Religion Does Not Get a Pass: The Lev Tahor Case in Chatham

An Ontario judge has ruled that thirteen Lev Tahor (a Haredi sect) children are to be surrendered to Quebec child welfare authorities pending a 30-day appeal. You may recall that the entire Lev Tahor community of 200 people (half of them children) moved from Quebec to Chatham after investigations from Quebec child-protection officials found that the children lived in squalid conditions and received inadequate educational instruction. The Globe and Mail reports:

….officials who visited the community reported overcrowded conditions, children sleeping in urine-soaked beds, schooling done solely in Yiddish, without proper math or language instruction.

Child protection investigations also discovered that the children were married young as reported in this CBC story:

Social workers also testified in Quebec youth court that they were concerned about the age at which some of the girls in the group were allegedly married off and also about reports of intimidation by the community’s leaders.

When asked about the allegations, a representative for the Lev Tahor (Uriel Goldman) stated (reported by the CBC):

They’re forcing us to learn things that are against our religion, like evolution, like homosexuality.

What Uriel Goldman is saying is that he is aghast that the government is exposing the children to modern science and enlightened values! Once again, we find evidence for the perniciousness of religion. Religion that uses revelation to support dogma instead of using facts to inform decisions. If this religious group did the latter, they would understand that evolution is not controversial or incorrect, but a scientific fact that is the basis of all biology. Knowing a fact like this prepares you to participate in modern society. Ignoring it, condemns you to ignorance. If this religious sect accepted evolution, they’d probably regard homosexuality as neither sinful nor perverted since science shows it’s common in the natural world, but they instead rely on bronze age scripture to inform their decisions and sentence their children to lives of ignorance and bigotry.

Almost as disturbing as the neglect and abuse of these children is the parents’ use of the the religion card in a play to get a free pass for their actions. As Uriel Goldman continues in this report:

We’re not fighting against [the Quebec government], we’re just fighting in favour of our religion and other religious groups to have the possibility to have religious studies as our education.

Why are they playing this card? Because they know it works. They know that religion has  often received a free pass in society, especially when it comes to child neglect: Christian Scientists deny their children vaccines and Jehovah Witnesses refuse their children life saving blood transfusions. But in Canada, there have been recent restrictions on such atrocities and it is heartening to see the government stand up for children and refuse to give religion a special pass. No one should be allowed to abuse or neglect children and religion is no exception!

Can Atheists Be Spiritual? Spoiler: No!

Personally, the word  “spiritual” makes me cringe. Although I understand its completely secular etymology from the Latin noun, spiritus, “breath”, when I hear it, various images enter my mind uninvited:  unicorns, Deepak Chopra  and those annoying Jesus messages religious relatives post on Facebook on Sundays. However, with Sam Harris’s new book, … Continue reading

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