Saturday, March 29, 2008

Religious Freedom or Murder?

By Alan Burkhart

In the USA, our Constitution guarantees our right to worship as we choose. We do not however, have the right to force harm upon others in the practice of those beliefs.

Eleven year-old Madeline Neumann is dead because her parents refused to get her the medical care she needed, deciding instead to stay home and pray for her. She died a painful death from diabetic ketoacidosis, a condition resulting from low insulin. Symptoms include severe dehydration and painful thirst, nausea, vomiting and unbearable fatigue.

Fifteen month-old Ava Worthington is dead because her parents declined the simple antibiotics that would have saved her life in favor of faith healing. Ava died from bacterial bronchial pneumonia and infection. According to an Oregon deputy state medical examiner, both conditions would have been treatable with antibiotics.

According to an article at the Fox News website:

The Worthingtons belong to Oregon City's Followers of Christ Church. According to church tradition, when members become ill, fellow worshipers pray and anoint them with oil.
Ava's parents, Carl Worthington, 28, and Raylene Worthington, 25, have been indicted by a grand jury on charges of manslaughter and criminal mistreatment. At the time of this writing, Madeline's parents have not yet been charged.

Regarding the Followers of Christ Church, consider this excerpt from an article by Oregonian reporter Mark Larabee:
At least 21 of the 78 children who have died at the church since 1955 likely could have been saved with routine medical care, The Oregonian reported earlier this month following a two-month investigation.

Thirty-eight children buried in the church's cemetery outside Oregon City never reached their first birthdays. An additional 15 are listed as stillborn. Doctors say the lack of prenatal care and trained assistance during the deliveries probably contributed to the deaths. Officials suspect many of those died needlessly, but they can't be sure because government investigations of the deaths were either inconclusive or nonexistent.
While fanatics like the Worthington's and the Neumann's certainly do not represent the majority of believers in America, they do represent a clear and present threat to the lives of innocent children. In my humble opinion, all four parents should be brought up on murder charges. To allow one's child to wither away and die when medical treatment is readily available is no different, and perhaps worse, than putting a gun to the kid's head and pulling the trigger.

We live in a constitutional society, not a theocracy. True enough, many of our Founding Fathers were believers and much of the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence is rooted in those beliefs. But, the Declaration of Independence clearly states that we all have the “unalienable right to Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” There is no exception made for children whose parents object to medical treatment on religious grounds.

As a society, we must not allow religion – any religion – to be an excuse for the mistreatment of a minor child. It doesn't matter one whit if the parents sincerely believe they're doing the right thing by withholding medical care. It doesn't matter what church, if any, they attend. It doesn't matter whether the parents were raised under the same set of beliefs. Our system of laws is designed to protect the innocent from wrongdoing, and allowing a child to die a painful death when she easily could have been saved is among the most heinous crimes imaginable.

There should be no question of religious freedom concerning such cases as these. As I stated earlier, we have the right to believe anything we wish, but we do not have the right to harm others while practicing our beliefs. If these four murderers are not found guilty of the crimes they have so obviously committed, then our culture is little better than backward Muslim nations in which young girls are stoned to death for giving a teenage boy a passing glance and a smile.

Had Madeline Neumann been allowed to live into adulthood, she might have decided on her own as a responsible adult that she would follow her parents' teachings. At that point, it would have been her decision to make. She won't get that chance, and neither will Ava, thanks to parents who decided for them that their lives were not their own.

Related Reading:

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Pics from the Port of Mobile

By Alan Burkhart

I've been running locally for the last few months, hauling out of the Port of Pascagoula, MS and the Port of Mobile, AL and delivering to our customer in Laurel, MS. Here's a few shots of the St Cergue, a Swiss flagged freighter that caught my eye today in Mobile. According to an entry at, she's 222 meters long, and packs 34,300 horsepower. Not the biggest ship to be sure, but when you're standing a few feet away watching the tugs laboring to spin her around in the canal she's rather impressive.

And look at all those 40-ft freight containers she's carrying - and that's just the ones on deck. Plenty more down below. From where I was standing, I couldn't get a good image of the whole ship with my wimpy cellphone camera. The truck docks where I pick up are out on the pier.

For a better image of the St Cergue, visit