US Legal System Says Prayer Doesn’t Work
WAUSAU, Wis. — A Wisconsin man accused of killing his 11-year-old daughter by praying instead of seeking medical care was found guilty Saturday of second-degree reckless homicide.
Dale Neumann, 47, was convicted in the March 23, 2003, death of his daughter, Madeline, from undiagnosed diabetes. Prosecutors contended he should have rushed the girl to a hospital because she couldn’t walk, talk, eat or speak. Instead, Madeline died on the floor of the family’s rural Weston home as people surrounded her and prayed. Someone called 911 when she stopped breathing.
Neumann’s 41-year-old wife, Leilani, was convicted on the same charge in the spring and is scheduled for sentencing Oct. 6. Both face up to 25 years in prison.
The six-man, six-woman jury deliberated about 15 hours over two days before convicting Neumann. Jurors submitted four questions to Marathon County Circuit Judge Vincent Howard before reaching a verdict. In one, the panel asked whether Neumann’s beliefs in faith healing made him “not liable” for not taking his daughter to the hospital even if he knew she wasn’t feeling well.
Neumann, who once studied to be a Pentecostal minister, testified Thursday that he believed God would heal his daughter and he never expected her to die. God promises in the Bible to heal, he said.
“If I go to the doctor, I am putting the doctor before God,” Neumann testified. “I am not believing what he said he would do.”
There have been a number of cases recently in which people were
charged with criminal negligence for praying instead of providing
medical care. And for the most part, I think sanity has prevailed, and
parents who chose superstition over medicine have been convicted. This
case is one more example of that.
And what I find interesting is what this says about the US legal
system and American society. What people do is a better indicator of
what they believe than what they say. If I say that I think the stock
price of Amalgamated Widgets is about to skyrocket, then short their
stock, that means I don’t really believe the company’s doing well. If
I say that the world will end in five years, tops, but am socking
money away in a pension plan, then I don’t really believe what I’m
In the Neumann case, I’d wager money that a majority of the jurors are
Christians, and that some significant number of them would say that
prayer has beneficial effects. And yet, when push came to shove, they
found Neumann guilty of reckless homicide. The message is that prayer
doesn’t work nearly as well as medicine, and that Neumann should have
It’s disappointing, though, that push has to come to shove before
people call bullshit.
I have to admit that when I drive to work instead of just praying to be beamed over there, I am putting my car before God. Based on the history of both techniques, I’m not sure if I should feel guilty about it.
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