Report: Parents of Injured Baby Choose Emergency Baptism Over Hospital Visit, With Fatal Consequences

If your two-month-old infant is hurt in a traffic accident, do you take him to the nearest hospital — or to a church?

To one religious couple, the answer was obvious:

A couple in Russia face jail after their religious zeal compelled them to drive their child, injured in a car crash, to church for an urgent baptism rather than to hospital. … The boy sustained a brain injury in a minor crash in St. Petersburg on Saturday despite being in a child safety seat.

The baby died.

A report by a leading Russian news agency, RIA Novosti, which cites the website Fontanka, says that

The worried parents sped him up to the church because otherwise he would be denied the Kingdom of Heaven.

Church authorities were quick to distance themselves from the fatal parental decision. According to the press agency UPI, a spokesman for the St. Petersburg Orthodox Church said

“This is superstition, not religion. They should have gone to the hospital.”

In a display of candor rarely rivaled by American law enforcement, a Russian investigator working on the case added

“A psychiatric ward is the best temple for such people.”

Аминь, comrade.

(Image via Shutterstock)

About Terry Firma

Terry Firma, though born and Journalism-school-educated in Europe, has lived in the U.S. for the past 20-odd years. Stateside, his feature articles have been published in the New York Times, Reason, Rolling Stone, Playboy, and Wired. Terry is the founder and Main Mischief Maker of Moral Compass, a site that pokes fun at the delusional claim by people of faith that a belief in God equips them with superior moral standards.

  • Raising_Rlyeh

    “This is superstition, not religion. They should have gone to the hospital.”

    So, is he admitting that baptism does not actually do what they claim it does and the rest of the beliefs connected are bullshit? Because I am having trouble distinguishing the difference between superstition and religion.

  • paulalovescats

    At least he’s in heaven with Jesus!!

  • Richard Wade

    Someone please explain to me the difference between magic water and magic boars’ teeth, or magic raven feathers, or magic powered bat bones, or magic crystals, or magic incantations written on paper, or magic…

  • CultOfReason

    “This is superstition, not religion…”

    What’s the difference?

  • onamission5

    Do they not have priests or chaplains who can perform baptisms at hospitals in Russia? Bring the baby to the hospital and call a priest from there, FFS.

  • LizzyJessie

    Religion is usually an organized affair.

  • The Starship Maxima

    One is a faith that is treated as such. The other is treating faith as subjective scientific fact.

    99.9987% of religious parents know the difference.

    Unfucking believable.

  • LizzyJessie

    Magic water: Good for blessing and keeping evil spirits away. Also good for erections.

    Magic boar’s teeth: Good for keeping evil spirits away, brings good luck. Also good for erections.

    Magic raven feathers: Good for blessing, connects the shaman to the Great Spirit. Also good for erections.

    Magic powdered bat bones: Good for erections.

    Magic Crystals: Helps watches keep correct time, good for meditation and focusing energy. Also good for erections.

    Magic Incantations: Focuses the caster’s wish to make it come true. Also good for erections.

  • 3lemenope

    Those other things don’t have shit in them.

    (No, but seriously, holy water fonts generally have a really big problem with fecal contamination.)

  • cyb pauli

    Why are gullible superstitious men so impotent, that is the medical mystery.

  • Glasofruix

    The orthodox church is a bit different from your usual christian breed. They believe that baptism gets you closer to god, but they don’t believe that holy water would heal a broken leg or a head injury, they pray for healing but they’d rather call an ambulance to “guide the hand of god” etc… Orthodox priests are rarely idiots (in Russia, some of them are former kgb agents, i’m not kidding).

  • Glasofruix

    You have to call them, they don’t roam the corridors looking for prey. Oh, it seems that there are actually priests on the clock for such calls.

  • Liz Heywood

    I understand this took place in Russia, but FYI: In more than 30 US states it is legal for a parent to choose prayer over medical treatment for their child. Got that?

    It’s called a RELIGIOUS AFFIRMATIVE DEFENSE tacked on to the end of state laws that define all kinds of child abuse, endangerment & neglect (even fatal). This means if your child dies while you pray, in many states if you can prove you are a member of a faith-healing church, you cannot be prosecuted.

    We need to eliminate these US laws state-by-state. Find out what your state laws are at Talk to your friends. Educate yourself & others.

