Tag Archives: child abuse

Religion indoctrinates children

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Some years ago in an e-mail list about Humanism, I made the argument that religion indoctrinates children to carry on the faith to the next generation. At that time, some on the list took me to task for using the word “indoctrinate” as if the parents and religious leaders were doing something criminal. I think religious training is child abuse just like when parents try to maintain that Santa Claus or the Easter Bunny are real. The recent documentary “Jesus Camp” proves my point if in a more hyper way.

Jesus Camp is a documentary about the “Kids On Fire School of Ministry,” a charismatic Christian summer camp located just outside Devils Lake, North Dakota and run by Becky Fischer and her ministry, Kids in Ministry International. The camp was started in 2001. The film focuses on three children who attended the camp in the summer of 2005—Levi, Rachael, and Tory (Victoria). The film cuts between footage of the camp and a children’s prayer conference held just prior to the camp at Christ Triumphant Church, a large charismatic church in Lee’s Summit, Missouri, a suburb of Kansas City.

All three children are very devout Christians. Levi, who has ambitions of being a pastor, has already preached several sermons at his father’s church, Rock of Ages Church in St. Robert, Missouri. He is home schooled (as are many of the campers), and learns physical science from a book that reconciles young-earth creationism with “scientific” principles.[4] He is also taught that global warming is a fictional political speculation, and that the earth’s temperature has only risen by 0.6 °F. Levi preaches a sermon at the camp in which he declares that his generation is key to Jesus’s return. Rachael, who also attends Levi’s church (her father is assistant pastor), is seen praying over a bowling ball during a game early in the film, and frequently passes Christian tracts (including some by Jack Chick) to people she meets. She does not think highly of non-charismatic churches (or “dead churches,” as she calls them), feeling they aren’t “churches that God likes to go to.” Tory is a member of the children’s praise dance team at Christ Triumphant Church. She frequently dances to Christian heavy metal music, and feels uncomfortable about “dancing for the flesh.” She also does not think highly of Britney Spears and Lindsay Lohan.

Jesus Camp

One of the points made during a later portion of the film is that Fischer admits the need to “teach” the children since “our enemies teach theirs”.

I also had a good chuckle when the mother of one of the kids in the film says to the child “See how science doesn’t prove anything?”

I said, “Really?”

The main issue with the adults in the film was equating their politics and faith. Getting children to cry out to Jesus to end abortion without going into the details of the debate is just wrong in my view.

The problem with this indoctrination is that it’s indoctrination. You can tell children anything and they will automatically believe you and as pointed out in the film by their teens those teachings will stay with them for the rest of their lives. That’s why some people still think Evolution is only a view point and not a scientific fact.

Then when they do find out not every thing they were told in their youth was true – they can become angry or rebellious.

Parents should be able to educate their children how they wish but not when that teaching makes them stupid or makes them a later burden on society. Don’t take sides. Give the children all the info out there and let them decide what they want when they get old enough to make those decisions.

If my kids come to me and ask me about religion, I’m not going to tell them they will die if they find out or they aren’t good kids if they are religious.

Health and religion collide

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One area that sees tension in the debate over the separation of church and state, but which doesn’t generate as many headlines in the media, is when religious beliefs conflict with health and safety laws.

On January 31, the Columbus Ohio Dispatch reported on a dust up between the Amish community in nearby Hardin County and the county health department. The issue is over the selling of homemade foods made and sold by the Amish to the public.

Mary Slabaugh received a visit from the Health Department because they heard she was selling deli meats and cheeses without a license. They also learned that she and other Amish families planned to sell custard pies and pumpkin rolls, which requires proper refrigeration and licensing.

Last week, state and local health officials met with Slabaugh and about a dozen other Amish people to explain the state’s food-safety regulations. They said they want to find a way for the Amish to legally sell homemade goods.

“This isn’t about shutting anybody down or about butting in on someone’s culture. It’s about education,” said Dave Zeller, environmental health director with the Kenton- Hardin Health District. “I’ve bought pies myself from Mary Slabaugh, and they are good ones. But we have to make sure that we’re not taking any chances on safety.”

Slabaugh and her friends and relatives see it another way. They think they are being picked on for their simple lifestyle, one that shuns the government intervention that licensing would require.

Homemade headache (01/31/2007 Columbus Dispatch)

The Amish is a religious sect that shuns pretty much the entire modern world. Many don’t use electricity, have phones, or cars. They still live as if it is the 19th century using oxen to plow fields and driving horse and buggies.

