The state of Wisconsin is about to put a couple in jail for practicing their religious beliefs, unless the Supreme Court says otherwise. I hope they don’t. The couple, who are convicted as criminals, were practicing wrong theology. It was completely right (and inescapable) that the government evaluated these religious beliefs. Furthermore, it was good for the state to find the couple to be heretical in their practice.
As summarized on Newser:
“Dale and Leilani Neumann prayed over 11-year-old Madeline instead of calling a doctor as she died from easily treatable complications of diabetes in 2008. They were convicted of reckless homicide the following year, but their 180-day jail sentences were put on hold as they appealed. The state Supreme Court sided against them this morning, leaving the highest court in the land as their only remaining legal option. It’s unclear whether they will appeal. Their attorney argued they should be shielded from penalty because parents who choose spiritual treatment for their kids can’t be charged with child abuse, reports AP. Prosecutors said that’s true, but all bets are off if the child dies.”
The couple had a slightly better argument they used as well. They claimed they would have called the doctor if they had known how serious their daughter’s situation was. Her symptoms were vague. One these grounds I think the Supreme Court may find some problem with the case, not because of “religious freedom” but because everyone makes a decision about when symptoms warrant medical intervention.
But on the religious question, this case shows how pluralism is an illusion. Inherently, the state, by enforcing law, is legislating morality and positing an ultimate truth about the world. Every government pronouncement is inherently a religious edict. After all, if not from God, where do some people get the right to judge, coerce, or punish others? To pretend such authority can be derived from the abstraction of “society” is just irrational. If religion is superstition then such secular replacements are simply superstitions that make even less sense on their own terms.
The reason why a woman (like a man) can be arrested for public indecency for appearing nude on the street but cannot be arrested for that crime if she is dressed but failed to wear a burqa is purely derived from public theology. A different god is silently acknowledged in North America (however obscured by secularism and liberalism) than the alleged god publicly acknowledged in Saudi Arabia. The question of whether or not parents should get medical treatment for their sick child and pray, or only get the medical treatment, is simply a question of theological dogma.
Yet somehow, even thought the government makes these theological decisions, Christians are told that there must be a “wall of separation” between religion and politics.
Obviously, this is a disinformation campaign aimed at Christians. The point is not to separate theology from politics, but to make sure that Christians have no input into that theology. Don’t be fooled!