Child neglect after Amish baby’s life-saving heart surgery?

From the Watertown Daily Times:

CANTON — An Amish couple is waiting to find out if child neglect charges against them will be dropped following a closed-door conference Thursday in Family Court.

The couple, Annie L. and Levi M. Shetler, were charged last year after they refused open-heart surgery for their newborn daughter, Sarah, because they said the operation goes against the tenets of their religion.

They released the baby for surgery after being ordered to do so by Family Court Judge Cecily L. Morris in April.

“Among our people, we don’t usually go as far as doing open-heart surgery,” the 47-year-old mother said Thursday. “That’s the way we usually see it. I guess we’ll all die anyway, someday.”

The surgery, performed in May, required temporarily stopping the baby’s heart, which is an action only God should have the power to decide, Mrs. Shelter said.

I spoke with an expert knowledgeable about this case last week at the Amish conference.  The heart-stoppage aspect is the sticking point with the Amish in this situation, as it was in a similar case occurring about five years ago.

Gideon and Barbara Hershberger (of the same area in New York as the Shetlers) faced a similar situation in 2008 when a judge ruled that surgery be performed on their young son.  Similar to this case, the boy was expected to die without the surgery.

In the Hershberger case, the judge did not require the parents to sign a consent form, nor did they face criminal charges.

When do Amish refuse medical care?

People are often curious about how Amish approach medical care.  It’s a complicated question, especially when you consider the cornucopia of treatments and approaches seen across Amish society.

I usually try to point out that they are not like certain other groups which might refuse blood transfusions or modern procedures on a religious basis, which is often what people are asking about.

Some may be reluctant to undergo procedures which may be seen to unnecessarily extend life, however.  From the new book The Amish:

Some households see a doctor only in emergencies; others go regularly to a family physician.  Certain families would not consider open-heart surgery for a loved one, but others, sometimes even in the same Gmay, would welcome it.

Choices are molded by tradition, extended family, ordained leaders, and informal conversations in the church-community.  When his cardiologist advised seventy-nine-year-old Yonie Esh to have his heart valve replaced, his first thought was, “No way.  At my age what’s the use?” But then his children “sort of talked me into it,” he said, and after reading the Bible, he decided to “give myself up to the surgery.”(3) Unlike Esh, a seventy-five-year-old bishop with heart disease in a very traditional group refused any medicine or surgical interventions although doctors repeatedly told him he would die without them–and he did (p. 337).

This heart-stoppage surgery is one of the few instances I’ve ever heard of (the only?) where a group of Amish categorically object on a religious basis to a medical procedure.  The Shetlers are members of a highly traditional Swartzentruber Amish community.

We’ve seen and had many discussions over issues centering around Amish religious objections on things such as the SMV triangle or smoke detectors.

Many of those issues have involved the health and safety of Amish adults and children.  But none has been so immediately dramatic as this life-and-death situation.

The surgery has been done; now the issue is whether child neglect charges will be dropped.  “We should have the right to have our religion,” said Annie Shetler’s sister-in-law.

What do you think?

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    1. Part of the problem seems to be that they do not understand the procedure. The heart is stopped, but that doesn’t mean the child is dead. Hearts stop for all kinds of reasons and are then started again, in emergency situations. The same people may be grateful for an EMT who resuscitated a heart attack or lightening strike victim. A social worker and a doctor could have met with the parents and their bishop and explained this. Some Amish groups seem to be quick to say to the mainstream world, “Take me to court then,” as a test of their dedication to their Ordnung.

      1. Did the Amish understand the procedure?

        Magdalena that’s a good point. Interestingly there was an interpreter in-court who translated from English to PA Dutch. He did explain procedures to the participants in court in PA Dutch, even if there wasn’t always a perfect translation for the medical terms for instance.

        However that doesn’t tell us how much of the procedure was explained in court in English, or whether anything like the examples of other heart-stoppages you mention were provided.

        However even if they were, I don’t know how much that would have done to easing the Amish concerns here…my sense is that the simple act of another human stopping the heart is what is objectionable. I’ve never spoken with an Amish person who holds this objection but that’s my understanding as it was explained to me by someone who would know.

      2. Daryl

        No Julie dear, the problem is not that the Amish do not understand the procedure, its that people do not understand the Amish. The baby’s operation is not the same as a heart being stoped through an accident and then being restarted.
        Here the doctors are playing God, they are stopping the baby’s heart which would normally kill it, yet they keep it alive on machines to start the heart again a few hours later.
        The Doctors during this time period hold in their hands the power of life and death over this baby, a right only permitted to God.
        God will decide if the baby lives or dies without doctor’s playing god.
        We cannot see the future, but if this child grows up to be a killer or worse, lead people from the faith, then we will understand why God ordained for the baby to die and why satan stepped in by way of the judge and doctors to save this baby’s life.
        Of cos the baby could grow up to be a great bishop and then we would see the wisdom of God’s ways for using the secular people to step in and save his life.
        But until that day arrives, we will trust God first and doctors second and God ordained for this child to die, who are we to say no to God. Only the secular have such cheek.
        Also if the judge punishes the parents, many more will avoid the doctors for fear of the same thing happening to them for choosing religious conviction over worldly wishes, and many children may suffer because of this.
        Lets see how well this judge understands the Amish.The judge in the first case seemed to.