    Legal religion-based medical neglect cost me my left leg starting when I was thirteen years old. Right now kids are dying in Idaho. One state rep says she isn’t willing to “take away someone’s eternity…”
    Please check out these laws and start the discussion to end the defense.

  • Glasofruix

    According to the original article, they’ve never told the priest the baby was injured, when he saw that the baby wasn’t reacting he checked his hearbeat and immediately called an ambulance.
    Something i didn’t know about orhtodox doctrine, apparently it’s written somewhere “Treat the wound first, pray later”.

  • LesterBallard

    Russia is becoming a theocracy. A theocracy with a shitload of nukes.

  • doninkansas

    and not just priests, the current Patriarch was one as well. and still may be for all we know, they just don’t call it the KGB any longer. not to mention he and Putin are best buds.

  • MariaO

    In Sweden recently a small boy was hit by a car. Despite a lot of advice to the contrary the mother refused to take the child to the hospital until after one week of constant crying. One of the legs was broken. Luckily nothing worse was wrong. The mother will now be charged with assault. No gods involved appearently. Mother says: “I have learned to listen to myself and ignore what everybody else says.” Stupidity comes in many forms… and there is such a thing as being overly sceptical of advice.

  • Ciro Galli

    Religion IS superstition.

  • Ciro Galli

    Religion poisons everything.

  • cyb pauli

    …sounds familiar. :(

  • Gehennah

    I am glad to see that the church even agrees that the baby should have been taken to the hospital. But it shows how much damage that indoctrination can do to one’s psyche with the absolute and irrational fear of hell.

  • wmdkitty

    It… but… they… who the fuck denies their cub medical treatment?!

  • Gehennah

    Thanks for that, I’m from Tennessee and I didn’t realize we had exemptions for both civil codes and the ability to use religion as a defense against felony charges.

    That’s just demented.

  • Gehennah

    Some priests actually have common sense.

  • Glasofruix

    If you can’t stand on your leg after a few hours it’s a bad sign, furthermore, a broken leg swells and changes color, was she also blind in addition to being stupid?

  • The Other Weirdo

    The one good thing Communism ever did for Russia was to eliminate religoius influence on people’s lives, and now they are rushing to it head over heels. I’d feel sad if I were actually from Russia.

  • Goape

    Even the church’s spokesperson thinks trying to get your children into heaven is just silly superstition. It’s sad that despite the undeniable stupidity of these beliefs so many people still cling to them—even when it kills their fucking children.

  • Goape

    It’s a shame what happened to you. Thanks for the post.

  • C Peterson

    All are of absolutely equal value and utility.

  • C Peterson

    Those other things don’t have shit in them.

    I don’t know. I’d probably be careful where I put my hands after handling raven feathers or powdered bat bones. But at least those probably don’t have human shit in them.

  • Noelle

    The hospital may not have been able to save him either, but they’ll never know. Hospitals do employ chaplains and will do baptisms and what not. There’s no need to choose

  • Jeff

    I see a pattern here….

  • axelbeingcivil

    The current Patriarch, Kirill I of Moscow, was a KGB candidate at one point. It’s unknown if he was ever a member. What is known, however, is that he’s praised Putin as a miracle of God and declared his opponents threats to the Russian people. Suffice to say, the man knows where his bread is buttered.

  • axelbeingcivil

    I don’t know, it also got them socialized medicine, which did pretty well until their economy went kaput.

  • Terry Firma

    Hi Liz:

    Would you drop me a line a terryxfirma@gmail DOT com? I’d love to talk to for an article. Thanks!


  • Nankay

    If they would have had Sister Consolata for their 5th grade teacher like I did, they would have been taught how to baptize ANYONE in case of an emergency.

  • ICan’tEven

    If your god won’t allow a two month old baby into heaven without a special ceremony you need a better god.

  • Anna

    You know, maybe one that doesn’t say newborns are stained with some kind of inherent evil. I’ll never understand how religious people can look at a baby and see sickness instead of innocence.

  • Liz Heywood

    Will do! Thanks.

  • SayNoToEternity

    “…superstition, not religion.” This is from the Redundancy Department of Redundancy! 3:)

  • Max Freeman

    Good people do good things, and bad people do bad things. To have good people do bad things, that takes religion. Lock these religious freaks up and let them starve to death.