This isn’t the first time the Amish have complained about Ohio state laws applying to them. Many years ago the community refused to abide by some of the laws governing vehicles on the public roads. The state wanted them to attach a large orange “slow moving” signs on their buggies. Such a sign would conflict with their religious culture of simple living. A state court agreed with the Amish and now all that is required are battery powered back lights and reflective tape so they can be seen at night better.

One fight on the abortion front is coming from the pharmacy. Now that emergency contraception pills are available, some pharmacists are refusing to dispense them as abortion conflicts with their religious beliefs. Some states, including those who have tried to outlaw abortion in the past, have either enacted or plan on enacting laws to protect pharmacists if they choose not to dispense emergency contraception.

Mississippi enacted a sweeping statute that went into effect in July that allows health care providers, including pharmacists, to not participate in procedures that go against their conscience. South Dakota and Arkansas already had laws that protect a pharmacist’s right to refuse to dispense medicines. Ten other states considered similar bills this year.

The American Pharmacists Association, with 50,000 members, has a policy that says druggists can refuse to fill prescriptions if they object on moral grounds, but they must make arrangements so a patient can still get the pills. Yet some pharmacists have refused to hand the prescription to another druggist to fill.

Druggists refuse to give out pill

That is where the line is crossed.

I agree that no one should be forced to violate their religious beliefs in order to keep their job, but if you do exercise that objection you can’t obstruct someone from exercising their own beliefs. Refusing to even refer the patient to someone who will dispense the medication you object to, is simply wrong.

Another aspect of the conflict of religion and health is with the religious group called Christian Science. Created by Mary Baker Eddy in 1879, a primary belief to Christian Scientists is the efficacy of spiritual healing according to the interpretation of the Bible. They are less likely to use modern medicine to treat illness and more likely to use prayer or Bible reading for treatment.

Some years ago this belief led to some highly publicized court cases where parents were charged with child abuse or neglect because they refused modern medical treatment for their children and instead depended on their religion. The result was many states enacted laws that exempted religious beliefs from standard child abuse definitions.

There are now statutes in 44 states which contain a provision stating that a child is not to be deemed abused or neglected merely because he or she is receiving treatment by spiritual means, through prayer according to the tenets of a recognized religion. Although these exemptions take different forms and interpretations in different state jurisdictions, the overall effect has been to limit the ability of the state to prosecute parents for suspected or alleged abuse or medical neglect of children when such occurrences may be the result of religious practice. Severe (even fatal) physical discipline, failure to seek medical care, or refusal of a proven efficacious treatment of a critically ill child may be protected from prosecution because of the religious exemption clauses now found in a majority of state codes.

Christian Science

This is another case of a religion getting special treatment. If most parents refused to use modern medical science to treat their ill child they can expect to get a hard time from authorities but if you refuse because of religion, then that seems to be okay.

You could make a case for refusing treatment based on solid facts – case studies, statistics, etc… but making them on religious claims – some interpretations of the Bible – seems just silly on the face of it.

Marines defeated by Jesus

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Last week the news broke that the Toys for Tots charity operated by the US Marine Corps Reserve turned down a donation of dolls from a Christian toy company. The dolls happen to be based on characters in the Holy Bible who speak Bible verses when a button is pressed.

Bill Grein, vice president of Marine Toys for Tots Foundation, in Quantico, Va. stated a reasonable reason why they had to turn down the donation.

Toys are donated to kids based on financial need and “we don’t know anything about their background, their religious affiliations. As a government entity, Marines “don’t profess one religion over another,” Grein said Tuesday. “We can’t take a chance on sending a talking Jesus doll to a Jewish family or a Muslim family.”

Toys for Tots rejects talking Jesus doll

Of course the toy company was not happy.

Michael La Roe, director of business development for both companies, said the charity’s decision left him “surprised and disappointed.”

“The idea was for them to be three-dimensional teaching tools for kids,” La Roe said. “I believe as a churchgoing person, anyone can benefit from hearing the words of the Bible.”

David Socha, head of one2believe, stated in a video news report that even if non-christian children got the Jesus dolls they would see them as historical figures. (see: Talking Jesus Doll Rejected By Toys for Tots and click on the video link on the right side of the article)

Now if they gave away 4,000 Abe Lincoln dolls that spoke the start of the Gettysburg address then I might believe the “historical figure” argument. But seeing as these are religious dolls spouting Christian scripture it is plain to see that their “historical figure” argument is a sham. Then there is this:

God’s strategy was for parents to bring their children to a place of spiritual discovery. This would stimulate the creative imaginations of the children and they would begin to ask their parents about the God of Israel.

