As mentioned elsewhere on this website, I have tried to fight the urge to post cases from outside the United States, and have done so only sparingly when the scenario demands posting. Here are three such court cases:
In January 1958, a Jehovah's Witness couple in England, named Ronald and Jean Spencer, were prosecuted for "manslaughter" in British criminal court after they refused to consent to a blood transfusion for their newborn child. The child needed exchange transfusions due to Rh factor problems which doctors had identified when Jean Spencer was only three months pregnant. The baby died at five days old. Trial outcome unknown, but JWs were likely freed; otherwise outcome would have been publicized. At least the Brits were thinking along the correct lines.
In January 1954, a Jehovah's Witness couple in Canada, named Mr/Mrs Fred Prudham were "warned" by a prosecutor that if their daughter, Margaret Prudham, 8, died from her injuries from being struck by an automobile, due to their refusal to consent to a needed transfusion, that they "might" be prosecuted for "manslaughter". Additional details and outcome unknown.
IN THE MATTER OF STEVEN SIEMS was a 1958 Illinois court decision. This third newborn son of Willard Siems, age 27, and Darleen Mae Siems, age 28, was born with a Rh blood factor condition, which could cause death or permanent brain damage. Doctors told the Siems that an immediate blood transfusion was necessary but they refused to grant permission, citing their beliefs as Jehovah's Witnesses that blood transfusions violated God's law. The hospital petitioned a local county court for guardianship. The county judge held an emergency hearing at the hospital on a Sunday. Petition granted. The by then 6-day-old infant was administered the life-saving transfusions, and he went home two days later. ALSO SEE 1955 SIEMS SIBLING CASE.
IN RE DANIEL WENZEL was a 1958 California decision. In June 1958, Daniel Wenzel, age 5, had his adenoids surgically removed at Ventura's Foster Memorial Hospital. Due to continued bleeding after the surgery, doctors anticipated that a blood transfusion might be necessary. However, Mr/Mrs Walter Wenzel refused to give their consent based on their WatchTower beliefs. The hospital sought and obtained court authorization to administer a transfusion only if absolutely necessary to save the child's life. Ultimately, no transfusions were required, and Dan Wenzel recovered. Alls well that ends well? Not with IDIOT Jehovah's Witnesses. Mr/Mrs Walter Wenzel attempted to raise a public uproar over the court order which had authorized transfusions if needed.
IN RE JESSICA ANN DUPREE was a 1958 California court decision. In February 1958, 20 month-old Jessica Ann Dupree was admitted to Oakland's Highlands Hospital to have surgery to remove a supposedly life-threatening tumor. When Gerald Dupree and Alice Dupree refused to consent to necessary blood transfusions because of their WatchTower beliefs, the Hospital sought court intervention. The court took custody of Jessica, and authorized all necessary medical care. Details are unclear, but apparently due to differing medical opinions as how to treat the tumor, with court approval, treatment was moved from Highlands to Fresno's Children's Hospital, possibly after also having seen doctors at Stanford University Hospital. The tumor was evidently eventually surgically removed without need for a transfusion.
IN THE MATTER OF SONJA JONSEN was a 1958 Minnesota court decision. In February 1958, Sonja Jonsen, age 7, was admitted to the University of Minnesota Hospital with hemolytic anemia. When doctors informed the JW Parents, Tor R. Jonsen, age 38, and Deloris Jonsen, of Mound, Minnesota, that their seven-year-old daughter needed blood transfusions in an attempt to save her life, the Jonsens refused to give their consent, citing their beliefs as Jehovah's Witnesses. The hospital sought and received a court order to administer all needed medical care to Sonja Jonsen. Unfortunately, Sonja died a week or so later. The Jonsens also had a son named Christopher Jonsen.
IN RE NEWBORN EATON was a 1958 Virginia court decision. In December 1958, Mr/Mrs Elvin Eaton, of Richmond, Virginia, refused to consent to life-saving exchange transfusions needed by their newborn with Rh factor complications. The hospital first contacted the police, who in turn contacted a juvenile court judge, who authorized all needed medical care for the "neglected" newborn.
