Negligent Counseling?

Negligent Counseling

In McKinney, Texas a jury recently deadlocked in a case involving a woman who severed her 10 month old daughter’s arms and left her to bleed to death, while she went to go listen to a hymn.  http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/11568174/

The obvious plea from the woman was insanity.  Here is a short synopsis of her behavior.

Dr. William Reid had testified that people close to Schlosser had missed obvious signs of severe mental illness.

Schlosser’s husband, John Schlosser, said he wasn’t alarmed when his wife said after church the day before the killing that she wanted to “give the baby to God.” He said she appeared normal after he calmed her down, and he thought her mental condition had improved over the previous few months.

The summer before Maggie died, Schlosser abandoned Maggie and her other two children by running away from the family’s apartment. She was found two miles away by Plano police and released from a hospital less than 24 hours later.

The Schlosser family went several times a week to the Water of Life Church. The pastor, Doyle Davidson, testified that he believes mental illness is possession by demons and only God can cure it.

Dena Schlosser, who was diagnosed with postpartum psychosis after Maggie’s birth, didn’t take medication or see a doctor in the four months before the killing.

After her arrest, Dena Schlosser was diagnosed with manic depression and declared mentally incompetent to stand trial.

The part that got my ire up was the pastor testifying that he believed mental illness was caused by possession and that only God could cure it.  It is unclear whether the family was going to church services or whether the family was seeing the pastor for counseling.  If the pastor was seeing the family for counseling, I believe the father of the little girl should seek additional justice by filing a wrongful death claim based on clergy malpractice.

If the pastor held himself out to be a counselor that could address concerns of mental illness, then he should be held to the standard of care that a reasonable counselor would be held to, his religious beliefs notwithstanding.  Under such a standard, I believe it likely that his failure to refer, recommend, consult or otherwise involve qualified medical personnel in the treatment of this woman would violate the standard of a reasonable counselor.  In addition, his failure to refer the mother, could serve as a breach of ficuciary duty not to the mother or the father, whose beliefs may or may not have been in conformity with the pastor, but to the little girl that lost her life as a result of the negligence, again assuming the family was involved in counseling. 

There are many grounds for the pastor to defend on, and a First Amendment defense stands a reasonable chance of being successful in preventing the suit from even going to trial.  Nonetheless, socking it to the congregations by forcing them to fork over the costs of defending expensive lawsuits does teach a lesson.  Don’t get quacks that think that all illness is caused by the devil or you won’t get to build a community center.

90 thoughts on “Negligent Counseling?

  1. The part that got my ire up was the pastor testifying that he believed mental illness was caused by possession and that only God could cure it.

    Maybe that explains why there is such a enormously high percentage of religious nutjobs.

  2. From what I’ve read, the deadlock seems to be due to the jurors not being able to decide between prison or sending her to a mental hospital.  One of the alternate jurors said that they wanted to send her to the mental hospital but were afraid she’d be released after a short time. 

    There are allegations that the husband could have done more to prevent the murder.

  3. For obvious reasons, it is very difficult to give a dispassionate and coherent response. I remember shaking with anger when that story first broke.

    First and foremost, what happened to the child was horrible and almost certainly preventable, which makes it even worse.

    Second, mental illness sucks big-time. The effects range from a debilitating illness to making the afflicted a true danger to society.

    Third, I can’t recall a single case of similar gravity where religion doesn’t factor in. There appears to be a correlation between a religious fundamentalist environment, particularly the social isolation and monoculture and mental illness. I will leave up to somebody more qualified than I am to discuss causation. Are fundamentalists more at risk of mental illness, does mental illness make them seek out such an environment, or is there a confluence of both?

    Fourth, does it matter what a jury decides? I would guess and hope that the woman will at least spend the rest of her days in a psych ward, whether she is executed, locked away in a prison or a mental institute is largely a non-issue as long as she’s not again in a position to be a danger to society.

    Fifth, anytime somebody snaps, family, friends, neighbors, and collegues universally join in the “who could have known” chorus. As unviversally, once one scratches the surface of this front, it is readily apparent that everybody could have known and many did indeed know, but were in some kind of denial.

    Sixth, the pastor. There are significant legal and other issues at stake.

    Concerning the legal issues, there are almost certainly angles of attack I can’t even conceive of.

    What’s the case law regarding people giving bad advice? If they are in a position of unusual trust?

    If the pastor knew enough to recognize the woman as mentally ill, but willfully neglected to make her seek out proper medical care and instead resorted to religious quackery (put bluntly), then one could argue that he practiced medicine without a proper license. Since such an alleged malpractice lead to a death, the pastor should be judged complicit in it.

    I haven’t even bothered to check, but the pastor is certainly a member of some Christian denomonination, sect, or whatever. A question that comes to my mind is if the prosecution would have behaved differently had the priest been a member of some fringe religion or secular sect. I do wonder, that’s all.

    The core issue regarding the priest that I see is what, if any, special protection should be awarded to priests? I’m not aware that being a priest, with an active ministry or not, is regulated in any way. It’s inconceivable that such could be the case, anyway. When the actions, proclamations, and teachings of a Church or individual priests trespass on non-religious turf, like public-health or medical issues, it doesn’t seem unreasonable to me to hold them to the same standards as other practicioners of that field are.

