BY BRANDON DOYLE & ELIZABETH KIRST
ITHACA, N.Y. – Jean German is Rh-negative. Her husband is Rh-positive. As a result, doctors thought the couple to be incompatible and would experience difficulties when conceiving children. Years later, the Germans have three daughters, which German gives credit to Christian Science.
“I feel medicine isn’t the answer to all the problems, and it’s our thought that’s important — it’s what we think,” German said.
The study of Christian Science focuses primarily on the belief that physical ailments, such as sickness and death, are not actually physical. Instead, they are believed to be a state of mind disconnected from material, bodily elements and therefore will not be benefited or in need of medical treatment.
However, the departure from medical science, or “materia medica” as its followers call it, makes this religion controversial and the subject of numerous court trials and cases of medical negligence, particularly involving children raised in a Christian Scientist household.
Children’s Healthcare Is a Legal Duty, an organization founded in 1983 by Rita Swan to “protect children from harmful religious and cultural practices, especially religion-based medical neglect.” CHILD has been active in communicating with state legislations about parental obligations in regards to religious exemptions from child health and safety laws.
“Parents should not be required to continue with medical care that does not have a good probability of saving life, preventing permanent harm, or at least relieving severe pain,” said Swan. “But at the point when a Methodist, Jew, or atheist parent would have a legal duty to take their child to a doctor, a Christian Science parent should have that same duty.”
Rita Swan founded CHILD after the loss of her 15 year-old son, Matthew, to spinal meningitis in 1977 after relying on Christian Science for spiritual healing.
The Swan’s left the Christian Science church after Matthew passed away. They continue to focus on spreading awareness of other children who have been negatively and sometimes fatally affected due to a lack of medical treatment from Christian Scientists and other parents of medically opposed faiths.
The Church of Christ, Scientist was founded by Mary Baker Eddy in 1879 and was based upon the teachings of Christ Jesus. The religion is worshiped in 130 countries worldwide, with 55 in New York State. A local fellowship, the First Church of Christ, Scientist can be found on University Avenue in Ithaca.