JERRY D. MAUNEY. In April 1957, a 9 year-old boy in Gastonia, North Carolina, named Jerry Mauney, received third-degree burns when he (LIED) likely attempted to pour gasoline on a dying campfire while he was "camping out" on a Saturday night in the backyard of his parents' home with his 13 year-old brother, Carl Robert Mauney Jr. Listed in "fair" condition at Gastonia Hospital, JW Parents, Carl Mauney and Mildred Mauney, refused to consent to needed blood transfusions due to their WatchTower Cult beliefs. The Mauneys told reporters that the Bible prohibited the "eating" of blood, and that they would rather see their son die rather than receive a blood transfusion.
A local newspaper published a running series of articles, which were picked up and distributed nationwide by AP, which presented Jerry Mauney, his JW Parents, and their pack of international JW supporters, as"heroes", and the treating doctors as "villains" who were attempting to force unneeded blood transfusions on this JW Family. In fact, the doctors acted as professionals, and treated Jerry Mauney with non-blood treatments, while merely recommending a blood transfusion, while also carefully monitoring Mauney's situation for required blood transfusions. Only one article mentioned that the doctors were fully prepared to seek court intervention if and when Jerry Mauney's condition so required, which it never did. Jerry Mauney survived and lived a long life suffering from after-affects of his burns.
IN THE MATTER OF RONALD GRAVES was a 1957 Tennessee court decision. In November 1957, a windstorm struck Sylvan Park School in Nashville, Tennessee. Ronald Graves, 12 years old, suffered head injuries and a broken leg when the ceiling in his classroom collapsed. Dug from beneath a pile of rumble, Ronnie Graves was taken in poor condition to Baptist Hospital. Doctors informed Ronnie's parents that he would require a blood transfusion to survive. Ronnie's step-father, James O'Dell, informed doctors that he was a Jehovah's Witness, and would not consent to blood transfusions. The hospital then petitioned a local court for authorization to administer blood transfusions. Petition was granted, but when staff attempted to administer a transfusion, Ronnie physically struggled to prevent the transfusion. The hospital decide to try to get Ronnie to concede, but after a couple of days he still would not give in. Ronnie's condition gradually worsened to "serious", and it will be assumed that a transfusion was eventually administered.
IN RE ANNA KAY TURNER was a March 1957 Illinois court decision which
involved a 17-month-old girl who required emergency brain surgery after an unexplained fall. JW Father, Robert W. Turner, of Springfield, Illinois, refused to grant consent for necessary blood transfusions. The emergency surgery was delayed while hospital officials were forced to seek
court intervention. Anna K. Turner thereafter died during the
JUDY MADDISON. In May 1956, Canadians from Calgary, Alberta, named Mr/Mrs William Maddison, brought their 5 year-old daughter, Judy Maddison, to the Mayo Clinic, in Rochester, Minnesota, for specialized treatment for a rare heart condition. There, the Jehovah's Witness Parents refused to provide consent for any blood transfusions which might become necessary during the Clinic's treatments. Bill Maddison, age 31, stated, "I'm not too well read up about it, but the Bible definitely is against giving blood. On that basis, we can't allow the clinic if it is needed." Billy Maddison had been a JW for all of 5 months, although his wife was reared as a JW. Outcome unknown. The Maddison's neighbors and co-workers had been raising money for the family via a variety of means back in Canada, but when newspapers started publishing that the JW Parents were willing to allow Judy to die over a WatchTower belief, the fund-raisers were canceled, and those same neighbors and co-workers started making government appeals to have legal custody removed from the parents.
IN RE PAUL LEATHERDALE was a 1956 St. Thomas, Ontario, Canada court decision. In April 1956, 7 year-old Paul Leatherdale was accidentally shot in the stomach by an older brother. JW Father, Alvin Leatherdale, refused to give permission for life-saving blood transfusions, but the local Crown Attorney obtained court-ordered permission. Outcome unknown.
IN RE LINDA TANKSLEY was a 1956 California court case. In July 1956, 20 month-old Linda Tanksley, of Richmond, California, somehow accidentally drank
some kerosene and severely burned her throat and stomach. JW Parents Mr/Mrs Paul
Tanksley refused to consent to necessary blood transfusions. The local Richmond, California hospital. was forced to seek and obtain court intervention.
