Extracts from Issue 1 - 2001

Human Sacrifice: Is It Legal?
by Edward K Lankford
August 30, 2000

Imagine a child asking you for a banana and you give it. Harmless, yes? Until, that is, the child begins choking on a bite. What do you do? The Heimlich manoeuvre? Call an ambulance? Do nothing? While the last option seems barbaric, that's exactly what some parents do when their child's life is in danger. And the law lets them do it.

Faith healing is a practice common in most cultures and persists even in the light (or in spite) of current medical knowledge and procedures. While there are many types of faith healing, the most common mean is through basic prayer.

While most use prayer in addition to medical treatment, there is a small segment of the population that uses prayer as the sole means of healing ails. Not surprisingly, these groups are religious in nature. Not all religious groups reject all medical treatments, however. Jehovah's Witnesses, for example refuse blood transfusion in accordance with their reading of certain Bible passages. Also, Christian Scientists (followers of the Church of Christ, Scientist) allow for the setting of broken bones but all other medical treatments are discouraged with "scientific prayer" in its place. However, there are many groups besides Christian Scientists that encourage or require the refusal of medical care, including the followers of the Children of the First Born, End Time Ministries, Faith Assembly, Christ Church (Oregon), Faith Tabernacle, Bible Readers Fellowship (FL) and many more.

Living in a country where our medical practices are some of the best in the world, one may say that those who refuse life-saving medical care are ignorant or stupid. However, we also live in a country founded on religious freedom and we allow one to refuse medical care whether his/her religion requires it or not.On the flip side of these freedoms, though, comes a dark reality. While refusal of medical care is an option for an adult, what about a child? Can a child make that decision? The answer is no, and for good reason. Aside from the law, most children under the age of eighteen are not sophisticated enough to make such decisions on their own and their parents or guardians either facilitate the choice-making with the children or make the decision for them. However, to refuse a child medical care when it could greatly benefit the child's welfare (and especially in saving the life of a child) is unlawful neglect. So, if the law does not allow a child or its parents/guardians to refuse the child medical care, how can a child ever go without it when it can be helped? Unfortunately, most states exempt parents/guardians from medical neglect if the decision is based on their religious beliefs.

In 1998, the medical journal Pediatrics published a study of 172 cases of children who died when faith healing alone was used to treat an ailment. Of those, if proper medical care were provided, 81.2% of the children would have had a >90% survival rate and 10.5% would have had a survival rate of >50%. Only three children (1.7%) would not have benefited in any case.

Read the above paragraph again.

The study describes many of the cases where child deaths could have been prevented:

  • The parents of an adolescent girl pray while a tumor slowly grows on her leg up to a 41" diameter over seven months.
  • An ambulance is summoned for a newborn with trouble breathing at the behest of a concerned relative. As the EMTs arrive, a "church elder" sends them on their way claiming that prayer has saved the day. Three hours later, the baby is dead and the vitamin K injection that would have saved it sits in the ambulance.
  • A teenager runs away from home when her parents refuse to go to a doctor about her fainting spells. The cops bring her home to her loving parents. A few days pass and her appendix ruptures.
  • A toddler slowly chokes to death on a piece of banana as his mother anxiously calls other church members to pray for her son. An hour later, he finally dies with the piece of banana still in his throat.
These terrible tragedies happen all the time. Only a month ago, a complication arose during a Delta, CO, birth: When Montrose County sheriff's deputies arrived at the scene, they found Ruth Berger-Belebbas with the baby still stuck in her birth canal two days after the baby had died during birth. The baby had been turned the wrong way in the womb Ė a common birthing problem that can be rectified by rotating the baby or removing the baby by Caesarean section. The birth was attended by midwives who also belong to the First Born church. A Grand Junction church member with some medical training reportedly was able to remove the baby in the third day after it died.

Human sacrifice is outlawed in our nation... or is it? These children are forced into martyrdom with their lives by their parents/guardians. They are guilty of neglect - no, proactive neglect - and religious murder.

If we cannot justify the murder of adults for religious reasons, then how can we sit aside while innocent children do? While it is perfectly within the rights of an adult to refuse medical care for themselves, do we not have a responsibility to protect the lives of this macabre form of child abuse? I think we do.

This is not a matter of religion vs. science, it is life vs. death. Praying is not a bad thing in and of itself and I encourage those who practice prayer to pray for their sick kids as well as send them to the doctor.

While many see the story of how Abraham almost sacrificed his son as a beautiful story of faith, I see it as a horrific story of attempted murder. Do not sacrifice your children to any gods for any reason. Why take the chance that you may be wrong? And why would a loving being want you to do away with your pride and joy just to prove your faith?

Sacrifice your children and you sacrifice your conscience.

Reprinted with kind permission from Edward Lankford.

"Doubting Thomas Internet Resource" at


In the last issue of the FAIR News, the review of Dieter Rohmannís study of 110 cult-involved people in Germany raises some questions in the minds of parents. In particular, the sentence "Most of them experienced a dysfunctional family background..." The following part of the sentence, "and were confronted with difficult life situations (critical life events) immediately prior to joining the cult" is something on which all authorities agree. But the statement that the family appears dysfunctional is not usually accepted by the numerous authorities on cult involvement.

Dieter Rohmannís sample is small and uncontrolled, and the review does not mention the criteria for the definition of a dysfunctional family. In my own biased view it is difficult for any family which operates in a rapidly changing world social order to avoid being dysfunctional in some aspects. This is particularly true in Germany whose youngsters are still affected by the impact of Nazism, the destruction of their major cities, holocaust guilt, and the very recent re-unification of a geographically united population which was split laterally for fifty years, during which time there was a total ideological and communication gap.

My comment is that like all such samples, there is a self-selection in the groupís composition. These were not part of the numerous "satisfied customers" who stay in a cult after they have been recruited. In fact, there are very few such surveys which might show that people who stay in a cult are either more or less "stable" than those who come out.

The review fails to note that most of the people who joined "self-improvement" groups by definition feel that they are uncomfortable emotionally, and need help. In fact, these groups and the meditative groups are actually selling internal Peace and Tranquillity or Empowerment, suggesting that potential clients need improvement because they are emotionally disturbed or feel helpless.

Finally, pejorative indoctrination of recruits against friends and family is part of the recruitment technique of most cults. It saves the cult the trouble of teaching people to stick up for themselves and learning to understand the problems of other people in approaching their own. Following such indoctrination, cult members are likely to be super critical of relatives.

Dr Elizabeth Tylden MA MB BCh(Camb) MRCPsych