Looking Back – Volume 39, No. 3

35 Years Ago in Free Inquiry

“The dangers to children associated with faith-healing sects are enormous. They are cared for by people with no medical knowledge, people who are trained to deny disease and its symptoms as illusions, people who demand more faith as the disease gets worse. They have no standard for judging when to give up on their religion or culture and go to a doctor. Furthermore, the state has no reliable way of discovering their sick children. …

“We as a society can establish in law that parents have a duty to provide medical care for children without exceptions for religious belief and that something that calls itself a health care system has duties to both the state and its patients.”

—Rita Swan, “Christian Science, Faith Healing, and the Law,”
Free Inquiry, Volume 4, No. 2 (Spring 1984)


Editor’s Note: In 1977, Rita Swan’s fifteen-month-old son developed successive fevers and other severe symptoms. Cared for by Christian Science practitioners until his last week of life, his meningitis was detected too late for effective treatment; baby Matthew Swan died. Subsequently, Rita Swan left the Christian Science church and founded Children’s Healthcare Is a Legal Duty (CHILD), Inc., to campaign for stronger legislation protecting the children of members of faith-healing religions. Swan remains the group’s leader, and it has enjoyed success in persuading various states to tighten their policies regarding parents who withhold medical care from their children on religious grounds.

25 Years Ago in Free Inquiry

“We regret [then-U.S. President Bill] Clinton’s repeated statements that ‘freedom of religion doesn’t mean freedom from religion,’ which seem to defend the propriety of treating the non-religious as second-class citizens. We question his stated preference for spiritual leap-taking in place of ‘some purely rational solution to a problem.’ On the contrary, we submit that if America discards rationality we are rudderless, helpless against sectarian strife when differing groups may seek to impose their peculiar spiritual visions on American life.

“We lament what amounts to intellectual abdication by many leading opinion makers on America’s center and left.”

—Paul Kurtz, James “The Amazing” Randi, Martin Gardner, E. O. Wilson, and twenty others,
“A Statement: In Defense of Secularism,”
Free Inquiry, Volume 14, No. 2 (Spring 1994)


Editor’s Note: Responding to one of President Clinton’s famous episodes of “triangulation”—this one involving a flurry of accommodationist statements designed to curry favor with religious conservatives—a hastily assembled panel of humanist academics and activists cosigned a brief proclamation in dissent.


35 Years Ago in Free Inquiry “The dangers to children associated with faith-healing sects are enormous. They are cared for by people with no medical knowledge, people who are trained to deny disease and its symptoms as illusions, people who demand more faith as the disease gets worse. They have no standard for judging when …

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