IN RE BABY BOY FUGETT was a 1956 Wisconsin court decision. In October 1956, a Kenosha Jehovah's Witness named Anne Fugett refused to consent to a needed blood transfusion for her critically ill son. A local judge declared the JW minor "neglected", and authorized all necessary medical care, while taking temporary guardianship.
IN RE SANDRA RAE COOK (1955) and RALPH WILLIAM COOK v. DOREEN MAE COOK (1954) were related Oregon court cases which were yet another instance of a non-JW non-custodial parent being forced to save one of their children from the custodial JW Parent whom was refusing to consent to necessary blood transfusions for that child. In February 1955, Sandra Rae Cook, age 5, needed her tonsils and adenoids removed, and the surgeon and hospital required parental consent to blood transfusions if such became necessary during the operation. Custodial parent Doreen Mae Cook, of Metzger, Oregon, refused to give consent, so non-custodial parent Ralph William Cook was forced to seek court intervention. Circuit Judge Donald E. Long temporarily gave custody of Sandra Raye Cook in order for Ralph Cook to consent to necessary blood transfusions. Judge Long cited PRINCE, stating, "Parents may make martyrs of themselves, but they have no right to make martyrs
of their minor children before they reach the age of discretion." Notably, the Cooks' 1954 Divorce had centered around the conversion of Doreen Mae Cook to the WatchTower Cult, but that Judge refused to listen to what he was told by Ralph Cook's attorney -- granting primary custody of all three children (the Cooks also had another 4 year-old daughter named Linda Doreen Cook, and an unidentified son) to Doreen Cook.
IN RE ROSS LEE CONK was a 1955 Utah court case that is yet another example of a non-custodial non-JW Parent being forced to save the life of one of their children because the custodial JW Parent refused consent for life-saving blood transfusions. In August 1955, Ross L. Conk, then age 12, of Provo, Utah, required surgery due to a bowel obstruction. Blood transfusions became necessary due to blood loss. Custodial parent, Elna Emily Conk, who had converted in 1953, refused to give her consent, so Ross Conk's father, Clifford Myers, filed for temporary guardianship of his son. At that hearing, apparently still steaming from their WW2 divorce, Elna E. Conk proclaimed to the judge that she objected to temporary guardianship being granted to her former husband, but that she would agree to the appointment of "anyone else in the courtroom" as guardian of Ross Conk. Curiously, the judge appointed as Ross Conk's temporary guardian a local Provo newswoman who was covering this circus, while the Court Clerk and a Deputy put up the $100.00 bond. Elna Conk later issued a statement containing the usual WatchTower Cult nonsense as to why she refused to consent to necessary blood transfusions. Elna Conk's statement contained her belief that Ross Conk would receive
a "resurrection" from the dead only if she held her ground against blood transfusions.
There may be another lesson in this case. Elna Conk's mother also was a Jehovah's Witness, although we don't know the date of her conversion. In any case, NEVER EVER marry any "temporarily" non-JW reared in a JW Family, especially the daughter of a JW Mother. It is only a matter of time before they also convert and make their non-JW spouse's life miserable.
IN RE DAVID H. SIEMS was an October 1955 Illinois court decision. David Siems was born with Rh factor issues at Chicago's Oak Park Hospital, and needed a blood transfusion to survive. JW Parents, Willard Siems and Darlene Mae Siems, mid-20s, of Roselle, Illinois, refused to give their consent based on their WatchTower beliefs. The state's attorney charged both parents with contributing to the delinquency of a minor, plus the court took custody of David Siems and authorized all necessary medical treatment. Outcome was listed as "good" after blood transfusions were administered. Notably, the judge in this case cited and quoted PRINCE -- declaring that while the Jehovah's Witness Parents could become MARTYRS themselves, they would not be permitted to make MARTYRS of their children. ALSO SEE 1958 SIEMS SIBLING CASE.