        1. Lattice

          Daryl, do you not realize that in almost every surgical procedure the surgeons or anesthesiologists are “playing God?” In virtually every surgical procedure, the respiratoy system is paralyzed and the machines are breathing for the patients. If the machine is stopped before the anesthetics wear off (or a reversal agent is given), the pt will surely die.

          Perhaps the Amish hold the heart to a higher level of importance regarding the sustaining of life, however, it is not.

          1. Daryl

            Lattice what are you saying? I once had surgery on my leg and the doctors told us the anesthetics would just put me into a deep sleep, they did not say it would put me dead.

            I guess if doctors told people that they would be practically killing them in order to operate on them, I think a lot more people besides the Amish would avoid operations.

            I get goose flesh just thinking about what you said.

            1. Lattice

              General anesthesia frequently suppresses one’s ability to breathe. Depending on how long and how deeply you need to be asleep (ex. a mole removed vs. a hip replacement), your anesthesiologist will decide whether or not you need to be intubated, which protects your airway and attaches to a breathing machine. Different anesthesiologists practice in different ways, and different hospitals tend to have somewhat different practices. It’s actually much safer to use a breathing tube, because if they only use an LMA (something that sits in the back of the throat and keeps the tongue out of the way) and it’s not adequate to provide respirations, it can create a dangerous, emergent situation.

              After a patient is sedated, a paralyzing agent is given and an endotracheal tube is placed into the airway just beyond the vocal cords, then the tube is attached to a breathing circuit which goes to the anesthesia machine providing respiations for the patient. In longer cases, the anesthetic sometimes wears off and the patient might start taking breaths on their own. You want this at the end of the case, but not if the surgery is not beginning to close (don’t want pt to wake up), so they will be given more anesthetic and will lose their ability to breath independently again.

              No, most people never gain an understanding of this process. Anesthesiologists keep it very simple when they explain it to patients. They have no desire to frighten the patients, but will definitely give details to patients who asked specifically, “Will I have a breathing tube? Will I be breathing on my own throughout the case?” Most people would be quite surprised by the answer, just like you. I worked in an operating room for over ten years and witnessed this practice every day. In the same way that the heart is stopped in a few cases, the breathing is stopped many cases. I personally think that makes you just as “dead.”

        2. Karen Scearce

          Well said..

          You explained this quite well. Also good point made regarding future situations. These parents should have the final word. They should not have to defend their beliefs. If the courts don’t understand then they should not have the right to rule.

    2. Robin Wyatt


      This is hard to comment on. I really don’t think it is neglect. But it is. You should do all you can to save a life. But then if it is TRUELY agains your religon then that is different. Especially a child they didnt’ ask to be born,sick or in need of life saving surgery, so we as adults need to think of them and see that they have a health life. But here is a question, For all of us that believe in God, if it is Gods will to bring someone home to him, isn’t it also Gods will to educate people in Medicine that would heal,ease pain and to save lives? Otherwise he wouldn’t inveted Doctors,Nurses,Midwives ect.


      1. Jean Junkin


        This didn’t happen in the Amish situation, but we had a couple who were in a horrific car accident. The husband was hurt, but not badly. The wife had life threatening injuries and needed blood before they could operate to stop the internal bleed. They were Jehovah Witnesses. The wife adamently refused the transfusion in the ER, her husband supported her decision. In the end, she died in the ER from internal bleeding. If she had let them give her the blood, they could have proceeded with the surgery to remove her ruptured spleen. I have a hard time dealing with these decisions.

    3. annmarie

      I hope the charges are dropped because they did not make their decision with neglect in their heart. They made it based on deep religious/spiritual conviction.

      1. Robin Wyatt

        Annmarie and Roberta,

        You are both correct in my thinking. In our country, there are alot of things taken away from us because of nosey governemt,and other public people. And if you don’t do what THEY think is BEST, then they turn you in to someone. I wonder if the shoe was on the other foot how they would handle it. Or how about getting sued for interferance with ones life.

    4. Roberta

      I can’t answer because I don’t have enough details about the child’s exact medical condition. Doctors frequently put patients through numerous extreme medical procedures with very little chance that it will save or even prolong their lives. Isn’t torturing a child by putting it through numerous painful and frightening medical procedures when the odds of saving it are practically also child abuse?

    5. Susan

      Question on Child neglect after Amish baby’s life-saving heart surgery?

