Irenic Thoughts

Irenic. The word means peaceful. This web log (or blog) exists to create an ongoing, and hopefully peaceful, series of comments on the life of King of Peace Episcopal Church. This is not a closed community. You are highly encouraged to comment on any post or to send your own posts.


Drawing a Line When Children Are at Risk

"I am a strong supporter of the religious freedom of the family, including the freedom to raise children very different from the norm, but I have always drawn a line when the health of a child is seriously at risk."
This quote is from Yale Law School professor Stephen L. Carter who was responding to a case of medical neglect covered in the Religion News Service's article Oregon Parents to Stand Trial in Daughter's Faith-Healing Death.

Ava's parentsThe case, whose trial begins today, stems from the death of 15-month-old Ava Worthington whose bronchial pneumonia and blood infection could have been cured with antibiotics. The only treatment she received was prayer and anointing with oil. Her parents are charged with manslaughter and criminal mistreatment using a 1999 Oregon law created in large part due to the high number child deaths among the kids at the Worthington's Oregon City church, the Followers of Christ.

Though the first test of the law, it will not be the last as Ava's 16-year-old uncle died four months after his niece due to complications from an untreated urinary tract blockage. That boy's parents are also members of the Followers of Christ church, and will be going on trial for criminally negligent homicide in about six months.

Followers of Christ ChurchI am a strong proponent of the separation of church and state. We at King of Peace benefit from the state taking a hands off approach to our own worship as we do in fact serve wine to minors, yes in very small quantities, absolutely for religious purposes, and no one is forced or cohersed into anything. But we do nonetheless have the freedom we do enjoy as the state takes a hands off approach to our religious practice. I am also a strong believer in the power of prayer and have on many occasions have seen wonderfully miraculous results to laying on hands and praying for healing. And yet, I share the law professor's contention that there are rare cases when the state has not only the right, but the obligation to step in, particularly to protect children.

If the point were Ava alone, perhaps we could all look the other way as no actions on the part of the state will bring her back and I would imagine her parents have suffered in grief for her. But the trial will also protect other children by encouraging parents to both put their trust in God and to do so in relying on proper medical care. I consider the human abilities which have given us medical advances to be a gift from God and want to cut myself and my family off from the gift of medicine no more than I would want them cut off from the power of prayer.

That's what I think? What's your take on this case?

The Rev. Frank Logue, Pastor



  • At 6/25/2009 6:04 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    I am a parent of 2 and extremely bewildered by the actions of these parents. Although, I truly believe in prayer and miracles I believe in the reason God has brought these intelligent individuals to further themselves in the lives to be doctors and such. It breaks my heart that she could have been spared a short short life. May we pray for her family and others to remember God works in mysterious ways and sometimes we have to use the gifts God has given us through use of medical research and doctors.

  • At 7/05/2009 3:58 PM, Blogger Dave said…

    Separation of church and state is a confusing term. It's a metaphor used by Thomas Jefferson and was never intended to explain the First Amendment completely. Jefferson himself was much more likely to use the phrase "freedom of religion" when discussing the importance of the First Amendment. See this post:

    But for a liberal justice of the Supreme Court in 1947, when the "separation" phrase was first used in place of the actual words of the Amendment, the metaphor was easier to interpret in a way that limited religion. It has been used many more times in many more courts to do things the founders never had in mind.

    So when looking at Constitutional rights and limits, use the phrase "freedom of religion." It will present a more accurate perspective.


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