IN RE GAIL BERTIMATO was a 1955 New Jersey court decision. Gail Bertinato was the newborn infant daughter of Jehovah's Witnesses, Mr. and Mrs. Joseph Bertimato, of Palisades Park, New Jersey. The newborn suffered from complications from an RH negative blood factor, which slowed her tiny body's production of red corpuscles. Doctors at Englewood Hospital informed Mr. and Mrs. Joseph Bertinato that their newborn would need one or more exchange blood transfusions to survive. The parents refused. Unsure how to proceed legally, the doctor contacted local police and prosecutor, who proceeded under a child protection statute in juvenile court. Temporary custody was placed with the state welfare department, and all needed medical care was authorized. The baby actually needed multiple exchanges over the following two weeks.
ILLINOIS v. THOMAS GRZYB and BARBARA GRZYB was a 1954 Illinois court decision. This is another Jehovah's Witnesses court case that one can't help but wonder where was Hayden Covington and the WatchTower Society on this one given their S.O.P. of appealing and making a public issue of every JW related case they could get their hands on. On or about January 5/6, 1954, Thomas Grzyb, 20, and his wife, Barbara Grzyb, 18, had their first child, a son. Unfortunately, their newborn baby required surgery to correct a blockage in his intestines, which was allowing loss of his blood. Blood transfusions were also necessary for both the surgery, and the ongoing loss of blood. However, the Grzybs were Jehovah's Witnesses, and they refused to give consent for their newborn son to receive blood transfusions.
Due to the parents refusing to allow any blood transfusions, the surgery was performed using saline and glucose solutions as substitutes for the refused blood. However, a blood transfusion was still needed to save the baby's life due to previous blood loss.
St. Anthony's Hospital had delayed taking legal action in hopes that their above best efforts would work. However, when such failed, on the baby's eighth day of life, the hospital finally petitioned the family court to declare the Grzyb couple "unfit parents" and make the newborn infant a ward of the court.
Rather than allowing the court to conduct an emergency hearing that same day, the JWs enforced their legal right to delay the custody hearing 24 hours -- until the next day. Although unclear, the Judge may have then placed the JW Duo in the Chicago Detention Home overnight. Unfortunately, the baby boy died that night. The next day, the Jehovah's Witnesses parents found themselves in front of Judge Thomas E. Kluozyriski, who declared that the JW Parents "held everybody else from helping the child while the child's life was ebbing away by minutes and seconds." The press had a field day with quotes from the Grzybs:
"The blood won't make any difference. ... The baby is ours. ... I'm not going to hand him over to the court until I have to. The judge doesn't care what's in the Bible.
"It (the baby's death) was God's will. ... ... I would not have the child come back to life if it against God's will. ... ... It's better to have a dead baby without the blood than a living baby with the transfusion."
IN THE MATTER OF JONATHAN CORLEY was a 1954 California court decision. Jonathan Corley was born to Fresno, California parents, Mr/Mrs Donald E. Corley, in November 1954. Two operations were performed to correct a congenital bowel obstruction without the benefit of blood transfusions, because the Corleys had refused consent based on their WatchTower beliefs. When the child's life finally reached the point of no return, Valley Children's Hospital finally sought state intervention. A state welfare officer finally sought and obtained a court order authorizing all necessary medical treatment, but such was possibly too late.
IN RE KATHERINE SWIFT was a 1954 Pennsylvania court decision. In January 1954, Jehovah's Witness parents, Prentiss Swift and Irene Swift, age 25, refused to consent to an exchange blood transfusion needed by their newborn daughter, Katherine Swift, due to their WatchTower beliefs. Pittsburgh's Magee Hospital sought court intervention. The Swift's forced a judge to save their newborn's life at 1:00 AM on a Sunday morning. When asked if they would thank the judge for saving their newborn daughter's life, they said "NO", because the baby would have lived anyway without a blood transfusion.
ON APPLICATIONS OF PENNSYLVANIA HOSPITAL. In March 1953, unidentified Jehovah's Witnesses parents attempted to prevent a Pennsylvania hospital from administering a series of blood transfusions to their child. Unfortunately, I have no further details.
