Those who have seen my talks on religion know that I repeatedly use the example of Kara Neumann to demonstrate what irrational ideas can do to the good intentions of people.
Eleven-year-old Madeline Kara Neumann died of undiagnosed diabetes on Easter Sunday in March 2008 at her parents’ home in the central Wisconsin village of Weston. Prosecutors said her parents, Dale and Leilani Neumann, ignored obvious symptoms of severe illness as their daughter became too weak to speak, eat, drink or walk, choosing to pray rather than take her to a doctor. After the girl died, Leilani Neumann told police God would raise the child from the dead.
Those parents loved their daughter and wanted her to recover as much as any loving parents. But because they had a bad idea about how the universe worked, they wound up killing their daughter instead. This is the toxic power of irrationality. I usually conclude those talks by saying that nothing enshrines irrationality and makes it durable like religion. As if to make my point for me, the Neumann’s said after Kara’s death in 2008 that they would not seek medical assistance for their other children, continuing to rely on god’s beneficence.
That child didn’t have to die. But at least we can react in the wake of the tragedy. Finally the Neumanns have been convicted of homicide:
A mother and father who prayed instead of seeking medical help as their daughter died in front of them were properly convicted of homicide, the Wisconsin Supreme Court ruled Wednesday.
The couple’s attorneys argued that Wisconsin law protects people from being charged with child abuse if they provide spiritual treatment for a child in lieu of medical assistance. They contended the law protects parents from criminal liability through the point of creating a substantial risk of death, making it difficult to know when a situation has become so serious that parents who stay with prayer healing become criminally liable. State attorneys countered that parents are immune from child abuse charges but not homicide counts. Once they realize a child could die, their immunity ends, they argued.
They couldn’t try the Neumanns for child abuse because if you have religious motivation then it’s legal. That’s pretty fucking sick. Nothing should give a parent immunity from consequences if they’re abusing their kids. If faith doesn’t make homicide acceptable it doesn’t make any other abuse acceptable either.
If you commit a crime for religious reasons, you should still be punished for committing the crime.