    Another way to look at the same picture: Should it be possible to sue priests for mal-ministry? Should they be forced to carry insurance for such an eventuality, much like medical practicioners are? Should priests be legally exempt from the consequences of giving bad advice?

    Oh, and the obligatory disclosure: Technically, I am a properly ordained minister of an agnostic church. Not that I’d have or want an active ministry.

  4. Well, it would seem to me (I could be wrong) that if the person had been apparent in her inability to make decisions for herself or was otherwise in the trust of the person giving her advice, that that person may be charged with neglectful care. Bad advice between two competent people, as far as I know, is not a crime. It is generally assumed that children are in such trust, and typically, the severely mentally ill.

    Pastors are regularly in the practice of offering counsel to people, and it’s difficult to say that anyone, much less someone in particular, who comes to the pastor is incapable of their own care and not simply at conflict with decisions that need to be made. In my improfessional opinion, the pastor is guilty of neglect, regardless of his ignorance (which he can always claim). The bottom line is, if she was unfit to stand trial, she was incompetent enough to be at the mercy of her advisors. Just show that the mental condition she’s currently in she was in at the time she sought advice from the pastor. The pastors public statements condemn his position pretty solidly, too.

  5. If the pastor gets charged with doing something illegal what would keep this from becoming the precedent case for the state to accept a materialist first philosophy and rest the care of all children from their religious parents?  It would become illegal to be apart of the Christian Science religion.  Pentecostal Christians would nearly cease to exist because of the great emphasis on spiritual causation.  How many other religions would be affected?  The materialist nature of the state(if this became a precedent) would come in direct conflict with freedom of religion.  What happens then?

  6. Theo, the question at hand is straightforward: Can a priest of any arbitrary religion be held legally liable by secular law for the ramifications arising from the exercise of ecclesiastical rights or performance of such duties, provided they comply with the laws, regulations, standard operating procedures, or whatnot of the priest’s religion?

    If this is too tedious to parse, where does secular law end and *any* ecclesiastical law begin and vice versa? Or: Should priests get a free ride as long as their churches see fit?

    How do you answer?

  7. I know what the question is.  I just didn’t directly pose it.  My question, which I think is broader than how you word yours, is should the state ever be allowed to have a foundational philosophy and create laws based on it?  The ontology of the state will certainly affect the moral values upheld in its laws.  So what ontology if any should the state side with?  Can the state not choose between a material or immaterial ontology as a basis for laws?  Should the state be allowed to force people to use and accept current medical prescriptions and practices if it conflicts with the individual’s ontological beliefs?  This promises to be an interesting discussion.

  8. It is a common complaint among pastors that no one is honest with them.  Everyone wants to please the pastor.  People seeing a pastor for any reason make an unusual effort to tell the pastor what they think he wants to hear. 

    Granted this pastor’s take on mental illness is way off but he may never have seen any signs of it at all.

  9. Granted this pastor’s take on mental illness is way off but he may never have seen any signs of it at all.

    This comes back to what role he actually played. Did he indeed counsel the family on the mother’s mental health? Did the family see him for unrelated reasons? If the court transcripts are publically available, somebody with the stomach to read them in depth can probably answer these questions.

    As a general observation, while calamities of this kind are thankfully rare, they are not unheard of, either. I suspect that each of these events leaves the more caring people trapped in a private hell – as far as I know, the signs and portents are often in plain sight for everyone to see, but are ignored because few people are willing or capable to consider that somebody else may actually do the unthinkable.

    In my opinion, keeping a mentally ill person from receiving treatment is almost a worse crime than murder. I’m not saying the pastor is guilty it, but if so, one would hope that his purported afterlife would be filled with burning questions…

  10. In fundy churches women really don’t get to talk much except among themselves.  If they grow up in the church they have decades of practice at hiding their feelings and thoughts from men.  Add this to the well-known dishonesty of church members when talking to their pastors and I’m just saying that no matter what the roles were, the pastor may not have had a prayer of ever learning what was going on in this woman’s head.

    Of course if we find out she did open up to him and all he did was heap guilt on her and tell her to pray more, get the rope!

  11. It appears my entry could have used a bit more research as the issue won’t arise in this case. The preacher is claiming to hardly know the family.

    Davidson said he hardly knew the family, although John Schlosser testified earlier that Davidson was the first person he called after his wife told him what she had done.

    http://www.wfaa.com/sharedcontent/dws/news/city/collin/tv/stories/wfaa060215_lj_schlosser.2d425e58.html

    (Reg required)

    Whether I believe Davidson on this point or not, it does not appear that there is anything to indicate that the family was involved in counseling.

    As to the broader question, I will use Elwed’s as it is in English: Can a priest of any arbitrary religion be held legally liable by secular law for the ramifications arising from the exercise of ecclesiastical rights or performance of such duties, provided they comply with the laws, regulations, standard operating procedures, or whatnot of the priest’s religion?