IN RE RALPH DUBOSE was a 1953 New York court decision. In March 1953, Ralph DuBose, age 13, was admitted to Sydenham Hospital for emergency appendix surgery. At some point after the surgery, DuBose needed a transfusion due to bleeding. Such was begun without asking his African-American Jehovah's Witness Parents, Mr/Mrs Leroy Dubose, who threw a fit when they discovered that a blood transfusion was in progress. The boy also needed a second transfusion, but the parents absolutely refused. Thereafter, the surgeon contacted the Society For Prevention of Cruelty to Children, who filed neglect charges in juvenile court. The court took guardianship and authorized all necessary medical care.
MISSOURI v. PAUL G. MORRISON was a 1952 Missouri court decision. This was possibly the second ever case involving Jehovah's Witnesses Parents, Mr/Mrs Paul G. Morrison, of Olathe, Kansas, who were exercising the recent WatchTower doctrine that required JWs to refuse blood transfusions for themselves and their children. The court's reasoning reflects that this was a case of first impression in Missouri; a time in which the Judge could still rely on common-sense more than ACLU established precedents.
Janet Lynn Morrison, a 6 day old child with erythroblastic leukaemia, required a blood transfusion to continue living. Her JW parents said "no". On the petition of the Hospital, a Juvenile Court in Missouri finally declared Morrison to be "a neglected child" on her twelfth day of life. Morrison's father had testified that he was a Minister of the Jehovah's Witnesses. He appealed to Leviticus 17:10-14 and Genesis 9:4-5. In response the judge responded, "With the interpretation of these Biblical injunctions we are not concerned. Courts leave such matters to the conscience of the people."
The court then cited Reynolds and Prince, and the dichotomy in law between belief and action. After citing the Declaration of Independence, the court declared:
"We believe that every human being is endowed by God with the inalienable right to live. The fact that the subject is the infant child of a parent who, arbitrarily, puts his own theological belief higher than his duty to preserve the life of his child cannot prevail over the considered judgment of an entire people, in a case such as this. The other rights, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, are of no benefit to a dead baby. ... Missouri has the power to interfere in the interests of one of its infant citizens, helpless in its own behalf, and to take such steps as may be necessary to preserve its life, over the protest of its father."
Bearing in mind that the court hearing was delayed, the Hospital's staff testified that the illness was progressing very rapidly and "that if life was to be saved, the baby should have an immediate blood transfusion." If the transfusion was done immediately, recovery should be complete. If it was done in a few days, the child might survive but with severe brain damage. The parents had been notified of this crisis six days before refused to consent to the required treatment. A medical technician testified that "never before, within her experience of eight years, had parents refused consent for a transfusion in such a case."
The court reviewed the common law duties of parents and concluded: "It follows that society may punish a parent for dereliction in his duties; but society is not required to stand aside until the child is dead for want of care, but may take direct steps to preserve the life that the parents neglected to cherish. ... In ancient Times, the King was regarded as "Parens Patriae" of orphaned or dependent infants. ... Under our system of government the state succeeds to the position and power of the King. Both King and State exercise this power in the interests of the people. Society has a deep interest in the preservation of the race itself. It is a natural instinct that lives of infants be preserved. ... Youth, who constitute the hope of racial survival and progress, is of vital concern to the very life of the nation."
Holding that state has the power to preserve a child's life and health when medical treatment is as necessary for the child's survival as is food, the court justified the compulsory transfusion upon the minimum of danger it entailed, the efficacy of the treatment, and the lack of a suitable alternate therapy. Finally the court said society might uphold the right of an adult religious zealot to fast to death, but society should not allow that same person to refuse food to his children.
ILLINOIS v. DARRELL LABRENZ and RHODA LABRENZ was a 1952 Illinois Supreme Court decision. Famous WatchTower attorney and one-time WatchTower Society Vice-President Hayden C. Covington represented Darrell and Rhoda Labrenz during the appeal. Since refusing to accept blood transfusions was a new doctrine of the WatchTower Society, and this was the first case involving a child of the Jehovah's Witnesses to reach a state Supreme Court, there was much news coverage, including a TIME magazine article.
