Controversy over the Christian practice of faith healing has been under scrutiny by a plurality of voices defending human rights. And, rightly so. Rita Swan, PhD in English from Vanderbilt University and advocate for secular humanism – a non-religious life stance rooted in science, natural philosophy, and humanistic ethics – claims the law has aided the abuse and death of children because of parent’s religious beliefs, preventing medical treatment. Riccardo Privitera, Doctorate of law from Cambridge University, also questions the mental aptitude of adults who practice faith healing. His argument? Parental neglect and child abuse are caused by rejecting modern medical practice.
Interestingly, Roozbeth Gazdar argues collective prayer through faith can compliment medical science. Holistic medical practice originating from the East within the World’s oldest known religion – Hinduism – has been gaining popularity in the West. Because of the growing trend in religious circles to embrace sacred texts literally, holistic medical practice has been scrutinized by the hard sciences as a pseudoscience and ailment causing rejection of western medicine practice. My position is inclusive and that both should be the parental right of the guardians’ of a child. Individual rights would be violated under the SOCAS, affecting not only Christian beliefs but also non-beliefs of every United States citizen.
The separation of human rights and religious rites, under our United States Constitution, allows individuals the freedom to choose. Former practicing Christian Scientist, Rita Swan, left the church after the loss of her son, who died of untreated meningitis and asks, “What kind of society would we have if everyone were to violate laws that offended his or her religious beliefs? [claiming] Most people would see that as anarchy” (Swan). That’s an interesting question posed. What kind of society, indeed? First we must ask ourselves if faith and belief is the same thing in religious traditions. In a religious context, constructive doubt is when a person of faith wrestles and challenges their beliefs by asking hard questions.
If I comprehend Swan’s argument, to legislate a law enforcing the practice of medical care for every child as opposed to providing medical care under the Child Abuse Medical Treatment Act is essentially a very similar argument of prolife advocates. Swan argues, “These exemptions have brought very serious harm to children. Many outbreaks of vaccine-preventable diseases have occurred in groups claiming religious exemptions from immunizations” (Swan). First, under our Bill of Rights, isn’t this already allowed? And what is to stop parents from this practice for the welfare of not only their own health, but also their child’s? Second, is there a difference between the right to life and freedom to choose? And, lastly, is it faith or beliefs that have contributed to the harm of children? I argue it is beliefs, not faith, that put children in abusive situations.
The push-back by the Council for Secular Humanism advocating human rights for national medical care is a cause with which many religious are united. As an informed citizen who participates in our society, my beliefs have changed as my faith has matured. It is my obligation to make sure I and my child have the right to education which has been heavily influenced by Western philosophy. Dr Riccardo Privitera argues when it comes to a life and death illness of a child, “Logically, such decisions should be left to the Medical Doctors as a rule” (Privitera). Knowing that medical practice wasn’t born in a vacuum, but discovered by many men and women of faith, again, I question not a person’s faith, but their beliefs when it comes to advocating a law denying individual rights.
To my knowledge the sciences offer no empirical evidence that faith exists and does not claim to. The data collected by the methodology used in medical science as a tool is interpreted by human beings who come with their own set of unconscious biases. However, psychology, while not claiming to be a science of the mind, does offer new models to resist and reframe medical practice integrating mental health having holistic results. That is to say, through education people can change their beliefs opening their perception too having profound impact on life choices.
Roozbeh Gazdar, writer for Life Positive, investigates studies on positive energy and traditional practices researching how the mind plays an important role in our physical health. He asks, “Boosting morale, group support and Cathartic release: is that all there is? Or is there something else, something more intrinsic to the ritual of prayer itself?” (Gazdar). Medical science research through the lens of neurology reveals evidence that the practice of meditation and prayer — that can be traced back to ancient wisdom texts – supports the practice of these rituals. Empirical evidence is equally demonstrating traditional practices by integrating intuition, reason and logic have positive effect on peoples’ overall health.
Common teaching of all the World Religions is personal accountability as part of an active faith life. Although I can empathize with Rita Swan and Dr. Privitera agreeing in the twenty-first century that modern medical care should be a universal right, the intentions for the protection of our most vulnerable among us–children–should not be mandatory by the federal government. In advocating for this to be a law, we step back from the progress that has been shaped by our Democratic society born under our constitutional rights of SOCAS. Naturally I too advocate that providing medical healthcare is our lawful duty as parents.
The danger of framing an either/or model would hinder the progression of a people respecting human dignity in our difference. Freedom to choose comes with a price: As we try to find a balance in a postmodernism society, any law based on rigid belief system is a response I don’t support. Defending human rights by empowering people through education, and a different choice is our greatest assist uniting us in our pursuit of a justice and equal society.
Gazdar, Roozbeh. “Faith Healing – Healing the World.” Life Positive. Life PositiveFoundation, 2005. Web. 22 October, 2011. http://www.lifepositive.com/Spirit/Faith_Healing/Healing_the_World122005…
Privitera, Riccardo. “Mass Child Abuse: Neglect and Murder in the Name of God.” Newsvine. Newsvine, Inc., 11 April 2011. Web. 22 October, 2011. http://rprivitera.newsvine.com/_news/2011/04/11/6450394-medical-child-abuse-neglet-and-murder-in-the-name-of-god.
Swan, Rita. “Letting Children Die for the Faith.” Council for Secular Humanism. Council for Secular Humanism, August 2011. Web. 22 October, 2011. http://www.secularhumanism.org/index.php?section=library&page=swan_19_1