God Made Them Do It (December 2001)

Bible Believers Torture, Kill Girl, 12

Jehovah’s Witnesses parents systematically beat their daughter to death with 160 blows on Nov. 10 while meting out the biblical punishment of “40 lashes minus one, three times.”

Constance Slack, a nurse, and Larry Slack repeatedly hit their daughter Laree, 12, with a 5-foot stretch of inch-thick rubberized electrical cable filled with strands of wire. She died of internal bleeding.

The parents, from South Brandon, Ill., were upset that Laree was being “uncooperative.” According to the state’s attorney, the couple had been planning to go out to eat but could not find a jacket with Constance Slack’s wallet and credit cards. Larry Slack ordered his children to search for it. Dissatisfied that they were not looking hard enough, Slack first lashed the couple’s 8-year-old son Lester several times. Then, enraged over finding laundry in the house, which Laree was in charge of washing and putting away, he ordered her to “assume the position” to be whipped.

When she squirmed away after several lashes, he ordered his two teenage sons to tie her face down to a metal frame, then lashed her 39 times. The mother then whipped the girl 20 more times. When Laree began to scream, Slack ordered his sons to fetch a towel to stuff in her mouth, and tied a scarf over the towel and used a stick to wind the scarf like a tourniquet. He cut off his daugher’s shirt, ordered the other children to pull off her pants and whipped her 39 more times, with Constance then whipping 20 more lashes. Laree writhed and her back began to bleed, so her father untied her, turned her over and beat her 39 more times on her stomach and chest.

They were charged with first-degree murder and aggravated battery of a child for beating their 8-year-old son on the same night. Their five other children, who were all home-schooled, showed indications of physical abuse and are in state custody.

Sources: Chicago Sun-Times, Nov. 13, 2001; Chicago Tribune, Nov. 14, 2001

Christian Mom Slays Young Daughters

Tracy Camburn, 38, poisoned her daughters Candice, 10, and Kimberly, 5, with paint thinner, then repeatedly stabbed them to “prevent suffering,” after “voices” said the world was ending. The girls’ bodies were found Sept. 10 in the same bed at their home in Zeeland, Michigan. Camburn comes from a church-going family; her grandfather was a minister and her parents run a summer church camp. She is active in the Central Wesleyan Church in Holland. Sources: Grand Rapids Press, Sept. 20, 2001; Oct. 17, 2001

Islamic-blessed Barbarism

An Islamic court in the state of Sokoto, Nigeria, issued an October decree mandating death by stoning for a pregnant woman for having premarital sex. Her male sex partner was acquitted by the same court, which said it had “insufficient evidence” against the man. Source: Associated Press, Oct. 23, 2001

Mother Kills Daughter

A woman who believed her 4-year-old daughter was possessed by demons killed the girl while attempting an exorcism. Sabrina Wright, 29, New York City, was charged with murder after drowning her small daughter. Police do not know why the child was with her mother instead of the relative who had been awarded custody in 1999. Source: Associated Press, Nov. 14, 2001

Girl, 13, Dies Without Medical Help

A couple in Grand Junction, Colo., whose 13-year-old daughter died from untreated diabetes and gangrene, received 20 years’ probation in November, were ordered to provide medical insurance for their remaining 12 children and to schedule “necessary” doctors’ appointments. As elders of the General Assembly Church of the First Born prayed over her, Amanda Bates died on Feb. 5, bedridden, in severe pain, running a high fever and vomiting. Her death sparked changes in Colorado law making it easier to prosecute parents who withhold medical treatment from their children. Source: Associated Press, Nov. 9, 2001

Manslaughter in Baby’s Death

A couple in Rancho Cucamonga, Calif., were arrested in September for the July death of their 11-month-old daughter, who died of untreated purulent meningitis and general medical neglect. The baby was ill with a high temperature for at least a week. Richard and Agnes Wiebe are members of the Church of God in Upland, which promotes prayer over medicine for illness. A Church of God website quotes several biblical passages, such as: “And the prayer of faith shall save the sick, and the Lord shall raise him up; and if he have committed sins, they shall be forgiven him.” The mother, who is pregnant, has given birth at home twice to stillborn children. Source: Daily Bulletin [Ontario, Calif.], Sept. 19, 2001