      I just wanted to know who pays for the medical bills since the Amish do not have insurance. Since they if did not agree with the surgery are they still charged or does Charity Care or something like that pay for it.

      1. Janis Dean

        Very good question. I’d like to know that too.

        1. Robin Wyatt

          Paying for medical

          From what I understand the community helps and they also have their own type of savings to help. I could be totally off here. But this is only my understanding

      2. Who will pay for the surgery?

        Though the Amish traditionally pay their own bills either individually or with community help, I doubt that they will pay for anything in this case.

        I believe this is a little like the issue with the SMV triangles in Kentucky. The Amish in that case refused to pay the fines for not having the triangles because that could be construed as them admitting that their position was wrong.

        I can’t really see them objecting to the surgery on religious grounds then acquiescing to paying for the procedure. I suspect outside sources will pay for it.

        I haven’t yet been able to find out who paid for the surgery in the previous case of the Shetler boy, but there is this line in a 2009 article following the surgery:

        “The surgery could be covered under Medicaid, but the physician who performed the operation had informed the court that he was willing to absorb some expenses.”

        Something similar may happen here…though again, I doubt any of these Amish will pay for it, in order to maintain the integrity of their religious position.

    6. Janis Dean

      Confused by Courts

      I am just always confused by the United States legal system. On one hand they force a family to have surgery on their baby to keep it alive, although the natural course would be for the baby to die from the heart problem. Yet, they allow mothers to choose and doctors to perform abortions to kill perfectly healthy babies when the natural course would be for them to be born and most likely live a healthy life. Why force the Amish to go against what they feel is Gods choice… Life or death, yet allow others to choose death for their unborn child? Just confusing.

      1. Amen, to that comment, Janis. At the same time I can’t fathom letting someone die when there’s medical help available to help them. Can’t help but wonder, if the procedure, especially the heart stoppage part had been fully explained to the parents, or can they simply not see past that part of the operation?

        1. Daryl

          Yes Janis, well said. Excellent insight.

          Linda you have stated that you are a Hutterite, yes?
          Then you should understand better than anyone that only God should have the power over life and death, that even if a mothers life could be saved by performing an abortion, it is forbidden. God will decide whether mother or child will live or die or if both will live or die. Not man, who because of his secular education, thinks he can do as he wants and not as God wants. Do you forget the verse, Lord, not my will be done but Thine.

          To blame their decision on a lack of education is to totally misunderstand your common faith shared by Amish and Hutterites.
          Perhaps this is why the Amish will not use modern machinery like the Hutterites, all that loud engine noise stops up the ears from hearing the preacher’s words on faith and submission. LOL

    7. Debbie H

      My thoughts eacactly

      I agree with Janis Dean. Where do we draw the line at playing God. My step son and his wife were told that their unborn child would die immediately after born if not before so they recommended abortion. The young couple refused to abort. The baby was born alive but dies an hour later. What if the government gave the doctor the power to decide to abort this baby, would we be as supportive? What about all the people who are told they would die if they did not have a heart transplant or cancer treatment and survived. I know several in both instances. When will we stop playing God and start letting God be God?

    8. Wanda D

      Life or Death

      As a mother,and grandmother… I would have to choose life for my child, regardless of religion. I would have to listen to my heart, and my heart would say to save this child or any other child. I think the power of a mother’s heart would over rule everything else.

      1. Daryl

        Wanda your feelings are shared by the Amish parents, grandparents and community alike, 110% so.

        But consider this, out of the millions of sperms cells that could have impregnated this egg, a defective one did, or if the egg carried the bad gene, all the times that other healthy eggs were not impregnanted or miscarriges occured, this one survived.

        If we believe that God is all powerful and all knowing then we have to accept that He knew about this afore time and allowed it to happen. Why, we do not know, but we trust that He is the all wise and are satisfied that He knows why and in His loving mercy, it is done for good and not evil.

        Now if we allow our feeelings to overide God’s ordained will, where does that leave us? We see that a mother’s love that does not submit to God’s will leads to churches peforming homosexual marriages for example. Of fathers sending their sons off to war to kill the son’s of other loving parents. We see following our own heart’s desires in opposition to God’s will brings mayhem.

        So we submit to God in everything, even when our natural parental instinct cries out no to God. For to take the power into our own hands and go against the will of God, is in effect to be an atheist.

        So we submit with tears knowing that this and other tribulations are tests of faith and that our example of submission, of obedience to God’s will or lack there of, will either strengthen or weaken our community. So we stand together as a community and comfort each other, knowing that there but by the mercy of God I stand and that there, by their obedience, the next generation has its living martyrs of the faith to emmulate.

        We do not have to be burned at the stake to prove our faith, we do this daily by submitting to God in obedience to His word and His will.

        This understanding of submitting to God’s will is shown in other areas such as no insurance policies, no lightning rods, no smoke detectors, no safty belts in buggy’s, etc. We say, God take me as I am, I will place no barrier between myself and Thy will, no safty net to protect me from Thy will, upon Thee and no other will I throw myself for protection and mercy.

