Are you a religious fundamentalist who despises modern science as the root of all evil? Do you think vaccines will give your children autism or allow them to become pawns of a sinister global cabal bent on world domination through population control? Do you believe that cancer is cured by prayer and sacred herbs instead of clinically proven surgery and chemotherapy? Do trials of engineered viruses capable of controlling malignant tumors make you fear the coming Rapture as man plays God? Do you want to protect your children from this unholy progress and stop a future in which we might become space-faring cyborgs with indefinite lifespans? Well, do I have great news for you! Only two states in America won’t let you claim religious exemptions when it comes to decisions about the medical well-being of your children, so you could readily neglect, pray, and fear-monger all you want as long as you say you’re doing it for religious reasons, and should your child die or fall gravely ill, you might not even be prosecuted, unlike a secularist.
Noted atheist, scientist, and author, Jerry Coyne is extremely unhappy with the current situation regarding religious exemption laws. By his logic, it’s more or less an excuse to fatally neglect, or even kill children with few or no consequences and sets up a different legal standard for theists than secularists and atheists, which means that these exemptions need to be struck down. Not even someone who loves playing Devil’s advocate could really argue here. Our society is set up to give everyone equal representation under the law and while this doesn’t happen in practice, I would think that any law which allows you to get out of jail for cruelty to children because you’re very sincere in your belief that God personally told you that little Timmy or Susie didn’t need any surgery or medication, while someone who doesn’t play the same card can lose custody rights, do serious time, and even face the death penalty, is asinine to the point of being offensive.
It’s a national shame that we allow religion to be an excuse for something we seem to all agree is beyond the pale, and it needs to stop. People should be allowed to worship as they wish and are certainly entitled to voice their religious views regardless how offensive we find them since freedom of speech should also allow for freedom to offend. But one’s right to religious practice needs to stop where the health and well-being of others begins, doubly so when the others are not old enough to make their own decisions or understand the harm that may be inflicted by an authority figure they love and trust. And again, the double standard that allows one to declare a fervent religious belief to escape prosecution that’s considered fair and appropriate for equally guilty offenders who did not make such claims, turns religious freedom into religious privileges, something that American fundamentalists convinced themselves to be entitled to but should not exist under the law. People of faith are being mocked and subjected to legal bullying, we’re told, as the very same oppressed people of faith routinely get away with negligent homicide.
Even worse, the very same fundamentalists and those who grovel to them constantly bombard us with the idea that atheists and secularists, the ones who actually will face the consequences of ignorantly malicious parenting by the way, of not loving their children enough because their worldview holds that all humans are just flesh, blood, and chemistry. What they’ll conveniently leave out is that large fundamentalist families often have large broods not because they just so love children that they can’t stop, but because “it’s their duty to raise soldiers for Christ,”which means having child after child and keeping them locked away from modernity so they’ll emerge from their Quiverfull cocoon oblivious to any other worldview. No wonder they panic when they see Muslim immigrants having high birth rates. It was their strategy to crowd out the secularists by sheer numbers and now they have competition from equally zealous imams! And I suppose, when to fundamentalists, their kids are just arrows in a quiver, they can maintain their purity in the eyes of their faith and just add another arrow should one be broken by their negligence…