  • Barry Gates

    Looking forward to reading that article. Please keep me posted. @bgates 》twitter

  • Shazam

    When will God believers stop and use Logic for one second? No wonder we are and do go against their every step as they show us their delusional and brainwashed thoughts that place us all in harms way or at bare minimum set us backwards as a species! This by the way is not the first time that when they think their Imaginary Sky Daddy tells them to or they think they would find favor from their Brainwashed beliefs set out intentionally to do things that are wrong and the affects always harms us all or puts all of our standards and intellectual capacities of moving forward as a race on standby. As far as im Concerned i cant wait until the day comes when no Faith beliefs such as God exist! Period!

  • quasibaka


  • Guest

    Memory IS Ram

  • DavidMHart

    Sorry to nitpick, but we should be wary of using this ‘it takes religion’ phrase. In reality, to make well-intentioned people to bad things, it just takes believing something that isn’t true. There have been many well-intentioned supporters of harmful political ideologies that were not religious (in the sense of not being based on the supernatural, or anything to do with any gods) but were nonetheless based on factual claims that were untrue.

    For instance, the supporters of slavery and apartheid, for instance, drew support from the claim that there are overwhelming cognitive differences between racial groups that make it impossible for them to coexist on an equal footing; the supporters of votes for males only appear to have genuinely believed that women were less capable than men of comprehending politics or adequately recognising their own interests, and in our own time the devastation caused by the War on Drugs is underpinned by a massive miscalculation of the relative dangers of currently legal drugs and currently illegal ones (and also a massively skewed weighting of the harms resulting from drug use per se relative to the harms that only arise because of the illegal status of a drug).

    All of these are non-religious beliefs that are not based in fact, and which have caused well-intentioned people to support deeply destructive policies (though of course, they have sometimes been encouraged to do so by cynics who knowingly benefitted from injustice, who were aware of the untruth of the claims but promulgated them anyway). We are better to go with Voltaire’s “whoever can make you believe absurdities can make you commit atrocities”.

  • danny king

    Boobs ARE great.

  • Rafael

    But, apparently, they still think you need baptism in order to be forgiven and relieved from the “original sin”. To a hard-core believer, there shouldn’t be anything more important than that. It baffles me to see the church scold their followers for, well, following their teachings!

  • Glasofruix

    That’s kind of the basics of every religion out there. But according to the officials, a baby being innocent and shit, if it dies it goes to heaven.

  • Iramohs
  • Rafael

    Sorry, but what officials?

    I ask you because this confuses me. As far as I know, according to the Catholic doctrine, we are born sinful and need the baptism to establish our “link” with Jesus. There’s no ascencion to Heave for an unbaptized, even if it’s a baby.

  • orthros

    Once again, anti-theists show their ignorance.

    Eastern Orthodoxy categorically reject the concept of original sin, seeing it as a western heresy.

    Try again.

  • Glasofruix

    We’re talking about the orthodox church here, not the RCC both are very different when it comes to doctrine (i’m not saying one is better than other, all religions seem silly to me). And i’m talking about the original russian article.

  • 3lemenope

    Well, sort of. They definitely accept the notion of the Fall of Man, and that it was precipitated by a sin; they just reject the perpetuity and inheritability of that sin (but not its effects).

    Which makes what these folks did even more incomprehensibly stupid and inexcusable. Not to mention that, in a pinch, a priest is not required for the baptismal ritual; it “counts” in emergencies if any old Orthodox Christian does it.

  • Rafael

    Yeah… you see, I’m not an anti-theist. I’m just learning as I read. The parents in the article were the ones who said the baptism was a requirement for the baby to ascend to Heaven, not me.

    PS: and I have no problem with ignorance. I’m ready to admit when I don’t know something. But I can read. I may have got the specifics wrong, but this is still a baffling story about how a couple was scoulded by their own church for following their religious beliefs.

  • kullervo

    The Roman Catholic church allows for emergency baptism to be performed by any lay person. All that is required is sincere intent to baptise. Guess Russian Orthodox or whatever this was is different. And if this couple was so into it, why wasn’t the kid baptised already?

  • Rafael

    Ok, thanks. I assumed they were similar in this point, since pretty much al Abrahamic religions I know are and the parents in the article stated the baptism was a requirement for the baby to ascend to “Heaven”. But maybe I did get it wrong.