        Yes it is hard for the world to understand, a world that has stopped believing and trusting in God. What the parents did was the only option available to them based on faith. Any other option would show a lack of faith, submission and trust in God.

    9. annmarie

      Janis Dean your comment is just brilliant. It is quite confusing how late term abortions can be done that involve sticking sharp object into brain of baby, BUT these parents are charged with neglect bc they want to make decisions based on their deep spiritual belief. I think for most who do not live exclusively by the word of g-d, they can not understand breaking their belief is a far more grievous sin than the death bc they feel it could possibly lead to lack of salvation.

    10. Margaret

      I think being on the outside (Englisch) it’s hard to say. I do believe in freedom of religion. I think family needs to pray for guidance and maybe even fast. It’s hard to know what is the right answer.

      Safety features SMV triangle and smoke detectors–I’m not sure why they would be unaccepted. You can get battery operated smoke and carbon monoxide detectors. Maybe it’s the “new” technology aspect? Like if we accept these then we have to accept EVERYTHING English.

      I guess I also believe any kind of reflector that helps protect you is a good idea.

      But I can understand why folks might have an issue with stopping a heart for this surgery. Talk about scary! One thing that I’ve noticed watching second season Breaking Amish is might I be so bold as to say lack of education? It’s this very thing that I think causes the stumbling block. People hear “were going to stop the heart” and the rest of the conversation becomes a buzz in people’s ears.

      I guess I have to admit to being quite out of touch with some things Amish and a lot of things that aren’t!

      1. Daryl

        Yes Margaret you are right to be confused, for the swartzies attitude towards the SMV triangle is not biblical.
        The secular government has been ordained by God and must be obeyed where it does not infringe on religious beliefs.

        So if you drive on their roads and they insist on triangles to protect you as well as their people in cars from accidents, then one should submit and obey. Their demand that we drive in a manner that protects their people from harm is reasonable and valid.
        The smoke detector is not their concern, it is an invasion into a families private domain. They can suggest but not insist.

        I think the resistance against the triangles is either a bishops exercising his authority in his community by showing his independence from secular authority and a test of their obedience, or it is a petty reaction caused by another grievance that could not so easily be protested against, such as the change in the milk laws. What were they to do, dump their grade B milk on the highways? But if I recall right, the triangle issue started before the milk issue, so it must have been something else, but you get the idea.

        Generally, when a reasonable and valid request is rejected, it speaks of deeper underlying issues.

        But still, let us respect the Swartzentruber and other conservative groups. Back in the 1860/70’s two thirds of the then Amish became ‘modern’ and today their descendants are not Amish. Perhaps in a hundred years the Swartzentuber will be the only Amish left still driving buggies. The new order Amish already have one foot in the world, especially the electric group and the Beachy Amish have some congregations heading towards being the first congregations of assimilated Amish like the Mennonites, who have assimilated Mennonite congregations, an oxymoron to be sure.
        We live in strange times, where people who cannot even be called biblical Christians, call themselves Mennonites. The shame of it. Martyr’s blood shed so that their descendants could live after the manner of the heathen with no head coverings, rock and roll worship bands, women pastors, worldly immodest dress, the list goes on.

        Sorry for the soap box rant, but in light of this you can understand why some Amish groups get finicky over the little details. Becoming assimilated is but one slow relaxed step after another until you have the abominable calling themselves holy.

    11. Wanda

      Daryl, I understand what your saying, and I do agree with you, but however, I lived that experience, when I was carrying my son, and near the time of his birth, they heard something, and wanted to abort. And there was no time to wait really, it was critical, but I had the choice to make and that was to try to save my son. Praying, I didnt have the answer I needed at the moment, how did I know God wanted me to do everything for him to save him, or to let him go without trying. I understand their delima. I chose to save my son, however, when he was born, he immediately died. Later in life, when my daughter was having my first grandchild, a boy, she was in critical stage, and doctor told me I had to decide who to save, my daughter or my grandson. I chose my daughter, as he told me it wouldn’t be both. However, God answered those prayers, and I have had both for 22 years now, and have enjoyed both of them, not knowing when God would call either of them home. So I have lived both sides. And they are hard decisions to make, even harder, when you are governed under the Amish umbrella, per se.

      1. Daryl

        Praise God for such a blessing, that is really great to hear.
        It would be much harder for an non-Amish person to make such decisions, the Amish have community to fall back on with all in agreement. Even for a non-Amish person with a loving and supporting family, it is not the same.

        This is why I can never tell a non-Amish person that what they did was right or wrong, I can merely tell what the Amish would do and why. And even then it would only really extend to those of my own community and those communities with whom we are in fellowship with.

        Those who have made choices we disagree with on biblical matters, we do not have fellowship with.

