A couple of days ago in my ethics class, the topic of children’s rights came up. I asked if parents have absolute power over their kids, or if children have rights which the state should, when necessary, intervene to protect. As an example, I pointed out that some parents don’t believe in blood transfusions, and would rather let their children die. This, of course, tends to be on religious grounds, with Jehovah’s Witnesses being the primary offenders. Well, it turned out that one of my female students happens to be a JW, and I think she mentioned previously that she is pregnant, but that may or may not be the case. At any rate, she stated that she does not believe in transfusions, and would not allow her child to have one. Class ended, but at our next session, other students wanted to pick up the discussion. I am cognizant of the fact that in my official capacity, I am a “state actor,” and have to be careful how I respond to matters of religion (this is NOT to say that I respect silly beliefs, but that I respect limitations placed on my by the first amendment). So I tried the Socratic approach — asking her where her beliefs come from. Well, the bible, of course. But how do you know which parts of the bible to follow — doesn’t the bible say that women should cover their hair? Well, some parts of the bible have been superceded. How do you know which ones? Well, of course, the Watchtower society makes that decision.
About this time, one of the more naive students asked her what biblical passage prohibits blood transfusions (and it really doesn’t anyway — the biblical authors knew nothing about blood transfusion or other modern medical procedures). She looked up the passage, and the little naif immediately said, “Oh, I guess I can respect that!”
RESPECT it? How does one respect delusional nonsense that can, and has, led to the death of a child? This idea that we have to respect religious nonsense has got to go. It is one thing to respect a person’s humanity, but not all ideas are the same. Some are just not respectable. If the JW student in question lost a child because she refused it a blood transfusion, I don’t know if she would be guilty of murder because it was not out of malice, but certainly of manslaughter or something similar. As for the jerks at the Watchtower Society, they should spend the rest of their lives in jail for the harm they have wrought. This isn’t merely hypothetical: children have actually died because they were refused blood transfusions. I say “they were refused” because as minors, they cannot make such decisions for themselves, and this is clearly a case where parents are so dangerously delusional they are in no position to speak for their children.
If an adult wishes to be a fool, let her. But the idea that she can force her deadly nonsense on her helpless child is outrageous.