Should Religion Be Allowed Before Age Of Consent?

When our 3-year-old daughter was mauled by a neighborhood dog, we were distraught, as any parent would be. But, as Jehovah's Witnesses, we faced an even greater fear, beyond the trauma and scars introduced by the dog bites: What if she needed a blood transfusion? Our religious convictions mandated that we refuse. Her very life could be in danger, not from the attack, but from our beliefs.

My mother, an insanely devout woman if ever there was one, immediately called the congregation elders (before even calling me, the child's mother!), who met us at the ER, not so much to comfort us in a time of great distress, but to make sure that our blood transfusion refusal card, a document carried by all Jehovah's Witnesses, was properly signed and recently filled-out. My husband, although very much a believer, was infuriated by this and told the elders that they needed to leave.

Our daughter recovered without us having to refuse this routine medical procedure, and without significant scarring, but it remains in my mind as a seminal moment, the time I had to consider whether I could be like Abraham and offer a child sacrifice to the demanding Jehovah.

It is a decision that many -- hundreds? thousands? -- Jehovah's Witness parents have had to face. Many have not been so lucky as we were. I cannot imagine the pain a parent must feel, to have to decide to refuse needed medical treatment for their child. To have to fight the doctors, the courts, the state and child welfare services (depending on the jurisdiction) -- ultimately to fight to be the enabler of their child's death. And it is not just blood -- the Witnesses have also religiously refused organ transplants.

The Witnesses rejection of blood transfusions is not so simple. Certain blood fractions that occur in other parts of the body are permissible, or not, depending on the dictates of the individual adherent's conscience. You end up with a complicated set of rules about various blood components that is frankly beyond the comprehension of most Witnesses, and that is a contradiction in itself. Whole blood is forbidden, while each of the constituent parts of blood could be allowed according to conscience. How one's conscience could be ok with platelets, but not with white blood cells, is never really explained, yet the individual Witness is expected to make just such a call. Mix all of those components together, and add water, and it is back to the forbidden zone.

To help you to understand all of this, and to fight the state in the courts, there are regional Hospital Liaison Committees composed of local elders with access to Watchtower lawyers. My husband was even briefly involved with an unsanctioned effort to collect a database of hospitals and doctors, recording their level of co-operation with past Witness efforts to refuse blood, so that members could be directed to more Witness-friendly facilities when an emergency arose. The Watchtower magazine spoke of the bravery of Witnesses who would rip out their IV's and be smuggled down back stairwells to flee facilities that sought to force the blood transfusions on them. This, we were taught, was a tremendous show of faith. Even Witnesses who worked in the medical field and would reveal confidential medical information to the elders, so that those who were not faithful to the beliefs of the Witnesses in that regard could be punished, perhaps being expelled and shunned -- they too were portrayed as heroes.

Did I mention that the Witnesses beliefs on this, and many other issues, are subject to pretty much constant change? "New light," they call it, claiming that God is progressively revealing more and better information to them. Oddly, or not, God's new light seems to have a strong correlation to damages having to be paid out in lawsuits.

How would I feel now, as a former Jehovah's Witness, if I had let my daughter die? I would see my choice as the decision of a delusional, hopelessly brainwashed, mother that sacrificed her child's life. I would see myself as a murderer, or at least see myself as being guilty of manslaughter. This is an issue of grave concern to those who have left the Jehovah's Witnesses. Many of us have left family behind in that organization, and we feel like it's our duty to put this back on the table for discussion.

Beliefs change. People change. Death, not so much. Should it be legal to allow people to follow the fickle dictates of a religious sect, to refuse life-saving medical treatment, not just for themselves, but for their minor children?

There was an "Awake" magazine article that came out when my children were still toddlers. It's like a yearbook of the dead -- child sacrifices. The cover photos makes me ill. This is so sad. I am just glad we were not Muslim, and that my daughter has all her womanly parts intact!

Click on the pic for more information on JW's and blood transfusions.

Below is the Druge Retort,"Should Religion Be Allowed Before Age Of Consent." Take a look at the comments this topic generated.


Civilized societies have mandated minimum ages for drinking alcohol, driving cars, smoking, juvenile crime, serving in the military, sexual activity and voting. Should minors who are unable to give their consent to adult activities like voting, be exposed to religious indoctrination without their consent?

Since they are not old enough to give their consent, should religious education (indocrination) not be restricted to adults who are able to better discern the information? Should religious mutilation, circumcision and cliterectomy, also be restricted to consenting adults?