    12. Saretta

      Tough one

      Ooh, honestly, even as an atheist, this is a tough one for me.
      I think that the U.S. constitution gives all Americans the right to choose and follow their religious beliefs no matter how stupid they are. However, when it comes to children, I pause.

      This family just lost their 2nd child to faith healing. One child had pneumonia (2-years-old) the other (8-months old) died of perhaps a similar ailment, and the children had no medical care at all. Only prayer and other “spiritual” interventions.

      This poor child nearly lost her sight until a judge removed the bab from custody to have her treated.

      Another church in PA has seen the loss of over.

      Honestly, I have a hard time with this one. If it were up to me, all of these children would have health care. I would like to take them from their parents and have them treated for their own best interests. But then again, some people really believe the best interest is to follow their religion and if their children die or suffer horribly ever after from negligence–well, I disagree, but does our legal system give them that option.


      Honestly, I think we should protect children, even from religion and their own parents if we have to. . . but, again, who am I to say? Maybe I’m being a coward here. Maybe it’s easier for me to say, “Well, if they didn’t mind if their kid died, why am I weeping.” Yet, I am.

      I don’t have an answer or even a good response. This is just sad.

      I do like what a doctor says in this article.

      “Although, you are allowed to martyr yourself to your religion, you are not allowed to martyr your child to your religion.”

      1. Daryl

        Saretta, I think those groups were of the Christian Science faith. One cannot tarnish all groups on the actions of one and as far as health care goes, the Amish do believe in visiting Doctors and in getting medical treatment. They just don’t believe in paying the ransom of a small kingdom for it.

        That’s a fair comment that the doctor made, but I wonder how he feels about abortions. Its great to tell other people that they cannot martyr their children for their faith whilst you believe you have the right to murder yours for your faith or lack there of.

        But because the Amish believe in submitting to secular authority, if the state ordered that the child must be operated on, the community would not protest and chant freedom songs outside the hospital. Secretly I think many will be happy with the state’s interference. It allows them to maintain their faith and get a healed child in return. Not that they would admit it of cos, but their happy smiles would tell all. God’s will has been respected and the child has been healed, a win win situation. So the state and media do not have to be such drama queens about the whole issue and blow it out of proportion.

        1. Dody

          Are you Amish? You don’t speak like the Amish I know.

          As to what is best for the child, I have had a nosey neighbor call CPS because my children played in the front yard. Yes, they did give me a very hard time and try to take my children for that. Mind you we live on a very rural dirt road in the middle of no where, so no car issues. So you are right about that indeed.

          I would argue our society has already reached the point where some people believe the children are state property. I home school our children and most people, parents included, can not fathom why. It seems as if they can not see the poison being pumped into their children’s heads. We home school because we live a very simple life that avoids as much commercialism as possible without banning technology. It is very hard to have on foot in the world and the other at home firmly planted. Unfortunately, if my children are to ever find work or become productive members of this community where we live, I feel they must learn and use technology in a limited capacity, that may expose them to objectionable material.

          1. Daryl

            No doubt Dody, I have lived in both worlds, which perhaps permits me to be a ‘religious customs translator’, perhaps not. Depends on whether I am doing a good job on bringing clarity, or adding to the confusion and misunderstanding surrounding the Amish.

            Public opinion about the Amish does matter, so I would rather have people understanding the religious traditions and culture than not. On this site people are polite and pro Amish so I really wish to help explain what is so clear for me yet seems so strange for others.

            Do I speak(write) differently to how you would expect a Amishman to write, yes, clever to pick that up. Most people answer based on their own worldview, but the answer only makes sense to those who share the same world view, to others with different worldviews, the answer may have a whole different meaning and lead to misunderstandings, as many questions here well show.

            So I try to express Amish understanding in a maner that non-Amish can understand. I was raised by a father whose answer to my questions was, “that’s the way it has always been done, that’s how your grandfather did it or that’s just the way it is” and when he got mad at my questions, he would say “so long as you are under my roof you will do as I say”. So I left home at 18 to find the answers. I think I now understand why things are done the way they are and if I can share that understanding by answering questions, it not only helps others but helps me to understand deeper and to make amends for being a rebellious son. By helping others to understand what my dear father, bless him, was unable to help me to understand, simply because he never questioned but did what was expected of him like his father before him and his before that, that worked fine till I came along.

            I do not think I would wish a rebellious son like me on anyone, especially not an Amish family. Always touching what I was not supposed to touch and doing what I was not supposed to do, couldn’t help myself, unbrindled coriousity and the need to know what would happen if ……, I think I was the most spanked kid around.
            When I found out that kids could be adopted or mixed up at the hospital, I always thought that had happened to me, I always felt like a goat in a sheepfold. Restricted and hemmed in.
            But having lived in your world these many years, I now understand the wisdom behind those restrictions and like many people on this site, I wish to preserve them.
            Ok that’s enough personal stuff now.