  • ICan’tEven


  • Gath Gealaich

    So, according to a church guy, non-baptized people being denied access to heaven is a superstition. Thanks, kind stranger; I had wanted an official confirmation for that for quite some time! :-)

  • liberalenigma

    Maybe take the baby to a hospital and call the witch doctor to come there ?

  • Hedley

    Hold it! Why did the priest do?

  • busterggi

    Superstitions don’t have all those damned meetings.

  • busterggi

    Now he’ll never get into Valhalla.

  • hugh foley

    in the RCC anyone can baptize in an emergency.

  • Loretto Taylor

    Not exactly. The Orthodox believe in Original Sin in the sense that it corrupts the soul and inclines it to actual sin. What they don’ t believe is that were are born with guilt for Original Sin. That noxious idea was cooked up by the Western church.

  • 3lemenope

    The same is true in Eastern Orthodox traditions.

  • obbop

    Why am I undergoing a HUGE raging erection?

  • Podd Socks

    lock them up and throw away the key.

  • Janet S

    “This is superstition, not religion. They should have gone to the hospital.” Sounds like he’s on the right track, but superstition IS religion, and vice versa.

  • Janet S

    Atheists know more about religion in general than religious people do. But, the biggest point to be made is that if someone believes in imaginary deities and refuses to employ reason in their thinking, then why argue about the specifics? We already know they’re irrational, why debate about exactly which delusions each sect is cursed with?

  • notfookingtaken

    did they want a brain damaged child?

  • Iva

    Precisely. And that’s why I, as an atheist in an Orthodox country, don’t hate as much as I would if I was living surrounded by western Christians, their lavish Xma$ and €a$ter and whatnot. Yuck!

    Sadly, ever since communism was abandoned, a lot of newly-found “believers” do this kind of crap. One day we’ll be equal morons.

  • Michael Kimsal

    Posted this and had someone give me more specifics from a Russian source.

    Here’s his reply…

    I’ll not deny that the decision seems like a bad one. But the article which you read of course has an atheist bent, and the story is not presented in full.

    The author of the linked article apparently took most or all of his information from the article on the English version of the RIA Novosti website, which is a reputable news agency (and incidentally headquartered only about two miles from my old apartment). I tried to find the Russian version of the article to compare them, but I couldn’t.

    I did find an article on the Komsomolskaya Pravda website (, which is also another reputable news agency. The KP article provided a little more insight, and contradicts at least one fact as reported in the RN article. KP says that the child was not in a car seat, but rather that the mother was holding him the whole time. An equally bad decision on her part, I agree.

    But there’s more to it than that. Significantly left out of the atheist version of the story:

    1) The family (there were also two girls with them) was already headed to the church for the baptism (!). That paints a very different picture. It’s not like the made a spur-of-the-moment decision to go to the church instead of the hospital. They were already going there and the priest and his staff were waiting for them.

    2) Everyone in the car was fine, and the mother didn’t see anything wrong with the baby at the scene of the accident. So they made the decision to keep their appt at the church. When she arrived to the church, they discovered a hematoma on his head. She probably should have done a more thorough inspection

    3) They called an ambulance three times. Once at the scene of the accident (where they directed the ambulance to the church), and twice more when they were at the church. (Looks like 911 is a joke in their town as well.) Now, yes, they took a taxi to the church because their car was destroyed. They could have easily taken the taxi to the hospital (which sounds like it may have been closer than the church).

    I’m not saying I agree with their decision. But I am saying I don’t agree with the journalism on your website. It was far from unbiased.

  • pete084

    The first rule of journalism: Never let the truth get in the way of a good story!

  • Javi

    Religious superstition at its best. Or worst. Depends on how you look at it.

    Anyway, poor baby was at no fault for having such stupid parents.

    Religion can, as it often does, make otherwise normal and sane people commit the most stupid, barbaric acts.

  • Little_Magpie

    OTOH, the Russian anti-gay laws. So.

  • Little_Magpie

    sorry to hear that (that you lost your leg because of this nonsense.) (Do I understand that correctly?)
    That sux and is super dumb.

  • Iva

    Sect. The keyword of what they just *don’t* want to see. Perfect.