    The answer is no, but that is qualified.  In Texas, where this incident took place, suit may be brought against the church and the counselor, marriage, family or otherwise, not for providing spiritual services, bur for holding themselves out to provide counseling services and failing to provide counseling services that a reasonable counselor would provide.  See Sanders v. Casa View Baptist Church, 134 F3d 331 (5th Cir. 1998) 

    The more perplexing problem is that the case law is not consistent from state to state.  Some states have barred similar law suits.  If you want a fuller view of the subject here is an article that will bring you up to speed.  http://www.findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_qa3968/is_200001/ai_n8884548

    Theo, I’m a big suporter of 1st Amendment rights, however, many, many of these quacks are holding themsleves at as offering services that were considered primarily secular services.  When they do that, their abject failure to provide any meaningful service, and what I consider to be the nearly criminal disservice that they provide, needs to be rectified.

  12. Are fundamentalists more at risk of mental illness, does mental illness make them seek out such an environment, or is there a confluence of both? – elwedriddsche

    Excellent question, if you ever find the answer let me know. I come from a family that is steeped in religious fervor, from my four ordained minister cousins to my aunt who had an exorcism (yes, an actual exorcism) performed on her out of control child. The one thing I notice is that they slowly surround themselves only with those who support their views and lose touch with anyone who has a contrary view. I imagine that continuous reinforcement of a singular belief is little different from actual brainwashing. Roughly half of the family members that are fundamentalists (one was actually a Michigan delegate for Pat Robertson sick) have had what I can describe only as long standing emotional issues.

    I think that people with mental illnesses gravitate toward those who are either a) like them or b) unconditionally accepting of them and since religion tends to accept anyone (as long as they aren’t homosexual) crazies tend to get caught in their gravitational field. If you want a good example of crazy and religious fundamentalism see godhatesfags.com and revel in the fine upstanding folk at the Westboro Baptist Church. I imagine they not only embrace crazy, they produce it as well.

  13. Couldn’t the husband be neglectful here also? He heard her say she wanted to give the daughter to God. Any reasonable person would seek measures to protect their children, such as not leaving them home alone together. I think the Andrea Yates’ husband was in the same boat there too. At what point should the spouse who also failed to seek aide be held accountable?

  14. Not to be the voice of defending people who aren’t defensible, but many people fail to act until it is too late, because, well, “This can’t be happening”.  People die of cancer all the time because of denial, for instance.

    Surely somebody is to blame for this!  I pick religion generally as supernaturalism is a convenient hiding-place for irrationality.  Something doesn’t seem right, so you sieze upon a ready-built ontology that promises to straighten everything out in the end no matter how long it takes. 

    Lacking such a fallback, Rationalism is forced to accept that sometimes the situation can’t be straightened out and simply requires a very unpleasant intervention.

  15. elwed, I don’t know what I think exactly on the issue.  I think it is an incredibly touchy subject and must be dealt with very carefully.  I think the outcome can only be lose-lose.  Either some religious freedom is repressed in the name of safety, or human safety is sacrificed in the name of religious freedom.  I value both so it is hard to choose.  I know I can think of extreme situations where I would want human safety to win out, but with my limited knowledge of even this situation I’m not sure if I would count this as an extreme situation.

  16. Theo,

    I think it is an incredibly touchy subject and must be dealt with very carefully.

    It’s not a touchy subject for me, though.

    I think the outcome can only be lose-lose.

    I disagree.

    Either some religious freedom is repressed in the name of safety, or human safety is sacrificed in the name of religious freedom.

    And you are conflicted about this?

    It’s very simple. You are free to pick and chose whatever religious beliefs tickle your fancy. You’re into involuntary human sacrifice? Eating babies? No problem. The second that acting out on your religious beliefs infringes on limb, life, liberty, rights, or whatnot of a non-consenting or coerced person, you have the freedom to face up to and including a lynch mob.

    I value both so it is hard to choose.  I know I can think of extreme situations where I would want human safety to win out, but with my limited knowledge of even this situation I’m not sure if I would count this as an extreme situation.

    I’ll second DOF. What would be an extreme situation where human safety should win out and what do you consider a non-extreme situation where it shouldn’t?

    To state the obvious, I’m not giving anybody leave to endanger my and my family’s safety.

  17. DOF:
    what would be an extreme situation?

    elwed:
    You’re into involuntary human sacrifice? Eating babies?

    Those are good examples of extreme situations I wouldn’t approve of.

    elwed:
    It’s not a touchy subject for me, though.

    Of course not because you are the atheist materialist with the power.  The state could care less about you.  You are perfectly content to give all problems a material cause and material remedy. You are not the religious person that now has the state incredibly wary of him, for believing there is more to existence than chemical and physical reactions.

    elwed:
    And you are conflicted about this?

    Have you come up with the perfect balance between the state protecting us against terrorism and still allowing us to keep our civil liberties?  This is a similar conflict.

    elwed:
    The second that acting out on your religious beliefs infringes on limb, life, liberty, rights, or whatnot of a non-consenting or coerced person, you have the freedom to face up to and including a lynch mob.

    But which non-consenting or coerced persons is it an infringement on?

    I’m not giving anybody leave to endanger my and my family’s safety.