    13. OldKat

      Decisions in a moral void

      This is not a simple issue, and all of the replies on this thread have been respectful and well reasoned … even if coming to some very different conclusions.

      So I hope that I am not breaking the trend here by seeming unreasonable or disrespectful. That is not my intention. That said, my view is that this is an example of an issue that was probably forced by governmental / judicial involvement when it was not 100% clear that it was really warranted. Briefly, by what right does the judicial system claim imminence over the decisions of the family?

      The judicial system is but one branch of our government, a government that increasingly being revealed as rotten and corrupt as they come. (I am NOT solely aiming this at our current federal administration, yet it most certainly applies to them). So, from whence do they claim moral authority to rule over every aspect of our lives?

      As an example: Federal judges are appointed by the President and approved by Congress, right? Yet, lately, which President and which Members of Congress have so impressed you with their upright actions, moral convictions and statesman like qualities that you would say “Yeah, if he or she supports this person for this position, then so do I”. Basically, it is no wonder that we are getting so many inexplicable decisions from some many federal judges; the people that are empowering them are corrupt, so is it any wonder that they are too? Is it any wonder that our bureaucratic agencies are out of control? It seems that many of those people are willing to openly flaunt their ability to ignore rules, guidelines, even the laws of our land. Why, because they are part of a corrupt system and they know there will be no recourse against them. We allow it to happen.

      In this particular case, a Family Court judge may be an appointed position or it may be elected (I have no idea how it is done in NY), regardless … the question begs to be asked. What gives this particular judge the authority to make such a ruling? What gives her the right to wield so much power over the citizens of that community. Answer; we do. We ALLOW it to continue. Perhaps as has been stated elsewhere, we really are becoming a nation of sheeple.

      As one who was in favor of “the right to choose” when Roe-vs-Wade was upheld, to one who slowly has swung 180 degrees to being nearly 100% against all abortions, I find the hypocrisy of this decision to be astounding. A judge that would almost assuredly rule that Mrs. Shetler would have an unabridged RIGHT to an abortion … “at will” … that would terminate the life of this child, has ruled that she (and her husband) have NO RIGHT to decide if life saving operation is performed or not. That is amazing.

      Make no mistake about it; if that were my child or grandchild I would want them to have the surgery. I just don’t see that it is the role of “the state”; be it Big Brother in D.C., Middle Sized Brother in Albany, or Sacramento or Austin, or some tin-horn Family Court Judge in Podunkville, NY to decide. Again, from whence do they draw the moral authority to tell us how to live our lives? By the examples they are living in their own lives? Hardly … I think many of these people make political decisions in a total moral void. As such, those that rule with an iron fist (& along party lines) don’t deserve my respect, nor do they have it. For what it is worth, they wouldn’t have my compliance either.

      Oh, and one more thing. A bit of a rhetorical query, if you will. What is stopping “Family Court Judge Cecily L. Morris” or any of the thousands of others in similar positions from ruling that, oh say, four (4) is the maximum number of children that ANY family can have? Any conceived after that most be aborted or adopted out at birth. Laugh if you wish, we are really not far from that sort of thinking right now.

    14. Linda Northern Illinois

      It seems to me that Daryl is a wise person.
      All of his comments make sense to me.
      Maybe the Judge in this case and Daryl should sit down and have a talk.

      1. Daryl

        Thank you Linda, but then I would be found out and how would I explain putting comments here.

        Also I suspect this judge would never listen to the Amish whom he no doubt regards as peasants with cow poop between their toes who need to be punished for having dumb religious beliefs.

        If he thought the Amish had anything of value to say, he would have already listened to the parents or got the bishop in to explain to him.

        The judge could just have gone to their house in his official robes with a social worker and told the parents that in his official capacity as judge, he is removing the child for the operation, they could ride with or meet him at the hospital.
        They may not have ridden with him, but they would not have resisted him.

        But that’s too simple a solution and the lawyers would make no money. Of cos, if the child had died becuase of such authoriterian actions, the whole community may have up and moved to another state.

        Ha ha, sometimes the Amish don’t even know what they are going to do next until pushed into a corner.

    15. TOM-GA

      child neglect-amish -life saving surgery

      this sounds like a social worker thing. the gov. has given social workers so much authority that it is frighting. they decide if a problem exist. think about the group in texas where the whole colony’s children were taken away from their parents because they were giving them in marriage at an “early age” based on a phone call that no one was able to confirm” . not a single case was found if i remember correctly. social workers create their on little world and think they are GOD. some social worker do good work, but a lot are out on a personal pilgramage that are not logical. forgive the rant, but I know several and when they talk they assume an air of perfection that is sickening They interfere with families more than help them in situations like this.

