Douglas Wilson’s Letter From Moscow

Hygiene Lectures From Typhoid Mary


A bill now before the Idaho legislature raises a thorny question. The choice facing our legislators is this. If they vote yes, and they remove the religious exemption shield, then they will be seen as encroaching on the religious freedom of parents to care for their children according to their conscience. But if they vote no, they will be seen as saying that parents must take reasonable care of their children — unless the parents are religious nuts, in which case all bets are off.

All of this is just one more glaring instance that shows us how neutrality is impossible in any society. Whenever we choose to do anything, the question “by what standard” is going to be (legitimately) raised. Because I am a Christian, I want the standard that is applied to be Christian. I do not want voodoo standards to applied, for example. There is no neutrality anywhere, and when we pretend to ourselves that there might be, we only get ourselves increasingly confused.

That said, I would urge legislators to keep the religious exemption shield in place (for the present) for the following reasons.

For the state of Idaho to remove that exemption now would be for the state to attempt the removal of a speck from the eye of religious parents while neglecting the beam in their own eye. I do grant that there are a number of foolish parents out there, who by their folly are risking the lives and the health of their children. That is a bad thing, and I am against it.

But these parents, however foolish, are not killing their children on purpose — unlike our government. Our federal government has said that the dismemberment of little ones is a constitutional right. The state of Idaho has not resisted this decision adequately. Our tax monies are given to Planned Parenthood to promote this atrocity.

So, now, in this context you want representatives of this bloody government to show up and tell some foolish parents, who might be the death of their child accidentally, that they, who take the lives of children deliberately and on purpose, think that these parents are not fit to be parents? Well, I think we should talk first about who is fit to be a ruler.

In short, until the magistrate repents of his ghoulishness with regard to the lives of little ones, he has no business getting on a high horse about how lack of treatment for a particular illness is risky. Abortion isn’t “risky” for the child — death is virtually certain. So before we have a department of the government overseeing child safety, it would be nice to have a government that actually understood what child safety actually is. Child safety includes not killing them. Right?

So the first thing I would say is that the magistrate needs to get its own house in order before they attempt to help anybody else out. Stop killing babies before lecturing us on why it is bad to increase risk for babies. Why should we put up with hygiene lectures from Typhoid Mary?

Second, the blood guilt that rests on us from abortion does not just disqualify us ethically — although it does do that. There is good reason to believe that it also has skewed our understanding of medicine itself. If hospitals have become places where people can be killed on purpose, and they have, then I want to reserve the right to be suspicious about their ideas about what might be good for us. Don’t get me wrong. I do believe there is a lot of high tech wisdom in the modern medical establishment, but it is jumbled up together with a lot of evil — and that can skew your understanding, even when you are trying to do good. That being the case, now is not a good time to be coercive in a way that interferes with the internal governance of a family’s decisions about their medical practices. The one exception I would make here — and I hope for obvious reasons — would have to do with contagious diseases. In the nature of the case, the nature of the disease means that it is not strictly an internal family matter.

Third, we live in a time of metastasizing government, and I am loathe to open a door that this do-gooding blob is going to try to come through. You say that all you want to do is have the right to step in when a kid is dying of whooping cough. Sounds noble, but I have every reason to believe that you don’t know how to stop there, and this is going to end with some social worker at the dinner table telling somebody to eat his spinach.

Now fourth, despite the “child safety” hypocrisy of our civil government, and despite the threat of over-reach, there is a legitimate issue here. Once we have publicly repented of being as a society a thousand times worse than the most neglectful parent, we may then take up the question of how far we should respect the religious beliefs of parents in their medical treatment of their children.

As indicated earlier, I would draw the line at contagious diseases. The Bible gives societies the right to protect themselves from contagion, even if it involves restricting the mobility or freedom of the person who has the disease (Lev. 13:3). In other words, if someone has a contagious disease, they may be interfered with by the broader society. Just as a person’s right to swing his fist ends at the other fellow’s nose, so also a family’s right to their own unique medical beliefs ends with them coughing in a crowded theater — regardless of their own personal beliefs about how contagious they are. A society has a right to define and enforce their own standards in this, provided the standards are consistent with Scripture, natural law, and common sense.
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