Tuesday, February 23, 2010

When Jesus says, "...let the children come to me..." I don't think he meant this way.

In this article about the starvation of a boy, a "christian" cult goes to trial.

In early 2007 or late 2006 The leader of the cult '1 Mind Ministry' ordered the followers to disallow a child to eat until the child said amen before he ate.

According to the cults belief system, this was completely ethical. What is interesting is that they are being persecuted for their values and decisions based on religious convictions. Regardless of the first amendment right which values individual religious beliefs.

The US government is pushing its ethical system on this cult. Why should the cult follow the ethics set by the governing power? Are these ethics based on the ethics of a certain religion? If so, is this really freedom of religion?

These are all questions that have been asked, answered, re-asked, and re-answered. It seems as if there is no set judgment as to what is or is not allowed when religion is involved.

The case is becoming old, but the trial is just starting. The mom, who pled guilty to child abuse resulting in death. She plans on testifying against the leaders of the cult whom she says, ' are the real criminals'. The defendants in the case hold that there ways are truth and that they are not guilty quoting, "The truth shall set you free"

Regardless of our own ethical beliefs, should we limit the rights of religious groups when their rituals contradict basic human understanding of right and wrong? What is interesting is that if the cult were to convince a majority that this was an acceptable punishment for the action, then this would be a common understanding of truth. As with the Mayans, when human sacrifice became a culturally accepted necessity. Or, with the Germans and genecide of un-clean peoples that "ruined" society. These could be considered cults as well.

Yes, they were persecuted for their actions. Let us think about this though, America has 'gotten away with' many things that common ethical beliefs would shun. Two well known instances are African American civil rights and slavery, and also the near eradication of Native Americans and their cultures.

These were not religious movements, but they were still based of common ethical values set by religious beliefs and fear of 'death'. Fear of a higher power than ones own self, like death and God, can move a person to do irrational and even 'unethical' actions.

Overall question is, What is right and what is wrong? Who are we to decide?


John said...

I think the ethics angle on this post is a red herring. The case is not about the government's ethics against the religious group's ethics, it is about the law. Whatever rule or ethic resulted in the starvation and death of this child is irrelevant since we are now dealing with criminal charges. Ultimately, this group could have had any ethics they liked, and if the issue was about the ethical nature of punitive measures for failure to abide by a particular religious ritual (in this case saying 'amen'), then it would be a different story. Likewise, we would also be having a different discussion if the punishment for failing to say amen was going into 'time out' or having no dessert. But in this case, the punishment was death. The ethics of the group are not at issue, however the multiple felonies that resulted from their ethics are. This is not a first amendment case, its a murder trial. The group is not "being persecuted for their values and decisions based on religious conviction," they are being prosecuted for a dead body.

Jessica B said...

In the past governments have been guilty of enforcing actions that we now understand are far from morally sound but I think the first line of the article distinguishes why this cult’s eccentric religious policy cannot be seen as acceptable. “The leader of a religious cult was "outraged" when a 1-year-old boy did not say "Amen" before a meal and ordered her followers to deprive him of food and water until he died…” A 1-YEAR-OLD CHILD! A being who could not defend or stand up for themselves let alone their religious beliefs was killed for a religious cause. It is the job of the law to protect its citizens, and this child deserves that protection. Religious exemptions are made when the public is not put in danger by allowing certain behaviors, and this cult most definitely puts others in danger. Standing up for your religion is different than defending the right to murder someone else based on that religious belief.

Claire said...

I think that the government holds the responsibility to protect those people who cannot protect themselves. A one year old boy certainly falls into this category. He was probably just beginning to talk and could not understand the significance of the word “Amen”. He also couldn’t understand that he was being punished for not saying it before meals. How can this treatment be tolerated? I think that the religious group was fully aware of the severity of their actions and the possible legal ramifications. The article states, “After the boy died, the cult members prayed for his resurrection, then destroyed all evidence of his death and stuffed his body in a suitcase, which they hid in a shed behind a home in Philadelphia.” I think that this shows so admission of guilt.

Caitlin said...

This statement has nothing to do with the topic, but GREAT TITLE to your post! Sorry, just had to say that. Moving on.
I agree that this is a murder trial more than a first amendment case trial. But there are some elements of 1st amendment in here. Does a cult count as a religion? That’s a legitimate question and I would love to know the answer. I am surprised that they got any jurors to agree to sit on this case, I know that I would not be able to be impartial, and I am having a hard time imagining how anyone could sit on a panel for a case where a mother basically just killed her one own year old son for a reason that makes no sense because a on year old is unable to cognitively understand the point of saying “amen” even if he was able to actually say the word! This sounds a lot like Andrea Yates. No one should be told to watch their one year old son die for anything, ever. I don’t care if Elijah appeared to you and told you to starve your kid, that is cold-blooded murder and as such is not protected by American law in any form. There are not legal loopholes in the law (Murder trials, I am thinking OJ Simpson, yes, but in the actual law, no).

weinerjoy said...

This posting highlights a great topic: The rights of religious groups. The author refers to 1 Mind Ministry as a cult, but that title is relative. There can’t be any authoritative distinction made between cults and religious groups because these classifications are almost always determined by the opines position inside or outside the group. The Jehovah’s Witness’ have been considered a cult, even though the current American consensus regarding them is generally positive. That is precisely why the legal rights of religious groups should be limited to those of non-religious groups. Leniency in law interpretation should never be given according to the religious status of the offender. Americans live in America, not in Baptasia or Hinduna. Thus, the general rights of Americans should be uniform regardless of religious affiliation.

LaurenL said...

Like everyone else, I completely agree that the government has the right to enforce the law in this case. Regardless of its accordance with the belief system of the 1 Mind Ministry cult, a crime was committed here, and justice needs to be served for the completely unnecessary termination of an innocent child's life. To answer the proposed question, "What is right and what is wrong?"...obviously punishing a one year old child by starving him to death is not right.

E.Levy said...

To put it really simply, there is nowhere in the constitution that provides the right to starve, and then stuff in a suitcase, a one year old baby. The constitution sets the framework for the role of government and provides the rights that United States citizens enjoy. While religious freedom is granted, murder is not. No religion advocates murder, nonetheless of a defenseless one year old baby. Cases like these, where crazy people and yes I do use the word crazy, use religious freedom as an excuse to kill have grown stale and trite. A maximum penalty for this is what the country needs to show people religion will not be tolerated as an excuse for the unthinkable.