    16. Maggie Austen

      Child negelect issues

      Tough issue, but only one example of the hospitals/doctors and courts working to protect those who cannot speak for themselves sometimes over stepping. This was a serious medical situation but suppose it wasn’t – in my past I had a friend (Mennonite) whose son severely cut his hand on a band saw. They took him to a local ER and the ER wanted to “fly him out” to a city hospital. The parents objected and would get a neighbor to take them; hospital refused but the parents took him out so the hospital called the police. Long and short of it was when I got them to the big city hospital, the ER doc did not see what the furor was all about, had a hand specialist stitch him up and then called the local hospital and police to call the dogs off. The parents were more scared about “not being good and caring parents” then they were about the wound. With the growing number of Anabaptist communities, doctors and authorities need to get better educated about beliefs or these folks are going to get too scared to go to a doctor about anything – that would get people talking as well. We are a culturally diverse country and there are many groups with varying religious ideas. Communication with frightened parents in terms they can understand, may keep from tying up courtrooms.

    17. Suzie

      The child's life is first

      I think that when it comes to saving the life of a child it goes way above and beyond the “rights” of a religious belief.

      1. OldKat

        That's all well and good.

        Suzie, that is all well and good when it is YOUR child. It also works when it is someone else’s child & the family is in agreement with the decision.

        Are you saying that that when the family is NOT in agreement, that their wishes should be ignored in favor of the opinion or wishes of some social worker, doctor, “Family Court” judge, etc?

        If so. I have to disagree. Sorry, this is not the Soviet Union(yet). Children are NOT the property of the state, though some people … especially some very liberal people … want that to be the case. However, increasingly people are getting sick and tired of governmental, regulatory and bureaucratic oversight. Not just in the plain communities either … though they certainly have been leaders in this area.

        I’d be surprised if there is even a law that the Shetlers were violating. If there IS a specific law, in a specific case … then yes we should obey it. Then if warranted, we can work to change it(or leave it as is, strengthen it, etc). Problem is much of the “enforcement” effort stems from bureaucratic decisions, policies, etc that have the force of law, but are in fact NOT law.

        A classic example is the case of a woman who the courts were attempting to remove her children from her home due to “child neglect / abuse”. Care to know what she did wrong to warrant this? SHE ALLOWED HER CHILDREN TO PLAY IN THE FRONT YARD OF HER HOME! Turns out she has a neighbor that feels that all children should ONLY play in their fenced in backyard (for their protection) as her children do.

        She called the police department, who came out & arrested the woman and turned her children over to the child welfare department. She had to go to court to get custody of her own children, all because she has a neighbor that sees things differently than she does! Are you ready for that sort of thing? Probably the neighbor was only doing what she thought was best. I’m sure in her mind she thought she was doing the right thing. While this is a ridiculous (but true) example, the concept is really no different. Increasingly “the system” is quick to jump into internal family issues where they have no business.

        Is that what society really wants? I know I don’t and I would not stand for it. Make no mistake, no one wants to see children abused & we should stop it when we see it. Problem is … what EXACTLY constitutes abuse? When I don’t do things with my children the way you do them with yours is that abuse? How about the other way around?

    18. Jeannie

      My thoughts exactly with ms Janice Dean.. I was about to say the exact same thing till I read her comment… and I know what your saying Old Kat, I have followed that womans case myself.. Its a tragedy…But then again its welcome to America the land of the Gestapo.. This Amish couple has been a prayer focus of a few people I know as they know them personally..

    19. J. G.

      Manitoba child abuse case

      Erik, have you heard anything of the case where close to 40 children were confiscated from a horse and buggy Mennonite community in Manitoba, Canada, for allegations of child abuse using leather straps and cattle prods? I think it happened last week. If I understand the reports correctly, the Mennonite parents went to the police for help with some internal issues they were unable to solve. The police investigation quickly turned from that to the community’s earlier attempts to solve those problems by corporal punishment that seems like it went beyond the norm. Now four adults are charged and all but one child are gone to foster care. Understandably the community is in great distress and grief, and friends and neighbours are shocked as well. When I heard this, “FLDS” went ringing through my head. I don’t know whether the allegations are true to the extent the police claim, but it seems like a terrible thing to put these families and children through.

      Mennonites, and Amish as well I believe, take Biblical instruction on the use of the rod and the “blueness of a wound” for discipline quite literally. It’s preached in sermons and practiced pretty well universally. But having been living among Mennonites and interacting closely with various families in the last couple of years, I can say confidently that it’s always done in love, for the betterment of the child. You would have to look long and hard to find families as close-knit and loving as those among the conservative Anabaptists.

      But yet among my Mennonite friends there’s a spirit of fear. If a child falls and hurts himself, they’re almost afraid to take him to the doctor. What if the doctor thinks the wound is suspicious, examines the child and finds bruises from his last spanking? Will that be the last they see of their son?

      Child abuse is very serious and should never be taken lightly. But I just can’t see that reasonable, restrained traditional discipline should be considered abuse.

