Some Thoughts on Religious Freedom

Years ago, when I was an illustrator collaborating with an author in another city, we travelled to a central meeting place to work.  My route passed through beautiful rural areas, going by a small wooden church–Church of Christ the First Born, or something like that, on my way.  A tiny church with a few shade trees, a tiny parking lot, out among the fields.  What a surprise it was to one day hear about this little congregation on the news.

It seems that they believe in faith healing, in the laying on of hands for healing as in Scripture.  They trust in God alone, in a most literal and specific way.

A couple there brought their sick baby to be prayed over by the elders and congregation. But the baby died.

The government authorities were furious and took immediate action.

The case went all the way to the Supreme Court.  The parents lost the legal case as well as their baby. Their other children were taken away by the state.  They themselves went to prison.  They had put everything on the line for their faith, for their firmly held religious convictions, and wow, did they pay the price.  Since then, there have been other, similar cases, in other places, but with the same results.  Prison.  Jail time.  Children made wards of the state.

(And this from a government power structure that sanctions late-term abortion and euthanasia, and might even be moving towards allowing “after birth abortion”. What hypocrisy to protest the dying of this particular unfortunate infant with such vigor. I don’t think they were really concerned about the sanctity of his life.)

I am not agreeing with the direction that the congregation’s faith led them, with the interpretations they believe, these folks in these churches.  Nor do I condemn them for the choice they made.  After all, our life truly is in God’s hands.  I once had an ill baby, too.  We took him to specialists, to doctors.  When he was 4 months old, Eric died in my arms, hooked up to tubes and IVs, in the pediatric ICU of a hospital filled with all the latest in modern medicine.

Sometimes babies die, anyway, despite our best efforts, despite our grief and beliefs and dashed hopes.  I know this all too well.

I didn’t hear much on the news about the charges against the Church of Christ the First Born, except as a local story. No reaction, no analysis, no protest, no national coverage.  Yet I think this was one of the first volleys in the war against religion in this country.  A belief was chosen that garners little sympathy, and it was attacked without comment.  It was a  safe target to establish legal precedents that will be built upon later.  A desensitizing process that will lessen protests when the target becomes something larger, somebody more respected. It’s been done before, in other countries and with other ugly goals.

We might not much like the details of these cases, nor sympathetize with the direction the believer’s faith led them, but I think we make a huge mistake in not loudly pointing out the principle underlying it all, the purposeful precedents being set.  It is power vs freedom of worship, and our right to believe and live out those beliefs without government sanction.

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About reinkat

I am an iconographer, and have been studying Russian/Greek icons since 1995. I'm married with 3 children. I love hiking, camping, animals, my family and church--and icons.
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9 Responses to Some Thoughts on Religious Freedom

  1. cc70458 says:

    Reblogged this on The Catholic Husband and commented:
    A touching and poignant exploration of the erosion of freedom of religion in this country. As Catholics we need to support others who fight the battle of religion vs. progressivism. It is the David and Goliath battle of our time.

  2. This is a hard one……I believe in prayer and medicine. No matter what the situation. We should try everything possible for the sake of our loved ones, especially our children.

  3. Biltrix says:

    It would be interesting to learn the specifics of this case, exactly how they stipulated the charges of neglect and on what precise grounds. These are they types of things that set the precedents on which future cases will be built. It can be very helpful to know about that, just in case one finds oneself in a position where penalties could be imposed, in order to enact some previsions to protect oneself against possible threats of indictment from the state.

    For instance, we know that a photographer can be sued for refusing to attend a homosexual wedding in some states. Now what about a marriage counselor who works for the Church or a religious organization, which does not recognize gay marriage? Can they say, “We don’t counsel gay couples?” Maybe we’re not there, yet. I think it is time to start thinking about it though, in order to be prepared for when it does. It would be naive to think it never will.

    • reinkat says:

      Yes, it will happen, and is happening. In every state. Only a lawyer could interpret the precedents and legal quagmires, but I am sure this case in particular is public record–it went to the Supreme Court if my understanding is correct.

      The very next day after I posted this, I read in the paper about an Ohio case regarding an Amish community. It seems that some of the Amish family felt that others were straying from church doctrine, so they snuck in and forcibly shaved off the errant family members’ beards, thus humiliating them and damaging a symbol of their faith. The 16 “barbers” were convicted, and one was sentenced to 15 years in prison. They appealed, and the conviction was upheld by federal prosecutors this past week.

      One has to wonder: why wasn’t this an internal, church-discipline issue, and thus why was it not simply thrown out of federal court as out of their jurisdiction? Why has the government taken such interest in a case with no injuries, about shaved beards. (They call it a hate crime). What precedent are they trying to set here? Will they prosecute a church that ex-communicates, say, a politician or writer, or that refused to allow a woman minister to head a congregation? I think we need to pay attention to more than just what happens to Catholicism here, and to support our brothers and sisters of faith.

      • Pofarmer says:

        “One has to wonder: why wasn’t this an internal, church-discipline issue, and thus why was it not simply thrown out of federal court as out of their jurisdiction? Why has the government taken such interest in a case with no injuries, about shaved beards.”

        Really? The ASSUALTED other people. This wasn’t some victimless crime. If that is O.K., is it O.k. for a Muslim to throw Acid in the face of a woman to shame her? After all, their religion says it’s O.K.

      • reinkat says:

        I guess we can agree to disagree. It might be not very nice to cut somebody’s hair or shave their beard, but it is not criminal nor physically harmful. We can argue till the cows come home, but probably that would waste both of our time. As for Muslims and acid, that is a criminal act that causes grevious suffering and lasting damage–and it is not part of the Islamic religion anymore than donning a white hood and burning a cross is part of Christianity. Sure, misguided people do those things, but it is not part of the tenets of anybody’s religion.

  4. Pofarmer says:

    It’s actually pretty simple.

    “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.–That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, -”

    “We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.”

    If your religious beliefs interfere with the right of someone else, including your children, of their right to LIfe, Liberty, and Pursuit of happiness, then that becomes the States domain. There have been several of these cases tried recently. Allowing children to die or suffer irreparable damage from treatable conditions, often a high fever, because of ones religious beliefs, is simply not acceptable. This should not be a hard concept to grasp. Your freedom of religion ends at your right to harm others.

    • reinkat says:

      Again, I respectfully disagree. It is not for the state to determine anybody’s beliefs.
      It is a tragedy when a child dies, especially for his/her parents. The child in this case was deeply loved and grieved for.
      The state, however was all about power. The state is all about supporting people offing themselves to save money, supports abortion even of fullterm babies, and has little interest in minority or poor children at all–except for when it benefits some agenda. That is what is insidious about this case, and what has implications for all who follow some religious tradition.
      Again, as I stated, I don’t personally believe in faith healing, and despite doing exactly what the state would like me to do with my own ill baby, he died. Of a nonlethal cause. Babies die sometimes.
      Medical experts fail more often than they want you to know about, but still they try to do what they believe is best for their patients.
      The important thing for babies is that they are loved, and that the parents do everything in their power to do what they believe is best for them. And sometimes there is disagreement about what that best thing might be.
      And that is the point where you and I are on this issue, and that is fine. We don’t need to all think alike, and both of us have some good points.
      Thank you for taking time to comment.

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