    I wouldn’t either.  But should parents be able to determine what healthcare they choose to practice for themselves and their families?  Shouldn’t I be allowed NOT to take medicine or get psychiatric help if I’m depressed or suicidal because I believe the cause of the depression transcends the material world?  If I were a parent responsible for a child should I be required to give my child medication to deal with ADHD?

  18. You are not the religious person that now has the state incredibly wary of him, for believing there is more to existence than chemical and physical reactions.

    Horse apples.  The state is hardly wary of the religious – witness tax exemptions, the right to limit their kids’ educations based on old legends, ‘faith-based funding’, the list goes on and on.  Religion practically gets a free pass.

    Do children have to die for it to be an ‘extreme situation?  Or is there a line before that?

  19. What is with these wacky ultra religious women killing their kids and doing these horrid things to them ?  Then when its over they all go for the insanity plea.  Living here in the midwest we must hear of at least one of these incidents weekly and each is more horrific than the next.  Going back over a number of them one common denominator is that they are all out of the “fundamentalists” type groups.. what is in their teachings that turns people into these nutball freaks who must kill their kids !!!  People up the road from us at ‘the other house” in another state were also sinners from Chicago that did the whole “found God” joined one of these bizaar fundamentalists groups up in the middle of bumblefark and their oldest child, a son almost died from a known disease that is quite treatable if diagnosed in time, but deadly if not.  “She” refused most medical treatment since her church told her God would take care of it… the husband being a lawyer knew all hell would break lose if he left it to the church’s way and took the boy to the doctor and later to the hosptial.  I guess a medical panel read the wife the riot act for being a flaming moron along with the headfucks from her church and threatened to bring legal action if she did not get her act together and do something right for her son.  (thank goodness someone had the guts to speak up and out).. that was a few years back.. kid is fine, in college etc.. they are with a more Mainstream church now and praying for forgiveness for being led astray by the false prophets..

    Good grief !!!!!

  20. Theo,

    executive summary: Bullshit.

    Now for a longer version… We’ve established that you’re opposed to human sacrifice and baby eating as acceptable exercise of religious freedom. Your argument implies that there are other conceivable religious practices that happen to endanger somebody’s personal safety that you do not reject out of hand. Please name a few relevant examples.

    Of course not because you are the atheist materialist with the power.  The state could care less about you.  You are perfectly content to give all problems a material cause and material remedy. You are not the religious person that now has the state incredibly wary of him, for believing there is more to existence than chemical and physical reactions.

    If with state we both refer to the U.S., this is a preposterous claim. How many openly atheistic people are in public service? I believe the answer to be zero. Do you have counter-examples? Are you implying there is indeed a hidden atheist conspiracy that runs the country? As far as I can tell, the current government bends over backwards to make more and more concessions to appease and yield more power to the Religious Right. You are right, though, that that state could care about poor little atheist me.

    As to the state being wary of the religious, don’t you mistake not getting your way on constitutional grounds for something entirely different?

    As to there being more then “chemical and physical reactions”, that’s an apologistic canard not worthy of further response.

    Have you come up with the perfect balance between the state protecting us against terrorism and still allowing us to keep our civil liberties?  This is a similar conflict.

    No, it isn’t. Terrorism is a real threat, even if there is room for disagreement of the magnitude of it. The public should be involved in a consensus decision what, if any, civil liberties they are willing to forfeit. A good answer, by the way, would be “None”.

    Shielding a religious person from the consequences of his or her actions provided they are grounded in their specific religious beliefs is an entirely different kettle of fish. Where terrorism is a very real and well-documented threat, religion is an adult version of playing pretend.

    The second that acting out on your religious beliefs infringes on limb, life, liberty, rights, or whatnot of a non-consenting or coerced person, you have the freedom to face up to and including a lynch mob.

    But which non-consenting or coerced persons is it an infringement on?

    The guy next door to you had a religious epiphany that compels him you hit you repeatedly with a two-by-four. Do you consent? Or does he have to tie you up and tell you to stop squirming and moaning?

    Please note I am talking about religion in the broadest sense, any conceivable or inconceivable whack job sect included.

    But should parents be able to determine what healthcare they choose to practice for themselves and their families?

    This is irrelevant to the topic at hand.

    Shouldn’t I be allowed NOT to take medicine or get psychiatric help if I’m depressed or suicidal because I believe the cause of the depression transcends the material world?

    In most states of the U.S., a notable example of which happens to be Florida, you have the right to refuse medical treatment, no justification asked. If such a refusal to seek treatment of a condition you are aware of results in injury to another person, can you give good cause why you shouldn’t be held legally liable?

    In a more general sense, you seem to imply that being misinformed and well-intentioned may be sufficient reason to escape prosecution. I believe the legal system will find this insufficient cause to set aside a judgement, but it may well reduce the severity of it.

    If I were a parent responsible for a child should I be required to give my child medication to deal with ADHD?

    Again off-topic. What you should do, of course, is whatever happens to be in the best interest of your child. If there is a medication that promises to be both safe and effective and no equivalent non-medicated treatment options are available, the decision is a no-brainer. If none of the options is both safe and sound, you would do what every parent does in a similar situation – agonize over a decision, pick one, and take it from there.