      1. I had heard a little bit back in March, but not on this latest development until you mentioned it J.G. From what I’ve been able to read, sounds both strange and bad.

        WINNIPEG – Almost two dozen children have been seized from a devout southern Manitoba Mennonite community amid charges that youngsters were assaulted with cattle prods, whips and leather straps.

        Documents from Manitoba Family Services show the youngest of 23 children taken from their homes is nine months old; the oldest is 15. The documents don’t detail alleged abuse but do say one 13-year-old boy “does not want to return home.”

        Two adults from the tiny orthodox community were charged in March with various counts of assault and assault with a weapon on several boys and girls between July 2011 and January of this year. Court documents listed a whip, a prod, a board and a leather strap as weapons.

    20. Dirk

      Cattle prods, the electric shock kind? that’s just sadistic.

      1. J. G.

        If it’s true they were using that, yes. Something sounds fishy to me… Leather straps are “in character,” cattle prods are not.

    21. ADalton

      My personal belief is that a baby is not alive until it is born. Therefore, the decision about wether or not to abort should be made by the mother (and not the government), because it inside her body and is therefore involved in her health. It is only after birth that a baby is alive and preventing it from living is murder.
      I see that some people go overboard in terms of what they consider child abuse.
      I’m really not sure what to think about the Amish couple. I understand that the surgery goes against their religion, but I also want their child to continue living.

      1. Dirk

        Dalton, I think you need to clarify by what you mean by ‘alive’, because clearly you are dismissing heart beat, brain activity, bodily functions, movement, etc. as indicators of life, all of which are present in the ‘dead’ child in the womb.

        But then again, I guess killing something that you consider dead is not as bad as killing a living child, difficult if you had to admit that a child in the womb is every bit as alive as a child in the world.

        Why you would be concerned about a born baby living, considering you support the killing of the unborn baby, mystifies me somewhat. Seems like a double standard. Which only exists because you pass the buck by saying that it is the mothers choice, thus freeing yourself from any blame.

        Sorry Dalton, but being silent and supporting a crime, even one you do not personally commit, makes you an accomplice, every bit as guilty of murder as the mother.

        I trust you realize that the Bible teaches that murderers will not inherit the kingdom of heaven, as an accomplice supporting abortion, that includes you as well in not getting into heaven.

        1. ADalton

          I consider life to start at birth.
          I believe it is only possible to murder something once it is already alive.
          I am also aware of the basic teachings of the bible, although I am a skeptic who is basically an Atheist.

    22. Dirk

      Dalton it sounds like you are a bachelor, because no parent, mother or father, who has every felt their unborn child kicking in the womb would agree that life only starts at birth.
      No medical professional, based on fetus heartbeat and brainwave activity would agree with you either.

      So on what logical or medical foundation do you use to arrive at the opinionated conclusion that life only starts at birth?

      As an atheist, why is murder an issue, after all life has no meaning or purpose, its just a random chance event, so why should murder matter to you? Why should killing a humanbeing that has no Godly meaning or created purpose be a crime?

      Let the strong rule by force and let the weak perish, let us fornicate, murder, steal, lie, cheat, plunder, rape, exploit others, all those good things that will be allowed once we throw the Bible out. That is true atheism, free from the biblical constraints of protecting the weak and caring for the helpless.

      BTW, don’t tell me that morals such as not stealing or not murdering etc. are naturally inborn morals in humans, you don’t have to pass laws, police and enforce that which is natural. I don’t think the Viking marauders suffered any such moral hang-ups and based on the current crime rate, seems that many modern people also do not. So much for the humanist view that people have natural moral constraints.

      So Dalton, you can see why your statements confuse me. As a self-declared atheist, you surprisingly reject medical science which proves that the fetus is alive, whilst supporting the biblical position that murder is a crime. Perhaps you need to re-evaluate whether you qualify to be called an atheist or not.

    23. ADalton

      Humans do have an inborn inclination towards certain morals. This behavior evolved to help us survive better in groups. We feel some inclination to be fair to other members of our group. Other primates behave that way as well. However, we also have competing behaviors such as greed and selfishness. Our inborn inclinations to be moral are therefore not going to work for every person all the time.
      As an Atheist, I believe that religions developed to reinforce natural inclinations to things such as fairness. I am not anti-religion, since holding religious beliefs can strengthen a person’s sense of right and wrong. That said, even the existence of religions and an innate inclination to be moral does not mean that we do not need other factors such as laws.
      I came to this site to find the answers to some questions I had about the Amish, and since my curiosity has been satisfied I may not be reading it again for a while. If you would like to continue to debate Skeptics and Atheists, challenging their ideas while they challenge yours, here is a good forum:

      P.S. You make a good argument that at some point a fetus is alive before birth. I may change my belief to reflect things such as the the time when the heartbeat starts. However, I will still believe that an abortion is alright if it is early enough in the pregnancy.
      By the way, I am not a bachelor.