I'm going to begin this post with a statement that will be extremely controversial to some, and completely common sense to others: Faith-based healing doesn't work.
Practitioners of certain religions would like the legal code of Wisconsin to recognize otherwise. They want to be allowed to have their beliefs factor into any jury trial that might arise from a case of a child dying from an otherwise treatable medical problem that they instead opted to address through prayer.
Sen. Lena Taylor (D-Milwaukee) is their current champion in the Legislature, having introduced a bill that would create a "new religious exemption in state law by inserting nine faith-based 'affirmative defenses' into the state's criminal code. These defenses would have to be considered if a parent or guardian of a child withheld medical treatment for the child in favor of spiritual healing or prayer."
It's a tricky bit of business, especially considering that Taylor's proposal would actually strip out the existing religious exemption -- the same one that the Neumann family invoked in defense of their decision not to seek medical treatment for their daughter who eventually died from diabetic complications. The Neumann's were still convicted of second-degree reckless homicide.
The Christian Science Church, which was instrumental in getting that exemption passed back in 1987, apparently felt a bit guilty over having it used in such a way. They're the major backers for Taylor's current proposal. But while it would strip out the old language, the new faith-based defenses it would then introduce could be just as dangerous -- if not more so.
Religious freedom advocates argue that not exempting those who opt for faith-based healing practices would be a terrible violation of personal liberty. They'd be right if we were just talking about adults, but these are cases involving kids. I'm sure most people who support the exemption love their children and only want the best for them, but the fact remains that it would leave the door open to those less responsible and more misguided souls to cause serious harm to innocent children.
Taylor defends her bill by arguing that it "clearly states that prayer and spiritual healing are acceptable forms of treatment only until it becomes clear medical treatment is necessary to save the health or life of a child."
The problem, of course, is that there is absolutely zero scientific, peer-reviewed research to back the efficacy of prayer-based healing. And most parents aren't doctors. How do we then define the moment when it "becomes clear medical treatment is necessary" in order to keep a child alive? Isn't that decision better left up to a consensus between parent and trained physician?
Once a person has reached the age when they're allowed to make legal decisions for themselves, I have no issue with them opting for faith-based healing. Go hog wild. But we're talking about the health and safety of children, who are beholden to the actions of their legal guardians. We don't allow for the physical, mental, or sexual abuse of minors-rules that include punishment for neglect. Refusing medical treatment for a child in need is, to me, a clear case of neglect. It doesn't have to have nefarious motivations to be classified as such.
Thankfully, Rep. Terese Berceau (D-Madison) is working on legislation that would strip the current religious exemption without adding any new ones in its stead. She's working with Rita Swan, a former Christian Scientist turned children's rights advocate, to introduce the bill. It'll be important for citizens to raise their voices in support: Contact your legislator now to support AB590.
Whose Lawn Is It Anyway?
Some controversy has been a'swirling recently over proposed changes to the regulations governing properties abutting lakes and streams in Dane County. An overflow crowd greeted a public meeting on the subject held last week by the Dane County Lakes and Watershed Commission.
It's good that so many people are interested in the public process, but the motivation behind some is less wholesome.
The Realtors Association of South Central Wisconsin, you see, has been mailing out inflammatory and downright misleading information to homeowners in the area in an apparent attempt to drum up opposition to the plan.
Fortunately, the people actually working on the proposal have so far shown themselves to be far more reasoned and approachable. Brian Standing, the primary author of the report, has been working hard to counter the misinformation. He was quick to point out, for instance, that the new regulations (important, it would seem to me, to improve and/or maintain the environmental health of our waterways -- thus improving the quality and value of the property for everyone) would only apply to "navigable" bodies of water.
Blaska's beloved retention pond, for instance, would likely not qualify. But since he, and presumably a few other easily riled homeowners like him, believe every glossy postcard that comes in the mail, reasoned debate becomes difficult to achieve. There are places other than RASCW-funded websites to go for detailed and accurate information, though: If you're interested, check them out (PDF). Then, as Standing himself hoped, we can all "look forward to a vigorous and informed debate on the best way to care for our waters."
When will it be a "good time" for equal rights?
Open Memo to Milwaukee County Executive / Candidate for Governor Scott Walker:
You recently vetoed a measure that would have granted same-sex domestic partner benefits to county employees, arguing that, "At a time when we are seeking concessions from employees in both wages and benefits, it is improper that Milwaukee County grant new benefits to any class of employees."
So when would be a good time for you?
I don't see you asking that heterosexual couples give up any of their benefits in order to help balance the budget (well, aside from your desire to just cut and/or privatize some of their jobs).
Gov. Doyle, by no means the greatest governor that ever governed, was able to see the inherent justice in at least insuring partnership benefits to those currently denied equal marriage rights in Wisconsin. But you, Walker, don't seem terribly concerned with the fact that some of your fellow citizens have little to no access to some of their most basic rights. Worse still, you appear to be hiding behind the current fiscal crisis to cover for what I suspect has more to do with either bigotry on your part, or at very least a desire to pander to bigoted voters.
That's not someone I'm interested in having become governor of my state.
- Questions about the future solvency of the Overture Center are once again rearing their ugly heads. Will taxpayers be on the hook for $3 million dollars by 2011? Admirable steps to address the problems have been taken, but the bleeding doesn't seem to have stopped. So what now?
- I'm not convinced one way or another about the use of affirmative action in university admissions, but this Daily Cardinal opinion piece has got to be one the more ridiculous takes on the subject I've ever read (and I'm not the only one who thinks so). No matter how much we might close our eyes, click our heels, and wish that the election of Obama rids our country of any race relation problems, it's simply not so. And the UW is no exception.