Cheryl Labrenz was the second child born to Jehovah's Witnesses parents, Darrell Labrenz, 25, and his wife Rhoda, 20. The only days old baby suffered from erythrobastosis fetalis (commonly called the RH blood condition), a disease in which the red blood cells are destroyed by antibodies. Hospital records and medical testimony established that the child's blood count had been dropping steadily since her birth; that the normal blood count of a child of her age was about 5,000,000, whereas her blood count was 1,950,000; that antibodies in the baby's blood stream were gradually destroying all of the red blood cells; that her blood-supplying system was unable to furnish a supply of its own blood adequate to overcome the condition, and that a blood transfusion was necessary.
Darrell and Rhoda Labrenz had been childhood sweethearts at in Dalton, Wisconsin, a small town of only 400 people. Roughly more than a year before Cheryl's birth, they joined the Jehovah's Witnesses religion, and moved to Chicago with their first child, a son named Kit Lon Labrenz, aka Kit L. Labrenz, owner/operator of FRONTIER HOOD SERVICES LLC
. (Kit Labrenz grew up to become the Presiding Overseer of the Rio Wisconsin Congregation of Jehovah's Witnesses.)
Both parents flatly refused to consent to blood transfusions based on their newfound WatchTower beliefs.
On April 17, a petition was filed in Cook County Circuit Court specifying that Cheryl Linn Labrenz, an infant then eight days old, was a dependent child whose life was endangered by the refusal of her parents to consent to a necessary blood transfusion. The petition stated that the child be taken from its parents and placed under the guardianship of a suitable person to be appointed by the court, and that such guardian be authorized to consent to blood transfusions and other medically necessary treatment.
At the hearing which was had on this petition on April 18, three doctors testified. Two were certain that the child would die unless a transfusion was administered. The third doctor testified that the child had a slim chance to live without a transfusion, but that even if she did live, without a transfusion her brain would probably be so injured that she would be mentally impaired for life. The medical testimony also dealt with the degree of risk involved in a blood transfusion. One doctor testified that there would be no more hazard in a transfusion than in taking an aspirin. While all three doctors testified that there would be risks involved if diseased or mistyped blood was used in the transfusion, all of them agreed that such risk as existed was due to the impossibility of eliminating completely the chance of human error, and that, properly conducted, a transfusion would
not involve any serious hazard.
Darrell Labrenz, the child's father, testified:
"It is my belief that the commandment given us in Genesis, Chapter 9, Verse 4, and subsequent commandment of Leviticus, Chapter 17, Verse 14, and also in the testimony after Christ's time and recorded in Acts, 15th Chapter, it is my opinion that any use of the blood is prohibited whether it be for food or whether it be for, as modern medical science puts it, for injections into the blood stream and as such I object to it. The life is in the blood and the life belongs to our father, Jehovah, and it is only his to give or take; it isn't ours, and as such I object to the using of the blood in connection with this case."
Rhoda Labrenz testified that:
"We believe it would be breaking God's commandment to take away blood which he told us to eat of the flesh but should not take of the blood into our systems. The life is in the blood and blood should not be drained out. We feel that we would be breaking God's commandment, also destroying the baby's life for the future, not only this life, in case the baby should die and breaks the commandment, not only destroys our chances but also the baby's chances for future life. We feel it is more important than this life."
The court appointed its chief probation officer to be guardian of the person of Cheryl Linn Labrenz, directed him to consent to a blood transfusion, and retained jurisdiction for the purpose of making further orders for the welfare of the child. On May 4, 1951, the guardian reported to the court that a transfusion had been administered on April 18, 1951, and that the child's health had greatly improved.
The court then ordered that the child be released from the hospital and returned to the custody of her parents but refused to discharge the guardian because it found that further periodic medical examinations would be necessary to determine the need for additional transfusions. On June 15, 1951, the court discharged the guardian, released the child to her parents, and ordered that the proceeding be dismissed. Darrell Labrenz, stubbornly opposed to all that had been done for Cheryl, said: "Those who forced the issue are the ones who are responsible for sinning."
The WatchTower Society made Darrell and Rhoda Labrenz appeal in the hope to set a precedent to allow future Jehovah's Witness children to die as martyrs. Maybe in the near future, but not in the 1950s, when America still had common sense. The Illinois Supreme Court affirmed the lower court's rulings, stating in part:
"... plaintiffs ... first argue that the court below lacked jurisdiction because the child was not a 'neglected or 'dependent' child within the meaning of the statute. The jurisdiction which was exercised in this case stems from the responsibility of government, in its character as parens patriae, to care for infants within its jurisdiction and to protect them from neglect, abuse and fraud. ...
