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From the Editor

By Edvard A. Hemmingsen

The SDARI June meeting drew one of our largest audiences ever, with many new faces. The discussion after the lecture showed that the subject matter was of great interest to people, and most of the comments warmly supported the speaker, Dr. Seth Asser. He described the suffering and death of children deprived of medical care by "religious" adults, and how this came to be condoned by the laws in many states. It was an eye-opening lecture which truly made us appreciate the efforts which Drs. Asser and Rita Swan, and their supporters, are making to rectify the situation. A brief summary of the lecture is given on page 4.

Some of the cases discussed by Dr. Asser were both heartbreaking and revolting. The ongoing child neglect for religious reasons is not a religious freedom issue. It is a child protection issue; the health of children must be saved and their deaths prevented, despite the neglect, stupidity and even evil practiced by their parents who are exempted in many states from laws, rationality, ethics and morals.

The philosophy of one of these religious groups, Christian Science, is especially devious. If the parents of a sick child seek regular medical help, they are told that, because of this action, spiritual healing will not occur. Christian Science practitioners claim that such healing takes care of all diseases through the body's own healing process. May be this will happen for some people for some illnesses because of the placebo effect (see our article on p. 1), but is unlikely for life-threatening diseases. Followers of Christian Science dismiss events in the real world apparently because they believe that such things as diseases, suffering and death are not real, just mere illusions!

We are living in a civilized society, or at least we hope so. We are governed by regulations and laws which protect the freedom of individuals but also protect members of the society from each other. Laws are made to give us safety and enhance our welfare, and to prevent anyone from imposing hardships, dangers, suffering or death on other people. The laws give the freedom to destroy oneself, but not to inflict harm or destruction on others, especially on those who can not defend themselves.

For their own good and survival, the members of our society accept these facts and live by the laws, in a broad sense; only minor details and their implementations are debated or challenged. Yet, some fringe but not small religious groups have managed through political representatives and by other means to exempt children from these basic, civilized, and indeed human principles. Sacrifices of children to the Gods were abandoned centuries ago. Why are we now, in these days of presumed enlightenment, essentially allowing such sacrifices to occur, under the auspices of our government? I see little difference between then and now. Only missing is the throwing of bodies over a cliff (or whatever physical steps were used); the torture can still be there, and often, the end result is the same, for a similar irrational purpose: to not offend a god.

We were pleased to see that the San Diego Union-Tribune of June 22, just a few days before our meeting, ran a nearly two-page story on Dr. Asser's efforts. It was researched and written by Mark Sauer, a star staff writer of the paper. He is known for several outstanding reports and articles in the Union-Tribune over the last several years. He gave a fair and factual report of Dr. Asser's activities and the issues involved, and put in a plug for the SDARI meeting as well. Sauer's article can be read on the web site of the paper, (Go to "Archives").


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