Supremely Bigoted

White supremacist brothers Benjamin Matthew Williams and James Tyler Williams pleaded guilty in September to federal charges of setting fire to three Sacramento synagogues and an abortion clinic in 1999. Still facing state murder charges for the 1999 slaying of a gay couple, they plan to defend themselves citing the bible’s condemnation of homosexuality. Source: Associated Press, Sept. 7, 2001

“Jesus Christ” Stabs Boy

A man who was staying at Guiding Light Mission, Grand Rapids, Mich., stabbed a boy, 10, in the eye with an ink pen. According to witnesses, the mentally disturbed suspect, 27, approached the boy and his father while the latter were out walking, “dancing around” as if to assault them and “claiming to be Jesus Christ.” Source: Grand Rapids Press, Oct. 29, 2001

Religious playground equipment was removed from Lily Cache Greenway, a public park in Bolingbrook, Ill., shortly after the Freedom From Religion Foundation wrote a letter of complaint on behalf of Foundation member Norman Lathrop in early fall. One piece of equipment with a biblical Noah’s Ark theme was covered with text paraphrasing the entire bible tale, and informing children that Noah “was 950 years old when he died.” (See center photo.) The Foundation received a prompt response from a city official thanking it for letting the city know about the presence of the religious equipment, and assuring the Foundation it would be removed. Mr. Lathrop wrote: “I went to take the ‘after’ photos, and, as you can see, a nice animal replacement was installed.”

Infidel Info

It only took 300 years. Six women executed as witches in Salem were finally exonerated on Nov. 1 by an act of the Massachusetts governor and legislature. The State legislature issued a general amnesty in 1711 exonerating all but six of the 24 women and men hanged, crushed to death or dying in prison during the witchhunts. Source: Reuters, Nov. 2, 2001

Religion no divorce panacea. About 33% of born-again Christians have ended their marriages, according to a nationwide telephone survey of more than 7,000 adults, comparable to the rate of those “who have not embraced” Jesus, according to Christian researchers. Source: Barna Research, Aug. 6 Report

Christian hate groups proliferate. There are 338 Christian patriot-militia groups active in the Midwest: 50 Christian identity groups, 37 Ku Klux Klan chapters, 95 neo-Nazi and skinhead groups, and 58 that are a mix of anti-immigration advocates, neo-Confederates and Holocaust deniers. Source: Devin Burghart, author, “State of Hate: White Nationalism in the Midwest 2001-2002,” Washington Post, 11/10/01

Corruption Index. Among the Corruption Perceptions Index ranking of the 10 most corrupt countries are a number of highly religious ones: Bangladesh, Nigeria, Indonesia, Uganda, Azerbaijan, Bolivia, Cameroon, Kenya, Ukraine and Tanzania. Among the 10 “least corrupt countries” are mainly secularized ones: Finland, Denmark, New Zealand, Iceland, Singapore, Sweden, Canada, Netherlands, Luxembourg and Norway. Source: Transparency International, 2001

Shrinking Islam? A survey of religious affiliation among American adults by the Graduate Center of the City University of New York estimates there are only 1.1 million Muslim adults in the United States, not 6 million as commonly estimated. A report commissioned by the American Jewish Committee estimates there are at most 2.8 million Muslims, making up about 1% of the American population. Sources: American Religious Identification Survey 2001, Oct. 24, 2001; “Estimating the Muslim Population in the United States,” New York Times, Oct. 25, 2001

One-fourth of Jews secular. About 1.4 million Jews–a quarter of the U.S. Jewish population–say they are secular or have no religion at all. Only about half of American Jews claim to be Jewish by religion; another quarter identify themselves as Jewish by parentage or ethnicity but align themselves with another faith. Source: American Jewish Identity Survey, Jewish Week, NY, Nov. 2, 2001

Multiplying sorrow. Women who are Jehovah’s Witnesses have a 44-fold greater risk of maternal death due to obstetric hemorrhage than do other women. Researchers found that 6% of 332 JWs studied experienced obstetrical hemorrhage, two of whom died, yielding an average maternal mortality rate of 521 maternal deaths per 100,000 live births, compared to 12 maternal deaths for non-JWs per 100,000 live births. Source: Mount Sinai Medical Center Study; American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology, Oct. 2001

Freedom From Religion Foundation