  21. but with my limited knowledge of even this situation I’m not sure if I would count this as an extreme situation.

    In my opinion (and I am a parent; it is quite clear you are NOT), if it endangers a child (as this woman’s mental illness clearly did), or even threatens to, religious freedom be damned.  There are too many dead kids who would be alive today if not for their parents’ whacky religious beliefs.  That this woman actively murdered her child is, to my way of thinking, as heinous and horrific as those parents’ whose children are dead because of their religious objection to blood transfusions or other medical treatments.

    If you’re a consenting adult and put your life and health in “god’s hands” rather than those of a qualified medical practitioner, have at it.  But putting a minor child in physical danger should get that kid taken away from you.

    For fuck’s sake, a parent can hardly yell at a kid today without someone wanting to call the authorities on them, but anything that can be justified as a matter of the parent’s religious faith is supposed to be excused?  I THINK NOT.

  22. DOF:
    Horse apples.  The state is hardly wary of the religious – witness tax exemptions, the right to limit their kids’ educations based on old legends, ‘faith-based funding’, the list goes on and on.  Religion practically gets a free pass.

    elwed:
    If with state we both refer to the U.S., this is a preposterous claim. How many openly atheistic people are in public service? I believe the answer to be zero. Do you have counter-examples? Are you implying there is indeed a hidden atheist conspiracy that runs the country? As far as I can tell, the current government bends over backwards to make more and more concessions to appease and yield more power to the Religious Right. You are right, though, that that state could care about poor little atheist me.

    As to the state being wary of the religious, don’t you mistake not getting your way on constitutional grounds for something entirely different?

    These responses are unnecessary.  I know the state is probably more favorable to religion than it should be, but if you recall my first post in this thread this whole discussion is stemming from the potential of the priest being held legally accountable and this becoming a precedent case for the state to more severely curb the freedom of religion.

    elwed:
    As to there being more then “chemical and physical reactions

  23. Theo:  I thought this was the topic; the rights of the individual and private family to control their own well being.

    It’s about whether or not a NON family member was making those decisions. 

    When you prevent me from going to a doctor to get medical help b/c your religion prohibits it, that’s where your religous freedom ends.

  24. I know the state is probably more favorable to religion than it should be, but if you recall my first post in this thread this whole discussion is stemming from the potential of the priest being held legally accountable and this becoming a precedent case for the state to more severely curb the freedom of religion.

    If you recall, it was you who broadened the narrow issue Consi raised.

    Please elaborate.

    No.

    In my analogy “protection against terrorism

  25. How is a parent putting a minor child in danger by refusing to seek medical help?  Nature put the child in danger, not the parents.  A parent refusing to help a child coming down with a treatable but deadly disease is not the parents hanging their children over a lava pit and lowering them into a fiery grave.

    I disagree.  Wilfully refusing to seek medical treatment for a desperately ill child is exactly the same as hanging that child over a fiery pit of lava.  In either case, the child is knowingly being put in harm’s way by the person/people charged with the health and well-being of the child.

    Nature hung the child there and is lowering them to the fiery grave while the parents allow nature to run its course, or in other words “survival of the fittest.

  26. elwed:
    If you recall, it was you who broadened the narrow issue Consi raised.

    So?

    elwed:
      Please elaborate.

    No.

    If you don’t think that was a fair summary of materialist ontology then I’d like to know why.

    elwed:
    Should the priests that allow them to go forward be held legally responsible?

    This is a tough question.  At first I would be tempted to answer no they should not.  No one but those who made the decision to run planes into buildings should be held responsible for that decision.  They were free to make that decision and they made it.  The influence of a religious leader should not factor in.  I say that because the existentialist within says that a stop sign only stops me if I let it.  I am free to make any choice always, but must be responsible for the choices I make.

    Then again maybe they should be held accountable because in the case of the Islamic imam this could be chalked up to hate speech if all they did was preach that it should be done and did not supply them with weapons and means to accomplish the deed.  But hate speech would be the exception to the rule.  Encouraging somebody to pray for healing and neglect treatment is not hate speech so the American priest in our example would be free.

    Finally is hate speech a sufficient reason to be an exception to religious leaders not being held accountable for the actions of the clergy?  Hate speech is a touchy subject and I’m not sure where I stand on it as a civil liberty.  So in the end my analysis is that the American priest gets off and the Islamic imam’s fate is undecided.

    elwed:
    At issue is whether the priest practiced medicine without proper license.

    The priest practiced religion.  If a priest tried to bandage a wound for somebody and that person got infected because the priest wasn’t careful to make sure everything was sterile then the priest could get in trouble for practicing medicine.  Advice is not medicine.

    elwed:
    If they were sane first and had reason to suspect that their untreated mental illness would lead them to turn into murderers, they should be charged as an accomplice if they can be successfully treated.

    Fair analysis.  I don’t know if I agree, not saying that I disagree, I just don’t know.

    elwed:
    If they were aware of being infected, absolutely. Even better, lynch the bastards and save the state the cost of a trial and the incarceration.