God has placed an inquisitive nature about spiritual matters in children. It is in a child’s early developmental years that they need to be introduced to the Lord. The best way to engage a child’s imagination is with an object lesson or story. Jesus used these methods of teaching throughout his ministry. He taught people spiritual principles through the use of object lessons and parables.

With this in mind, we at one2believe have developed many teaching tools and resources for parents and Christian educators. In this media frenzied world, we know that it can be a challenge to capture and hold the attention of children when it comes to teaching them the Word of God.

Consequently, our mission is to partner with as many parents and Christian educators to see 10 million children taught 50 Bible stories by the end of 2007.

one2believe Mission

So one2believe didn’t donate those dolls because they wanted some disadvantaged children to have a happy Christmas, they wanted to donate the dolls to indoctrinate as many children as possible into their cult.

And to show you how powerful religious conservatives are, Toys for Tots announced on November 16th that they will now accept the dolls.

“The talking Jesus doll issue has been resolved,” the organization announced on its Web site Wednesday. “Toys for Tots has found appropriate places for these items. We have notified the donor of our willingness to handle this transaction.”

Toys for Tots

Chalk another up for religion at the expense of reason.

Christian victims? Give me a break

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My heart is in the sanctity of life and marriage and values and defense against terrorism. I support what the president’s doing in Iraq, and if they’re spending too much money, then I’ll let someone else yell about that. But this president — it’s like this Mark Foley thing — that’s not going to discourage any evangelicals I know from voting. We lived through Bill Clinton, and this situation with Foley is minuscule in comparison. So, I really think it’s making a mountain out of a molehill.

Rev. Jerry Falwell on CNN’s The Situation Room 11/02/2006

Yes, Rev. Falwell, defender of the sanctity of life, marriage, and values, doesn’t seem to have a problem with child abuse.

It isn’t real surprising that Falwell said what he did. You can predict what a religious leader will say by just looking at the politics of the object he/she is discussing. I am pretty sure Falwell would put former Congressman Foley’s actions in proper context had Foley been a Democrat.

That is a big reason the current special relationship that religious conservatives and Republicans proves the point that church and state should be separate. Politics not only can corrupt a person but can corrupt your religion. I mean if your political values can allow you to think that child abuse is less of a moral problem than a blow job then you might need some remedial religion classes.

Of course hypocrisy isn’t the only problem with the mixing of religion and politics.

Last month, my local paper did their obligatory conservative-Christians-as victims election season report as if it were a new trend. Conservative Christians feel put upon because their anti-gay, anti-woman, anti-religious freedom, anti-science bigotry isn’t shared by everyone.

“The Christian majority is sick and tired of things like same-sex marriage and the (removal of the) Ten Commandments in the court- house,” he said. “Two people get upset, and the ACLU comes in. People are tired of things like one guy with a lawyer changing the entire face of a government building because of the Ten Commandments. What the hell was it hurting?”

Bob Burney, who hosts a Christian radio call-in program on WRFD (880 AM) in Columbus, hears the complaint a lot.

“It’s the clash of two worldviews,” he said. “Things have been declared to be unconstitutional that have been constitutional for 200 years,” he said. “Evangelical Christians are energized by their very strong perception that those on the left want to remove the Godly heritage that we have and move to a completely secular state.”

From “Enough was enough” Columbus Dispatch 10/09/2006

I wrote a letter to the editor about the article and it was published on October 18th:

I wanted to comment on the Oct. 9 Dispatch article “Enough was enough.” It doesn’t surprise me that conservative Christians would vote for a candidate solely on religious beliefs. We have some voters who choose a candidate simply because they recognize the name of the person on the ballot or because some relative served years before.

Unfortunately, atheists and secular humanists such as myself don’t have that luxury. Since the conservative Christians have invaded the political process, we have a de facto establishment of religion and no atheist or secular humanist candidate can pass the religious test that group has put in place. We have to vote for the whole package that a particular candidate brings into the campaign.

The New York Times reported on Oct. 8 that, since 1989, religious groups have received more than 200 special arrangements, protections or exemptions in congressional legislation, on topics from pensions to immigration to land use to exemptions from federal employment-discrimination laws.

These special arrangements also have come from winning court decisions and federal-agency rule changes. Ninety-eight percent of the special treatment goes to Christian groups. As The Times put it, “As a result of these special breaks, religious organizations of all faiths stand in a position that American businesses — and the thousands of nonprofit groups without that ‘religious’ label — can only envy.”

So forgive me if I don’t shed a tear the next time I hear the myth that conservative Christians are under siege.

