I hope their prayer group has started to look for more earth-bound solutions. But 2% of the US population still leaves 6 million people using prayer rituals for healing!
The recent death from untreated diabetes of an 11-year-old Wisconsin girl has invigorated opposition to obscure laws in many states that let parents rely on prayer, rather than medicine, to heal sick children.
Dale and Leilani Neumann of Weston, Wis., are facing charges of second-degree reckless homicide after their child, Madeline Kara Neumann, died on Easter after slipping into a coma. The death, likely preventable with insulin, has renewed calls for Wisconsin and dozens of other states to strike laws that protect parents who choose prayer alone in lieu of medical treatment.The case also has frustrated the Church of Christ, Scientist, the main promoter of prayer as therapy, which says a few tragic cases have unfairly tarred a practice that can restore health. The Neumanns, a Christian couple who run a prayer group out of their coffee shop, are not Christian Scientists. The National Center for Health Statistics, a federal agency, estimated in 2004 that more than 2% of the population uses prayer rituals.
The recent deaths of children have spotlighted the little-known lobbying work of the Church of Christ, Scientist, a denomination with anywhere from 60,000 to a half-million members, according to various estimates. The group believes that health can be restored through a stronger connection with God -- in effect, willing the body to be healthy. The church is the largest that supports relying on prayer for healing, though other small sects do, as well. Of course, many religious denominations advocate prayer in conjunction with medical treatment.It would be easy to say that they are crazy and just walk away. But they have been successful in providing protection to parents who want to treat solely by using prayers.
The Christian Science church doesn't provide guidance on whether members may seek medical care, says Mr. Davis, the church spokesman. He says the church does not bar members from getting medical care, nor does it advise members when they should do so.
Church founder Mary Baker Eddy believed it was "fear that creates the image of disease and its consequent manifestation in the body." Spiritual practitioners, who are trained by the church to heal through prayer, get patients to think differently about their relationship with God, says Mr. Davis, who also is a spiritual practitioner. "It's an affirmation [of truth]," Mr. Davis says. "It's that understanding that restores harmony."The church's Christian Science Journal prints monthly testimonies that prayer has wiped away prostate cancer, a breast lump, leukemia and other illnesses. Brian Talcott, a practitioner in Berkeley, Calif., says he has seen cases of glaucoma and cataracts disappear.
Every state forbids child abuse and requires parents to provide health care. But in the 1970s and 1980s, many states added provisions offering legal protections to parents who used prayer treatment. Many of these statutes were passed after Congress in 1974 began offering money to bolster child-protection agencies. But there were strings. Federal health and welfare officials, pressed by Christian Scientists, made the funding contingent upon the requesting state legislating legal safeguards for those opting to treat with prayer.And, just in case, if you were still thinking that this wackiness may not be that dangerous:
In all, 45 states offer some legal accommodations in child-protection laws for parents who use spiritual healing, according to the Christian Science church. The laws vary widely, with some states protecting parents or guardians from felony abuse or murder prosecutions, while others exempt prayer practice only in misdemeanor cases, according to Children's Healthcare Is a Legal Duty Inc., a nonprofit group based in Sioux City, Iowa, that opposes such laws.
A 1998 study in the journal Pediatrics, by Rita Swan, president of Children's Healthcare Is a Legal Duty, and Seth Asser, a Rhode Island pediatrician, reported that 172 children died with no medical care because of religious reasons in the two decades after states began exempting faith healing. Of those, 140 children had a greater than 90% chance of survival if they had been treated medically, the researchers found. "Some of the religious defenses to felonies are a chilling betrayal of children," says Ms. Swan, a former Christian Scientist who lost a child to spinal meningitis in 1977 after initially relying on church practitioners before finally seeking medical help.Read the full story here.