    I think that’s a fair judgement too, to an extent.  Maybe I shelter myself too much, but have you ever heard of a person with AIDS or HIV being charged with any kind of felony for spreading the disease through promiscuity?  I haven’t.  So why aren’t they?  I know it happens.

    elwed:
    The issue is whether or not the priest treated a mental health condition, without proper training or authority to do so and more importantly, if in doing so he prevented to woman from seeing qualified help.

    No he didn’t.  Unless the priest made it physically difficult for the person with the mental health problem or the family members of that person to get that person a qualified professional opinion, I think the priest shouldn’t be touched.

    elwed:
    Depending on state or other law, the family was likely free to refuse such treatment. If they did so out of their own volition, then whoever participated in that decision should be held legally accountable for the murder of the child.

    What example or family are you referring to in this analysis?

    elwed:
    First, get your Darwinism right.

    Why doesn’t survival of the fittest fit in the context I used it?

    elwed:
    You steadfastly refuse, though, to give examples that delineate where you draw the line.

    That’s because I can’t draw a line thin enough to do it justice.  I think for the most part all of this has to be taken on a case by case basis.  If I drew a line it would be broad and you and others would reasonably and fairly tear it apart with fringe examples.  Then I would redraw the line a little thinner and this would continue for a long time as we could likely come up with a lot of examples that an absolute rule of thumb may not justly be able to address fully.  If you have advice or recommendation I’d be willing to consider because I think this is an interesting discussion to continue.

    OB:
    Wilfully refusing to seek medical treatment for a desperately ill child is exactly the same as hanging that child over a fiery pit of lava.  In either case, the child is knowingly being put in harm’s way by the person/people charged with the health and well-being of the child.

    Imperiling the life of a child who hasn’t made an informed, conscious choice to either subscribe to the superstition or refuse treatment based on those beliefs is the worst sort of negligence, and in fact ought to be considered child abuse.  Children are legally incapable of providing consent, and parents have a legal (and MORAL) obligation to protect them.

    We may end up having to agree to disagree, but I want to pursue one more thing before giving entirely up on this exchange.  Why can’t that line of reasoning be used against abortion?(uh oh there’s the abortion tangent RUN!! tongue rolleye )  I suspect I can already guess a portion of your response, but I don’t have time to predefeat it as I’m already running late for a meeting as I type.

    OB:
    In those cases where parental religious objections endanger children, the government has an obligation to step in just as they would if the parent were otherwise neglecting or abusing a child.

    And how is that going to be defined?  What else will this allow the state to control in the future given this concession of privacy?  Why not birth the children into state run “development centers” where the education and upbringing of the child will follow the latest accepted sociological methods and research to insure a perfect generation of children?  Ridiculous?  Probably, but I’m not sure it’s entirely unjustified.

  27. This is a tough question.

    I find that the only toughness involved concerns the probable extraterritorial application of national law.

    Maybe I shelter myself too much, but have you ever heard of a person with AIDS or HIV being charged with any kind of felony for spreading the disease through promiscuity?

    You are too sheltered. These cases have gone to trial and at least some of these scumbags have been convicted. See also Cindy’s post in this recent thread on SEB.

    Unless the priest made it physically difficult for the person with the mental health problem or the family members of that person to get that person a qualified professional opinion, I think the priest shouldn’t be touched.

    I strongly disagree. If the priest prevented the woman from receiving proper treatment, it doesn’t matter to me if he physically restrained her or “just” conned her.

    What example or family are you referring to in this analysis?

    The opening post, of course.

    That’s because I can’t draw a line thin enough to do it justice.

    I have no problem at all drawing such a line. If your religion is a danger to my safety, don’t expect me to even turn the first cheek.

    I am simply astonished that you even allow for the possibility that the exercise of one person’s religion may jeopardize the safety of another, without the possibility for legal recourse if a third party does indeed get hurt.

    While I don’t believe that you’d go quite that far, it sounds suspiciously like “I’m willing to die defending your right to burn that witch.”

  28. Theo said: Advice is not medicine.

    That is right.  However, advice about mental illness is counseling which requires a license.  Many, if not most, states have a statutory exemption for the religious that allows them to do counseling without having a counseling license. 

    The issue is fairly straight forward when counseling services are provided by anyone who holds themself out to be a counselor.  The reasonable counselor standard applies. 

    What you are advocating for is an affirmative defense to negligence that amounts to this: The pastors may be negligent for not referring the crazy to more qualified care, but that’s okay because the negligent care was provided by a member of the clergy.

    I query to you Theo the following: Shouldn’t all of God’s children be entitled to competent counseling for mental illness under the law whether the are unfortunate enough to receive it from a head shrinker or from a quak pastor?

  29. Double dipping because volokh.com has an article that bears on a minor point in the above discussion.

    That point is illustrated in the following exchange:

    You are not the religious person that now has the state incredibly wary of him,….

    To which DOF responded:

    he state is hardly wary of the religious – witness tax exemptions, the right to limit their kids’ educations based on old legends, ‘faith-based funding’, the list goes on and on.  Religion practically gets a free pass.

    and Elwed agreed in turn that such a claim was preposterous and expounded that

    As to the state being wary of the religious, don’t you mistake not getting your way on constitutional grounds for something entirely different?