Discussion here: Should Religion Be Allowed Before Age of Consent?

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Comment by Brandy on July 26, 2009 at 9:09am
When you examine the Jehovah's Witnesses view on the blood fractions you see how the Bible was written without any knowledge of science and therefore, could not be the "inspired" word of God. This very issue should open up followers eyes to the blatant discrepancies in the Bible.
Comment by Dre Smith on March 25, 2009 at 12:38pm
To me its not at all controversial. Children should be free from being indoctrinated I just see it as that clear cut. Children can't reasonably know what they are getting into when it comes to the issue of religion or lack thereof. The problem with making this civil law is that people are going to be even more up in arms about pressing their beliefs of their children and teaching them their faith. The goverment which is secular would be in this case directly accused of trying to breed atheism, regardless of the fact atheism is the natural state of all persons when they are born to be accurate. If I ever decide to have kids I would not push them into religion, I'm not sure I'd push them into atheism either. I'd want them to explore and make a decision that they when they were old enough to comprehend the issues involved are able to do so at that time. God wanting your kids to die just never did sound like the actions of a just and loving God in my opinion.
Comment by Ravenone on March 24, 2009 at 11:33am
Me too. I thought child sacrifice was a thing of the past,not so!
Comment by Ravenone on March 23, 2009 at 10:12am
A young boy of 14, in 2007 dies refusing a blood transfusion. He was taken from his non-Jehovah's Witness parents because they had a drug problem and were in and out of rehab. His Grandmother also a non-Witness saw to it that the child was turned over to the care of another one of her adult children, the child's Aunt, who happened to be one of Jehovah's Witnesses. The Grandmother knew very little about the Witnesses but saw them as kind, good living people and felt her Grandson would do better in the hands of his Aunt as she herself was getting up in age.

Her Grandson was diagnosed with Leukemia and had a 70 percent chance of recovery with blood transfusions. His Aunt was able to recruit him into the ranks of the Jehovah's Witnesses while he lived with her and he refused the blood transfusion and stated his new beliefs as the reason. He came to believe that blood transfusions were forbidden by his newly found God.

His parents, along with the Grandmother petitioned the court to over-ride the child's decision in favor of the wishes of his birth parents and Grandmother, the court instead ruled to uphold the child's request. He died without the transfusion.

His Grandmother lives in Florida and is actively working to force the Jehovah's Witnesses to change the "No Blood policy" limiting it to those who are of the age of consent.

These refusals are fought case by case and the outcome is different depending on the Judge and the state it's being heard in.

The original story is here : Teen Jehovah's Witness Leukemia Patient Dies After Refusing Blood T...
Comment by Sean on March 23, 2009 at 7:54am
We indoctrinate them with our moral values. We indoctrinate them with our personal tastes. Why not religion?

It took me absolutely no time to get over religion and move on.
Comment by Clarence Dember on March 23, 2009 at 12:41am
inocent being abused by the ignorant! How disturbing.
Comment by Reality Activist on March 22, 2009 at 7:52pm
Not much we can do about it. Do what you can and move on. Public opinion is what really counts. Change that and these problems will start to go away. Fixing a symptom will not fix the source of the the problem and the source of the problem is that they don't realize that atheists are decent, responsible and respectable people. Once they know that then they will start doubting their own religion. The only way to let them know is to go out in the public as a non confrontational conspicuous atheist. If religion isn't needed to elevate someone morals then is isn't much good.
Comment by Ravenone on March 22, 2009 at 5:04pm
Eric, it's true the more religious a person is the easier it is to see the illness behind it. I can say the same about myself. I was deeply disturbed as a child and well into my late twenties. It took about 10 years of extensive psychotherapy to open me up to the realization that it was my belief system that was crazy not me...but I was well on my way to full blown crazy for sure.

"There should be an age of consent for the moral benefit of the children." RAMEN to that Eric.
Comment by Ravenone on March 22, 2009 at 4:26pm
We have age limits on voting and military service. The courts have been able to force blood transfusions on Jehovah's Witnesses on a case by case basis. It's not outside the realm of possibility that the courts will change their current stance when it comes to refusing life saving medical treatment for minors and as far as I know female genital mutilation is still illegal in this country so it's not like the judicial system doesn't step in and make law with regard to religious practice.
Comment by Rev Hellbound Alleee on March 22, 2009 at 3:40pm
Who do you expect to allow or disallow this?

Can we keep them from being indoctrinated in nationalism and patriotism too? I doubt the state's going to agree to that.



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