The Binding of Isaac glassIt’s one thing to have nutty metaphysical beliefs. It’s another to have beliefs so nutty that they jeopardize one’s health. But it’s another thing entirely to have beliefs that jeopardize other people’s lives. Dale and Shannon Hickman of Oregon City, Oregon are two such people. Their newborn son died because they refused to take him to a doctor, and as the Washington Post reports, they were recently convicted of manslaughter over it (WebCite cached article):

A jury on Thursday (Sept. 29) unanimously convicted an Oregon couple, Dale and Shannon Hickman, in the faith-healing death of their infant son.

Both parents were found guilty of second-degree manslaughter, a Class B felony that requires a sentence of at least six years and three months in prison under Oregon’s mandatory sentencing law. However, because of a religious exemption that was eliminated after the Hickmans were indicted, they could face less than 18 months in prison and a $250,000 fine.

The story of how the infant died, is chilling:

David Hickman was born on Sept. 26, 2009, and lived less than nine hours.

His mother, Shannon Hickman, went into labor two months before her due date. Instead of going to a hospital, she and her husband opted to have the baby in her mother’s home. At birth, he weighed 3 pounds, 7 ounces.

The Hickmans testified that David appeared healthy then took a sudden dire turn. Dale Hickman responded by holding his newborn son, praying for him and anointing him with olive oil. The parents said they never considered calling a doctor, and the baby died quickly.

Their defense attorney claimed that medical help “could not” have saved little David:

In closing arguments, defense attorney Mark Cogan maintained it is unfair to fault the Hickmans for failing to call 911. “What opportunity was there?” he asked. “What benefit would there have been?”

It’s true that medical care might not have saved David, but then again, it might have. We just don’t know — and thanks to Cogan’s clients’ actions, we never will.

The Hickmans, as the Post explains, are part of a weird church that has seen this happen all too often:

The Hickmans are members of Oregon City’s Followers of Christ church, which has a long history of children dying from treatable conditions because their parents relied on faith healing rather than taking them to doctors. In response to such cases, legislators this year removed religious exemptions from Oregon’s criminal statutes.

In the case of the little, late David Hickman, this change to the law does nothing. It’s a classic case of the horses and the barn door.

The Hickmans, of course, insist they had no choice:

When asked why he didn’t call 911 once he realized his infant son was failing, Dale Hickman responded, “Because I was praying.”

He did this, because — of course — it’s not possible both to pray and call 911 at the same time. I guess. According to him. I don’t know how that works, but then, what could I know about such important matters? The coldest response to this came from little David’s mother:

Shannon Hickman said that as a woman in the church, she must defer to her husband. “That’s not my decision anyway,” she said. “I think it’s God’s will whatever happens.”

She stood by and let her own son die, because her husband told her to and because he’s the man, so his word is law. Also, she alludes to the old “life is cheap in God’s eyes” principle espoused by many religionists, wherein anyone and everyone’s lives can be freely sacrificed, if God decides it must be so.

Another thing: Lots of people love to say that prayer is an effective way to treat illnesses. I’d love for any of those people to explain, then, why it didn’t work in the case of David Hickman? Aside from the old “It wasn’t God’s will that he live” … because after all, the idea of prayer is to change God’s mind about such things, is it not?

Hat tip: Mark at Skeptics & Heretics Forum on Delphi Forums.

Photo credit: Lawrence OP.

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