    Theo then backed down.  But should he have?  Probably not, if he was referring to judicial branch of government reflecting a hostility in negative outcomes for mainstream Christians.

    From Greg Sisk’s article at volokh.com

    Indeed, the single most prominent, salient, and consistent influence on judicial decisionmaking in our study was religion—religion in terms of affiliation of the claimant, the background of the judge, and the demographics of the community, independent of other background and political variables commonly used in empirical tests of judicial behavior.

    Let me cut to the chase and set out the pertinent findings for this week’s discussion:

    First, those religious groupings that both today and historically have been regarded as outsiders or minorities, such as Jews, Muslims, Native Americans, and various others (including Jehovah’s Witnesses and Christian Scientists), did not succeed or fail in making religious liberty claims at a rate (controlling for all other variables) that was significantly different than for other religious classifications. In sum, with the potential exception of Muslim claimants in certain claim subcategories, religious minorities did not experience disproportionately unfavorable treatments in the federal courts of the 1980s and 1990s.

    Second, two categories of religious affiliation by claimants emerged as consistently and significantly associated with a negative outcome—Catholic (at the 99% probability level) and Baptist (at the 95% probability level).

    Looks like empirical evidence indicates that mainstream Christians are the ones who should be bitching and moaning not the whiney atheists. wink

  30. Looks like empirical evidence indicates that mainstream Christians are the ones who should be bitching and moaning not the whiney atheists.

    So how do we whiney atheists fare? wink

    Are there any atheist federal judges? In the unlikely event that there are any, do they exhibit a bias?

    I’m glad to hear, though, that it’s better to have no religious affiliation than having the wrong one.

  31. Triple dipping as a form of affirmative action for the oppressed majority:

    But the present period is one in which
    “the culture’s predominant religious traditions

  32. Consi, as interesting as that study is (Catholics take it in the shorts, while other religious groups come out about even) it does not in itself indicate bias.  Omitted is the key variable of what they were asking for in court.

    I have the same problem with affirmative action claims.  A disparity of result, sans information about the qualification of the loan/job/housing applicants, means very little. Ditto for claims that certain ethnic groups get more tickets – no information is ever given as to if there is a real disparity in driving habits. 

    I still think our country gives a pretty sweet ride to metaphysical nonsense.

  33. Consi,

    The Man is stepping on Christians not atheists!!!

    Suck it up, man. wink

    Theo,

    I would disagree that a priest can prevent someone from proper treatment without physical intervention.

    Ever heard of con artist?

    People need to realize they are free and the extent to which they are not free to make certain choices about how they will act is only in their mind.

    And with the freedom to make choices comes the obligation to accept the consequences of these choices.

    What my issue is is that the state should not be able to tell a parent how to take care of their children.

    But that’s not the issue Consi raised, unless the state happens to be a theocracy.

    Nature attacked the child it is between the child and nature to decide what happens.  The parent can choose and often will choose to intervene but the government should not be allowed to say that the parent has to get between a sick child and nature.  In my mind this is like the “right to die

  34. Theo, the whole notion of free will, IMO, is grossly overrated. There are real, natural, consequential realities that influence our decision making – as individuals and as a group. Economics has shown this successfully for a half-century.

    As such, will cannot be free so long as the actions of one person may create circumstances which influence the decisions of another. In other words, if “free will” exists, than it can only extend in it’s influence so far as the “free will” of others. In which case, such decisions are not about choice, they are about power. To be free, we are either gods or we merely make decisions that are inconsequential, and I find both to be absurd.

    To tell me that I can choose to fly and that anything saying otherwise is only in my head is a flat lie. It attributes far too much power to the human mind, which time has shown can be an extremely vulnerable, fragile thing. There can be little doubt of the reality of mental illness, of effects of psychological abuse, etc. and those who believe otherwise are duly pressured to show evidence for such beliefs. Until you can accept that this woman was, insofar as professional diagnosis is concerned, incapable of seeing to her own welfare to the degree that you and I have, then we can’t be saying that she can, in any way, think herself away from the problems at hand. For as long as she is so incapable, she is at the mercy of her advisors.

  35. Why should our ability to advance medicine change the government from hopeless uninvolvement in the health of its citizens to forcing its citizens to survive?  Why isn’t allowing nature to take its course a civil liberty?

    Just because we are animals doesn’t mean that we have to act that way. That is why we have free will. The mere fact that you insist that others suffer because of “nature” shows that you have no empathy for your fellow human being. A lion should eat your face.

  36. DOF:

    Surely you know that I would not offer to the plate a law review article that didn’t study whether the claims were weaker.  Well, maybe you don’t, and maybe I would just for sport, but in this case, the researchers have looked at the claims themselves.  See Part II, Section E entitled “Testing the Alternative Suggestion That Catholic and
    Baptist Claims Were Weaker on Merits.” The short answer is no.

