Florida cases of religious parents shunning doctors, and consequently endangering the lives of their children.

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Cases of religious parents shunning doctors, and consequently endangering the lives of their children; Florida's attempts legally to correct the problem raises constitutional issues. Child Abuse in Florida

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|from roger|

how many deaths will it take till we know
that too many children have died?


Clamping down on BAD ONES
Parents and Religions
by Jean Heller

The recent death of a boy, whose parents don't believe in modern medicine, has child advocates asking whether the law addresses the issue properly.

After Amy Hermanson, 7, died at her home in Sarasota, a victim of diabetes, her parents were convicted of child abuse and third- degree murder. They knew Amy was sick but said that their Christian Science faith kept them from seeking medical attention for her. (See Rita Swan's CHILD site for background.)

Amy Hermanson
Amy Hermanson Tragedy (see CHILD site)
The conviction in the 1986 case was overturned in 1992 by the Florida Supreme Court. The court criticized the state's child abuse statutes, calling them so incomprehensible that no reasonably intelligent person could tell when his actions regarding his children cross the line into criminal behavior.

Today, six years after the Hermanson ruling, and two years after the court rendered the same judgment in another case, the old statutory language remains.

The impact, experts say, is chilling: Making a case against a parent - even an abusive parent - whose child dies for lack of medical attention is nearly impossible if the parent can show ties to a religion, even a tiny circle of like-minded friends, that disdains modern medicine.

It is not yet clear whether the Hillsborough County state attorney will bring charges against Kelly and Wylie Johnson of Melbourne, parents of the 2-year-old boy who died in Tampa after being stung 432 times by yellow jackets. The Johnsons, members of a religious group that shuns medicine, waited seven hours before summoning help for their son, Harrison.

But the case has caught the attention of child advocates statewide.

"You would think when the Supreme Court says your work product is defective, you would go back and fix it, but most of our legislators feel like they have better things to do than protect children," said Karen Gievers, a South Florida lawyer and child advocate who successfully sued the state on behalf of foster children.

"Children can't go to Tallahassee to lobby for themselves, so they don't get attention," added Gievers, who is running for secretary of state. "But what do you expect? These are the same legislators who dealt with school crowding by changing the definition of crowding."

Jack Levine, director of the Florida Center for Children, said his group will spend the next month researching what might be done to improve child abuse laws in this state with so much Bible Belt influence.

"Florida statutes are replete with inconsistencies when it comes to child neglect and religious exemptions," Levine said. "We are blinded to the fact that Florida is a magnet for any individual or group, sect or cult that wants to set its own rules of conduct. Questions of religious exemptions where the treatment of children is concerned are worthy of scrutiny and, we think, reform."

In legislative committees concerned with these statutes, there was confusion this week about what the Supreme Court justices found to criticize. The criminal portions of the child-abuse statutes make no provision for religious exemption. Such an exemption is found only in civil statutes.

"Someone found guilty of something like third-degree murder shouldn't have access to the religious exemption defense," said Stephanie Olin, staff director for the House committee on family law and children.

"That might be true, but the courts still consider (the religious exemption) as a criminal defense," said Chris Zawisza, director of the Children First program at Nova Southeastern University in Fort Lauderdale. "What the court is saying is the statutes are too vague to be enforceable against a parent who claims a religious exemption."

Florida is not alone in trying to sort out a maze of conflicts between freedom of religion and child abuse, according to Peggy DesAutels of the University of South Florida in St. Petersburg. DesAutels is a recognized expert on medical ethics and the First Church of Christ, Scientist.

"The Christian Science cases (involving obtaining medical care for children) everywhere bump up against spiritual exemptions," DesAutels said. "The resolution isn't clear."

Some suggest all spiritual exemption laws should be taken off the books.

"I'm not sure if that's the way we want to go as a society," she said. "Do we want to say medicine is the only alternative for health care when we know that prayer does help some people in some situations? And we need to be fair. When a doctor makes a horrendous mistake, and they do, they aren't charged with murder.

"If we had an infallible medical system, maybe we could depend on that alone. But we don't."

© 1998 Times Publishing Company
St. Petersburg Times
St. Petersburg Florida
3 oct 1998
section: metro & state; pg. 1b
length: 754 words
headline: abuse laws still vague when faith is involved
byline: jean heller

In print now, Linda S. Kramer's The religion that kills

A few links

Ashleigh - when the expert PROTECTORS go too far

Wellspring Retreat - to help get your life back on track

Spank With Love? - sometimes tough love is not the answer (beatings, spankings, emotional abuse)

Abuses - Florida juvenile corrections (it was supposed to work) from No-Spank

Dozier horror story - youth corrections program in Florida Reform School (extreme spankings) scars persist

The white house boys - support group to heal lingering trauma

More Marianna Beatings and Abuse - multiplying tales are beginning to emerge

Even More Stories - enough to chill you to the bone (white house abuses)

Vatican updates norms to deal with sexual abuse - a toughening of official stance

A religious defense of valuing the family - the corporal option - seek wisdom prayerfully - always be diligent with love (ein gedi)

"I beg to differ" - a doctor speaks his mind regarding responsibility and child-rearing in simpler times

Flogging for God in FL - corporal punishment MUST NOT be intentionally injurious from No-Spank

Legion of Christ/Regnum Christi expelled from Archdiocese of Miami - The controversial Marcial Maciel Degollado not only knew of beatings and sex abuse, but himself participated

Model Family - ERRING on the side of caution - is still ERRING! The "Model Family" network site is opposed to agency errors, too. Two wrongs (or three or four) never make a right.