"So far as here pertinent, the statute defines a dependent or neglected child as one which 'has not proper parental care.' ... Neglect, however, is the failure to exercise the care that the circumstances justly demand. It embraces wilful as well as unintentional disregard of duty. It is not a term of fixed and measured meaning. It takes its content always from specific circumstances, and its meaning varies as the context of surrounding circumstances changes. The question here is whether a child whose parents refuse to permit a blood transfusion, when lack of a transfusion means that the child will almost certainly die or at best will be mentally impaired for life, is a neglected child. ... We entertain no doubt that this child, whose parents were deliberately depriving it of life or subjecting it to permanent mental impairment, was a neglected child within the meaning of the statute. ...
"Plaintiffs ... argue that they merely exercised their right to avoid the risk of a proposed hazardous operation - the transfusion - and that such a choice does not indicate a lack of proper parental care. The short answer is that the facts here disclose no such perilous undertaking, but, on the contrary, an urgently needed transfusion - virtually certain of success if given in time - with only such attendant risk as is inescapable in all of the affairs of life. ...
"It is next contended that if the Juvenile Court Act is held to be applicable, it deprives the parents of freedom of religion, and of their rights as parents, ... This contention is based upon the parents' objection to the transfusion because of their belief that blood transfusions are forbidden by the Scriptures. Because the governing principles are well settled, this argument requires no extensive discussion. Concededly, freedom of religion and the right of parents to the care and training of their children are to be accorded the highest possible respect in our basic scheme.... But 'neither rights of religion or rights of parenthood are beyond limitation.' ...
"Indeed, the early decision in the Reynolds case, upholding a Mormon's conviction for bigamy against the defense of interference with religious freedom as guaranteed in the first amendment, leaves no doubt about the validity of the action here taken. The following language of that opinion is of particular interest:
'Laws are made for the government of actions, and while they cannot interfere with mere religious belief and opinions, they may with practices. Suppose one believed that human sacrifices were a necessary part of religious worship, would it be seriously contended that the civil government under which he lived could not interfere to prevent a sacrifice? Or if a wife religiously believed it was her duty to burn herself upon the funeral pile of her dead husband, would it be beyond the power of the civil government to prevent her carrying her belief into practice?'
"The recent Prince decision reinforces that conclusion. The court there held that a State, acting to safeguard the general interest in the well-being of its youth, could prohibit a Jehovah's Witness child from distributing religious pamphlets on the street even though the child was accompanied by her adult guardian. Obviously, the facts before us present a far stronger case for State intervention. Further, the court observed in reaching its conclusion in the Prince case:
'The right to practice religion freely does not include liberty to expose the community or child to communicable disease or the latter to ill health or death. ... Parents may be free to become martyrs themselves. But it does not follow they are free, in identical circumstances, to make martyrs of their children before they have reached the age of full and legal discretion when they can make that choice for themselves.'
"We hold, therefore, that neither the statute nor the action of the court pursuant to the statute violated the constitutional rights of plaintiffs ...
"The final contention is that the trial court committed prejudicial error in excluding from evidence the religious magazine, Awake. The contention is without merit. Except as it might bear upon the good faith of the parents' belief in the Scriptural prohibition against blood transfusion, it was inadmissible as hearsay. And since the sincerity of the parents' religious beliefs was not questioned, the exclusion of the magazine was not error."
IN THE MATTER OF JONATHAN SHELTON was a 1951 New York court decision. In October 1951, Jonathan Shelton, age 3, was admitted to Kings County Hospital in Brooklyn for emergency appendix surgery. Sometime after the surgery, a blood transfusion was needed due to bleeding. However, the boy's mother, Hazel Shelton, refused to consent to a transfusion based on her WatchTower Cult beliefs. The hospital contacted the Society For Prevention of Cruelty to Children, who filed neglect charges in juvenile court. The court took custody and authorized all necessary medical care.
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