    Theo:

    If you didn’t want to answer the query, you should just say so.  So, since you didn’t and qualifying the question as not to encompass any aspect of socializing health care I repeat in a slightly rephrased fashion the following:

    When one of God’s children receives negligent counseling, why is that you want to deny the wronged recompense from those who wronged them?  As a follow up, what did those of God’s children do that they should be denied compensation except to seek solace from those holding themselves out to be warriors on behalf of God?

  37. elwed:
    Ever heard of con artist?

    The priest isn’t even close to a con artist.  A con artist gains something tangible out of someone else’s gullibility.  How does a priest gain anything from the death of a member of his church?

    elwed:
    And with the freedom to make choices comes the obligation to accept the consequences of these choices.

    Agreed.

    elwed:
    But that’s not the issue Consi raised…

    So?  I don’t think it’s so different that it’s so unrelated that it shouldn’t be raised.  It’s not like the issue I raised is a non-issue.

    elwed:
      Nature attacked the child it is between the child and nature to decide what happens.  The parent can choose and often will choose to intervene but the government should not be allowed to say that the parent has to get between a sick child and nature.  In my mind this is like the “right to die

  38. Theo:

    consi:
    2) Do you understand why the law would impose such a duty on certain professions?

    I can see why it would want to, but I’m not sure that it is truly able.

    There are in fact civil and criminal laws meant to protect people from malpractice by professionals like doctors, lawyers and counselors – as well as “con men.”

    Now, pardon my ignorance, being that I’m just a high school grad from a shithole factory town…  but you’re flinging around the word “materialist” as though it’s a bad thing, and that you have some other, superior, way to look at the REAL world. 

    Y’know, the world where some people are fucked up in the head enough to believe in demons, and others are fucked up enough to murder their own children for “religious reasons.”

    The inability to deal with the real world AS IT IS is one of the reasons I’d like to see humanity finally rid themselves of the shackles and delusions of god belief.  As long as they think there’s some “afterlife” or “other world,” it’s far too easy for them to ignore what’s happening in THIS one.

  39. Consi: Surely you know that I would not offer to the plate a law review article that didn’t study whether the claims were weaker.  Well, maybe you don’t…

    It was the second one, sorry.  The confusion of correlation with cause when only one of many variables is accounted for, is all too common.  For example, did you know that practically every serial killer who ever lived drank cow’s milk at least occasionally?  LOL

  40. Theo,

    The priest isn’t even close to a con artist.

    Depending on how you look at it, priests are the ultimate con artists. The reason to draw that comparison is not what they gain, but how they gain it. Neither one requires physical restraint.

    It’s not like the issue I raised is a non-issue.

    Then post another thread and stay on topic here.

    “I hope you never have children or are entrusted with a child’s care.”

    Is my logic flawed?  Or do you have a more solid critique for these ideas about parenting that would come across more clearly than “because I said so?

  41. Not to jump into the middle of this conversation with a distraction, but I just had to comment on…

    The priest isn’t even close to a con artist.

    …and say that there are plenty of people, myself included, who would argue that Priests are the ultimate con artists.

  42. I hadn’t commented yet on this one;

    Nature attacked the child it is between the child and nature to decide what happens.

    One time when I was out walking with my then 8-year-old son, we were confronted by a large dog barking and growling.  Without even thinking about it, I stepped in between the dog and my son.

    There was a very nervous (and long) couple minutes with the dog threatening, me holding my coat in front of me like a decoy, and telling my son to stay behind me and back away slowly.  Then the owner came up and restrained the animal.

    I didn’t figure it was between the dog and my son to decide what happened.  Nor did I have any set limit to the depth of involvement there – the dog wasn’t going to bite my son.  Period.

  43. The million dollar question would be can you have a materialist ontology and come to any other conclusion?  I bet you were determined to think that.

    I could make up any sort of crap I wanted to justify whatever way I’m thinking, but the bottom line is, I’m not making this up. If you don’t want to back your statements up, fine, but that’s a cop-out on your part. As for how I got to this conclusion, I spent a lot of time manipulating people and learning how they reacted as a kid. I learned very quickly that most people are shmucks, and it’s typically easy to manipulate them should there ever be a need.

    I’m not talking about flying.  I’m talking about how we attribute meaning and value.

    And I’m saying, based on the above reasoning, that you are attributing far too much meaning and value to what the human mind is capable of. You cannot reasonably deny that there are realities outside what we think of things, and that those realities take an utmost presence in the results of our decision-making, as the case of gravity presents. In some cases, as with this woman who was declared unfit to stand trial, it makes certain decisions impractical or impossible, no matter if they seem reasonable to others. Simply because you and I are capable of it does not mean this woman was.

    Nature attacked the child it is between the child and nature to decide what happens.

    Are you suggesting that we are not a part of Nature, and aren’t also a participant in the situation? If that’s not the case, why would you let your child suffer? Surely you must have some preference as to the child’s welfare.

    probably the materialists with their empirical reproducible evidence.  How convenient.

    Tell me you aren’t calling psychiatrists, doctors, and other medical professionals, frauds. Oh, wait:

    There can be little doubt from the materialist don’t pretend to speak for the rest of us.

    Yes, yes you are. In the meantime, your statement amounts to a brush-off. Do you have anything else in the way of rebuttals or was dismissal all, for now?

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