Tampa Bay abuses intercepted by authorities (2004 case) - results of investigation not known

Linda - Allure
Here's Linda (Black and White) ORLANDO

[Courtesy of:]
Barry L. Hardy (barryhardy@juno.com)

"If you believe in it, it is a religion or perhaps the religion; and if you do not care one way or another about it, it is a sect; but if you fear and hate it, it is a cult." - Leo Pfeffer

Cult or Practicing Religious Freedom?,
AP Online, Wednesday,
September 30, 1998, 10:51 Eastern Time

Harrison Johnson was stung more than 200 times by a swarm of yellow jackets and died hours later, and authorities are investigating why parents took so long to summon help. A friend said the adults at the scene simply failed to realize the 2-year-old Harrison Johnson was in real danger, but the parents are members of a religious sect whose members have been in legal trouble over a child's death in the past. The boy was stung probably 75 times around the head and face and as many as 150 times on the body, Sheriff's Detective Lisa Haber said. Experts estimated that as many as 1,000 insects attacked the boy. Paramedics were not summoned until seven hours later and were unable to revive the boy. He died later at a hospital. The Johnsons were acquitted in March after being charged with failing to report the 1996 death of an infant whose parents were fellow members of the religious sect, an evangelical group called Bible Readers Fellowship, that broke away from a church in Melbourne called the Tabernacle. The parents, Rachael and Robert Aitcheson, told police their month-old daughter, Alexus, choked to death on regurgitated milk in October 1996 and was cremated during a private ceremony at a relative's farm. The parents themselves face trial next week on charges of failing to report the death, failing to obtain medical attention for the girl, abuse of a dead body and child abuse.

The religious group was described at the Johnsons' trial as avoiding medical treatment and disdaining governmental requirements like recording births and deaths. Authorities learned of Alexus' brief existence only when the Aitchesons told friends of their daughter's death.

Kyra Sedgwick joins in PSA
to Help Keep America's Children Safer

Power of Parents, a child safety program created in partnership with the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children (NCMEC) and Duracell, announced today that they will join forces with Golden Globe-winning actress Kyra Sedgwick in delivering crucial information about keeping America's children safer through a radio Public Service Announcement. Sedgwick lends her distinct voice and star power to spread awareness about the free downloadable tools available on the program's Web site, http://www.powerofparentsonline.com, that help teach parents about how to talk to their children about safety.

Pray for those in Authority

obsecro igitur primo omnium fieri obsecrationes orationes postulationes gratiarum actiones pro omnibus hominibus
pro regibus et omnibus qui in sublimitate sunt ut quietam et tranquillam vitam agamus in omni pietate et castitate
hoc enim bonum est et acceptum coram salutari nostro Deo
qui omnes homines vult salvos fieri et ad agnitionem veritatis venire
unus enim Deus unus et mediator Dei et hominum homo Christus Iesus
qui dedit redemptionem semet ipsum pro omnibus testimonium temporibus suis

hope for a church in crisis

It is Not Just Elian

Abusive "protectors" - time to wake up, America
Amy Hermanson religious abuse tragedy (CHILD website)
HOME: where the heart is (sometimes if works!)
Authoritarian do-gooders: with the anger, love?
Better a millstone (nurture the vulnerable)
Institutional Discipline (more corporal punishments?)

The Notorious 'Reform School Strap'

The socalled Buffalo Skinner

reform school strap
see whitehouseboys link (elsewhere on page)

Off the wall reflections
by webster Bob Shepherd

Bob ShepherdMost families and parents and institutions (schools or whatever) could probably be charged with (at least accused of) some version of accountability (structure, control, discipline etc). The Marianna case is battling back, looking for scapegoats, and some of those in authority are worried about image and damage control. Ironically, the success stories are unnoticed in the media eagerness for juicy stories, scandals, and "torture" headlines. So the victims "memory" suddenly improves, and juicy details suddenly "come back" to them, resulting in embellished exposés for the newly lionized investigative journalists. (And perhaps fame, celebrity, even book deals for the now-announced "victims" (real -- or slightly exaggerated).

Wherever we turn to, Winston Churchill, Martin Luther King, etc -- integrity is a beacon. Abuse is an abomination.

But so is lying.

Always beneath the radar, it seems, is a good side. We have many stories, never heard of, where the boys took their abuse, grew up and graduated, then made something good of their lives, bringing credit both to their own resilience and resolve -- but also bringing credit (and satisfaction) to everyone along the way who believed in them, including (yes) the ones whom others have branded as "abusers."

If you heal ten people, giving of yourself, all ten will go their way happier for your efforts. But I bet you only one or two of the ten will turn around and thank you. Administrators do their best with these kids, hoping they can make something good of their lives. Most of them do, even if sometimes they bog down for a while. Who knows when, or even if. There's a mystery to the alchemy of the soul. But even the socalled abusers, most of them, are trying to do their jobs the best they can. Most of them want to help those troubled boys. And many of them (themselves) have come from rough backgrounds, and they KNOW what helped them. They somehow understand a purpose behind the correction they themselves received, earlier. And have forgiven their own disciplinarians enough to grow up, to move on, and to try to do some good in the world.

Remember, behind every storm cloud may be a rainbow. (But don't we have to look for it?)


Better a millstone tied about one's neck

Rather than harm one such little one, Jesus said
"it is better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and he were cast into the sea."


See God hates abuse

page up (first at geocities)
since 10/25/98

Do you need help? Do you have urges to reach out and touch something or someone that you have no right to touch? People are not objects. They are sacred and precious. You need to go to the police or someone that you feel comfortable with and tell them about your problem and that you would like to get help. Also, go to the one who created you and molded you in your mother's womb - ask for HIS deliverance and forgiveness, confess with your mouth that HE is LORD and then HE will save and deliver you! And truly mean it.

(Lindy Shepherd)

lady lynn
For Women First

Love Junkie?
White men and PORN
Has the West gone soft?

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