Child Endangerment in Arizona and the Amish

Amish Hershberger Child EndangermentThere are two stories in the news that bring forward difficult questions about what responsibility the state has over children. In one case a couple imprisoned three young girls and in the other parents are refusing medical treatment for their daughter.

In both cases the state stepped into matters and the public reaction is relatively predictable. In the Arizona case almost everyone agrees that the mother and step-father needed to be arrested for keeping the girls locked in the house while in the Amish case the majority seem to think it is the right of the parents to deny potentially life-saving medical care to their daughter.

I’d imagine that almost all of my readers agree with the state interceding in the Arizona case but opinions will be more divided in the Amish case. Both situations involve parents behaving in ways that appear to be at odds with what is in the best interest of the child.

In one situation girls are apparently imprisoned and the other a girl is essentially being allowed to die when the medical community thinks she likely could be saved via chemotherapy.

The Amish case in particular is difficult because Sarah Hershberger might die even with treatment and there is a chance she could live without treatment. There are no guarantees either way.

I suppose Fernando and Sophia Richter might argue that they were protecting the girls from the dangers of the outside world, that they were home-schooling them, that the girls were locked into the house in punishment for particular misdeeds, that as parents they have the right to make these rules and enforce them.

The bigger question, from a Libertarian perspective, becomes: When does the government have the duty to step into a situation and protect children from their parents?

I think we can all agree that parents do no have absolute control over their children. We can also agree that a child does not have absolute control over their own decisions. Sarah doesn’t like chemotherapy but what if she doesn’t like going to bed at 10:00 p.m.? Perhaps a ridiculous comparison but the reality is that we frequently don’t allow children autonomy over their lives.

So, when do parents lose their rights? That’s the question.

What if the Hershberger case the medical community said there was a 99% chance of survival with chemotherapy and a 99% chance of death without? What if the odds were 50/50?

What if Andy Hershberger didn’t believe in antibiotics and Sarah got a cut. It became infected and against doctor’s advice antibiotic were not applied. What is sepsis set in and she died? Would that be endangerment? Should the state step in and apply antibiotics?

I don’t have any answers for you today. I think the courts must make these difficult decisions on a case-by-case basis. These decisions then go into effect. If we don’t like these decisions we can vote out the legislators that appointed the judges and in many cases the judges themselves.

One thing I don’t like is people pretending these are simple decisions. That the line is firmly drawn and that those that disagree are wrong or evil.

These cases involve children who are being abused and potentially being allowed to die unnecessarily. This brings out passionate debate and that’s a good thing. Try not to let your passion become anger and hate.

Tom Liberman
Sword and Sorcery fantasy with a Libertarian Ideology
Current Release: The Spear of the Hunt
Next Release: The Broken Throne

Abused Students Sue School District – Paul Chapel Case

AccusationThere’s a horrendous case making its way through the court system and I suspect you’ll be hearing more about it in the coming months. An elementary school teacher named Paul Chapel was accused of lewd acts against children and suspended. At issue is that Chapel was previously accused of such crimes and that the school district should not have hired him. Two of his former students are suing the School District for not considering his previous record and hiring him in the first place.

That’s where the case takes an interesting turn from a societal aspect. In the original case the jury was unable to reach a verdict and Chapel was released. There is a third case as well where Chapel showed a sexually explicit video and made inappropriate remarks to students. He lost that civil case and paid the plaintiffs.

Now, if a person is accused of crime but not convicted is it fair or even legal to refuse to employ them for another job? That’s the crux of the lawsuit filed by the abused former students. Is Paul Chapel facing his date in court now, yes. Is Paul Chapel very likely a filthy scumbag, yes. If someone has been accused of say, robbing a bank, is it really necessary that a bank employ that person in the future?

There are a number of cases of people being wrongly accused and it ruining their lives. It’s a really difficult situation made even worse in this case because the crime so horribly affects other people. Wikipedia suggests that between 2% and 10% of all sexual abuse accusations are false. This seems to occur largely in custody situations when a parent is convinced abuse occurred and “coaches” the child who originally denied such activity.

Many of you may remember a panic about satanic abuse a few years back. A now discredited psychologist’s report about satanic abuse led to the McMartin case. I won’t go into details but please take a look. I’m just trying to display how someone’s life can be destroyed through false accusations and asking whether the school district would have been unfair to deny Chapel a job when he was not convicted of a crime.

This case puts a terrible burden on employers. If a prospective employee has been accused, but not convicted, of a crime and they hire that person who then commits a similar crime, are they liable? If so, they certainly must not hire the person. But, by not hiring someone who was never convicted of a crime is that person’s livelihood being taken from them unjustly thus presenting more legal avenues?

It’s a really tough one considering the nature of the crime but I have to come to the conclusion the school district is not liable. The civil case in which Chapel was found guilty muddies the water even further. I would say that a district could easily refuse employment because of that situation but perhaps Chapel convincingly apologized, claimed religious salvation, admitted to a terrible mistake and promised never to do anything like it again. I don’t know the details but all that seems plausible.

As a society we must try to remember that false accusations occur and that people so tainted should be treated fairly. If we don’t then we simply encourage false accusations by people with an agenda against the accused. It happens all too often. We see a similar phenomenon in politics where once leveled, charges remain in voters minds regardless of their veracity. That’s fodder for another day.

This is a brutal one and I’d love to hear other people’s opinion. Let me know in the comments.

Tom Liberman
Sword and Sorcery fantasy with a Libertarian Twist
New Release: The Hammer of Fire