Removing the 10 Commandments from public buildings promotes equality by removing the religious bigotry inherent in the Decalogue. Allowing gays to marry gives them the chance to formally share in what it means to commit to the one you love and removes the 2nd class status that comes from not being allowed.

Conservative Christians use politics to force their subjective “values” on others. Politics should be about doing the best for the most people. It should be about promoting shared values that have little to no negative impact on others.

Child abuse scandal hits Congress

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It has been a bad week for the Republicans in Congress. On Friday it got worse.

In what seems like an episode of “My Name is Earl”, karma bit the GOP in the ass.

Rep. Mark Foley (R-Florida), member of the Congressional Missing and Exploited Children’s Caucus, who worked to help gain passage of the “Adam Walsh Child Protection Act of 2006” which, among other things, increased penalties for adults who use the Internet to discuss or solicit sexual acts with “minors” (defined as an “individual who has not attained the age of 18 years”), resigned suddenly Friday after finding out that ABC News was going to run a story concerning his inappropriate e-mails and instant messages to a 16 year old House page.

I wrote about this story and the spinning by the moralists at Fox News on my personal blog:

When moralists throw stones…..

More problems for sex abusers in Ohio, unless you are a Catholic priest

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With 2006 being an election year, the Ohio legislature was busy trying to pass some laws that would show voters how important they were – even though a closer look would show that the legislature was pandering. Election year pandering takes the form of passing laws addressing some issue that 99% of the population would agree with and that wouldn’t bite them in the ass while campaigning. This year the issue is sex abuse against children.

Over the recent years, laws have become progressively more severe against people convicted of sex abuse against children. It started by forcing convicted offenders to register for life with their local police, then laws were passed restricting where the former felons could live, and this year, the Ohio legislature considered tougher sentencing laws as well as extending the statute of limitations for lawsuits from 2 years past the victims 18th birthday to 12 years.

Don’t get me wrong. Sex abuse against children is wrong – simply wrong – and the criminal code and civil code should be very severe against convicted felons in those types of crimes. If such efforts were indeed to protect children or were in fact addressing a pressing issue – like an epidemic of children being abused – I would be first in line to pat my state representative on the back for “standing up for children”. However, it seems these efforts are simple pandering to parents, voters with children, who are literally in fear for their children. The hysteria – think “Salem Witch Trials” – even has led one state, South Carolina, to consider the death penalty for convicted child molesters. This is one reason the actions of the Ohio legislature is simple pandering:

Of course among these sex offenders are indeed some criminals who have caused extreme harm: violent rapists of adult women as well as children. A few of them have kidnapped, tortured or murdered their victims. Dr. Fred Berlin of the Johns Hopkins University Sex Disorders Clinic in Baltimore estimates that such crimes account for less than 1/10th of 1% of all sex offenses in America. His studies also show that fewer than 10% of child sex offenders re-offend–though recidivism is usually given as a reason for draconian measures against them. As child abuse experts point out, about 50 children are reported kidnapped and raped or murdered by strangers annually, compared to more than 3,000 children murdered by parents and other family members in non-sexual cases.

Sexual Fascism in Progressive America : Scapegoats and Shunning

So it is a no-brainer for the state legislator, looking to get re-elected, to pass these laws against a minuscule number of felons for crimes that are more rare than the media would lead us to believe and then he/she can splash, all over their campaign materials, how they “stood up for children”.

Another example that the state legislature is pandering is that while the tougher laws against child abuse were being considered, another law directed at Catholic Priests who have abused children was changed after heavy lobbying by US Bishops. While the law includes a requirement of the Church to report suspected abuse and creates a registry of non-convicted abusive Priests (those who are held liable in civil court after a trial but who’s criminal statute of limitations have run out), a provision to allow previous victims a chance to file civil suits for old cases was removed.

The state’s bishops and the Ohio Catholic Conference lobbied against the look-back period, arguing it would be costly and unreasonable to open decades-old cases. They said it would have been almost impossible to fairly judge abuse claims after so much time.

Child protection bill passes without ‘look-back’ provision

Well of course the Church sees such “look-back” provisions as costly because the Church would be liable for any monetary judgments made against the Priest. The simple fact that the Church rarely reported abuse, actively covered up abuse, and in most cases simply moved an abusive Priest to another church, shows how costly it could be for them.

If you are just a regular person and are convicted of sex abuse you can expect to lose your job, family, and friends. Be forced to tell authorities where you are for the rest of your life and have limits on where you can live.

If you are a Priest who abused children back in the 60’s and 70’s and earlier, you pretty much are in the clear.

So much for protecting children.