While conservatives rail against President Obama and his Administration’s threats to our liberties, a direct assault on our constitutional liberties is unfolding in Marathon County, Wisconsin. Dale and Leilani Neumann were sentenced on Tuesday to six months in jail and ten years probation in the death of their daughter, eleven-year-old Kara.
They didn’t beat her. She wasn’t locked away in a room. By all accounts, they were loving, attentive parents. Their crime was refusing on religious grounds medical treatment for Kara. During the sentencing, Dale Neumann said, "I am guilty of trusting my Lord's wisdom completely. ... Guilty of obeying my God.”
Even more dangerous to our freedoms than the conviction were the words of the judge at sentencing, as reported by CBS News. “We are here today because to some, you made Kara a martyr to your faith.” This direct attack upon the Neumann’s religious beliefs by an agent of the state is a disturbing moment. Any person who treasures our freedom of religion should tremble at those words.
It is gut-wrenching to consider the reality of losing a child. It is far worse to have an officer of a court of law inform you that your faith is in error. To insist, as the prosecutors did in this case, that the Neumann’s had a legal obligation to seek medical care for Kara against the tenets of their religious beliefs is an assault upon the Constitutional guarantee of the freedom of religion. The judge’s admonishment from the bench that their religious beliefs were wrong puts all who believe at risk of state intercession in the practice of their belief.
Suppose, in the name of improving our national educational standards, the state removed children from home schools, forcing them against their parents’ religious beliefs to learn about Darwin’s theory of evolution. Or perhaps a judge, acting on the tenets of his faith, would mandate nonsectarian moments of silence against the wishes of an atheist parent.
The constitutional protection of religious belief is meaningless if the state can decide that certain acts done in the name of religious belief are criminal. Our liberty to believe and live by those beliefs, whether others accept them as legitimate or not, are threatened when a judge can say, from the bench, that those beliefs are not only wrong, but criminally so