t prosecute someone for owning a book under most circumstances (there are exceptions: illegal forms of pornography, for example)
        In most free countries, freedom of speech means you can’t even be prosecuted for sincerely sharing the views espoused in a book and reasserting them to others.
        However, I think I am right in saying (please correct me if wrong) that even if you legally reassert a view to someone else, possibly even write that view in a book someone else then reads, if they then commit an offence that that view condoned or described, you *can* be had up before the law in some places on charges of things like incitement or conspiracy.

        Under those circumstances, the pastor could be liable.

        • Nordog

          Maybe this is an oversimplification, but if the pastor told (preached) the parents to avoid medical care, then it seems to me that he’s culpable as well.

          FTR, many Christians have a tradition (some an upper case “T” Tradition) that grace builds upon nature, and it’s the nature of the situation that you call a doctor for your child.

          • cIm52209

            I disagree. It does not matter what he told them to do. They made the choice. From what I have seen the Bible.. God… Gives “us” free will.. They made the choices they need to live with them. No one is responsible for any thing an adult chooses to do ever except the person who made the choice. It is against the law for some one to with hold medical care form any one else child or otherwise.. In the instance of a handicaped i.e. mentally retarded the direct person in charge or POA is in charge… I really despise when ppl start trying to point the finger at any one they can to take the blame off of the one it needs to be on..  @Nordog, this is not directed at you. I just felt like this is where I needed to reply.

    • cIm52209

      So you are saying that the Parents, who are adults.. Are not responsible, The Pastor is? Because they thought they were making the right choice..?… Maybe the Pastor thought he was actually teaching what he was supposed to be teaching.. The parents are responsible. That is the same as guilty by assiciation and it is crap.

      • NorDog

        I think it works like this:

        A person incites two other people to commit a criminal act, say murder.

        The two people are guilty of the criminal act of murder.

        The original person is guilty of inciting the criminal act of murder, and the inciting is itself a criminal act.

        I could be wrong, after all, I’m not a lawyer, but I think that is basically how it works in the US court system.

  • MadSeamstress2000

    one more frivolous point, but still somewhat logical…If these folks are not supposed to tamper with their bodies, and god will heal all–why does that woman dye her hair?! If she prays correctly for a different color hair, will not god take care of that too?

    • Anonymous

      Reportedly they visited the dentist. She also wore glasses to her first court appearances. Then someone pointed out the hypocrisy and she took them off

  • phhht

    The parents were taught that their gods heal miraculously with prayer and laying on of hands.

    They knew  their own damned son was dying. Know what they did?  They rubbed olive oil on him.

    I say that those who teach that deadly superstition of faith healing, those who do not repudiate it immediately and repeatedly, those who do not insist on rational, non-supernatural medicine and ONLY that, must bear some responsibility for the death of that child.

    If I believed in just gods and eternal damnation, I’d be backpedaling on the issue as fast as I could.

  • http://www.facebook.com/d3st88 Morva Ádám

    It’s high time someone dropped a fucking nuke on that church. I can’t believe how disgusting the American people are for letting this thing continue. You ALL should be ashamed.

  • http://www.facebook.com/d3st88 Morva Ádám

    It’s high time someone dropped a fucking nuke on that church. I can’t believe how disgusting the American people are for letting this thing continue. You ALL should be ashamed.

    • lapushka

      What are we supposed to do, bomb every church in the world?  They ALL allow disgusting things to happen.

  • Sailor

    If I understand the quote correctly there was a 99 percent chance of recovery if the premature baby had been taken straight to hospital on delivery. Given that did not happen (and there was NO legal requirement for it). There was only a 45 minutes time window. Even if they had responded sooner the outcome might have been the same. There is a very  short time frame here. Maybe they were also scared of being driven into bankruptcy by big hospital bills. They made the wrong call, but I think there could have been pressure here, which has a little more of my sympathy than most of these cases.
    In this case they were driven by an evil religion, but I imagine the same could happen to someone else.

  • Andy

    “Another guilty verdict, though, if that’s any consolation to anyone.”
    Unfortunately, for me, Guilty verdicts have no actual value other than preventing further occurrences. Given that we’ve seen this result after previous deaths (e.g http://www.patheos.com/blogs/friendlyatheist/2009/08/29/another-faith-healing-death/) I can only hope that the change away from sacrifice to actually helping in the real world occurs soon, otherwise I’ll expect to see someone else quoting this post in a couple of years time,

    with the pain that entails

    I hope I am wrong.

  • Cathyvdw

    To bloody right… Life is precious – if God didn’t want use to be healed we woldn’t have Doctors!!


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